How does the White House garden grow? In part, by planting new types of produce each year. At the garden's spring planting, First Lady Michelle Obama announced that beets would be growing in the White House Garden for the first time, despite the president's distaste for them. "The president doesn't like beets," Obama told the group of elementary school volunteers. "But it's okay. We're an equal opportunity garden."
The colorful root vegetable joined the more than 50 varieties of fruits and vegetables in the 2-year old-garden that has yielded a whopping 2,000 pounds of produce. Last spring, Obama and her volunteers added bok choy, cauliflower, artichokes, and mustard greens to the garden's bounty.
Even though the First Couple may not be big on beets, their addition reinforces Michelle Obama's healthy-eating message on the importance of trying new foods (especially vegetables and fruit) including those you think you don't like. "After we plant [the garden] we can try all this stuff," she said. "So that's going to be the fun part: trying some new things."
Indeed, research has shown that children who plant their own gardens (whether at home or at school) eat more vegetables and fruit, and gardens are a great way to expose children to new types of produce. A University of Delaware study found that kids were more likely to try a new vegetable when it grew out of a garden they helped plant and maintain.
Children aren't the only ones who reap health perks from a little time in the weeds. Whether you're a long-time gardener or just getting started, here are a few surprising ways the hobby boosts your health:
- More daily exercise: The best physical activity is the kind you'll actually stick with. So if you're just not cut out to be a gym rat, you'll be happy to learn that Kansas State University research found that gardening was a good form of moderate-intensity exercise. This is especially important for older adults, who may be less likely to hit the gym, but can use gardening to keep their heart strong and maintain muscle strength and flexibility.
- Happy outlook on life: Researchers from Texas A&M and Texas State Universities found that gardeners reported higher energy levels and higher scores on a scale of life satisfaction than non-gardeners.
- Healthier hands: All that potting, weeding, and raking can keep your hands strong and nimble, a particularly important benefit for older adults, who may be dealing with arthritis and other issues that affect hand health.
- Greater veggie consumption: Just as kids who garden tend to eat more veggies, so too do adults. The same Texas study found that gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables than those who stay out of the soil, and by doing so, plant seeds for their own healthier futures.
Photo credit: Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson
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