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Gardening for Better Nutrition

By Autumn Shultz for Middle Tennessee Regional Inspiritus Healthy Gardens Newsletter Feb 2022

Gardening is, naturally, a health benefit:

• Outdoors, soaking in the sunshine and vitamin D!

• Releases stress relieving chemicals, endorphins & serotonin (feel-good hormones)

• Nurturing plant life promotes mental & psychological wellbeing

• Builds community around a shared passion (sometimes a shared battle against pests/weeds! Lol)


Understanding the basics of nutrition, elevates gardening from a pleasant hobby to a health-critical activity – not only for ourselves and our families, but for our local- and global food systems.


Humans need 6 Essential Nutrients, divided into macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are nutrients we need in the biggest quantities: Carbs, Protein, Fats, Water. Except for water, macronutrients provide calories (units of energy our bodies need to perform all functions). Micronutrients are also important for all the body functions needed to be our best selves: Vitamins & Minerals

Click image to download this as a PDF.


• Eat salad - any way you like it - but always with a plant-based fat so your body can absorb the most nutrients!

• Choose nutrient dense foods over high calorie/low nutrition foods:

- Chips, candy and processed snack foods are tasty-ish and have high sugar (which makes us FEEL good temporarily) but they are generally LOW IN NUTRIENTS!

- For a nutrient-dense, more balanced snack that doesn’t leave you feeling wiped - choose nuts, seeds, whole or dried fruit, smoothie, hot tea, jerky, soup broth, tuna, cheese, or yogurt.

- Most vegetables are very low in calories, but rich in nutrients – making salads a fantastic choice to get lots of nutrients in a low-calorie meal – just watch out for those dressings.

• Add compost to your garden soil, for the healthiest most nutritious produce.

• Learn to enjoy eating all the vegetables! All vegetables fight cancer-causing free radicals in our bodies.

• Try adding herbs - at 0 calories, herbs are an easy flavor- and nutrition- boost to cooking, smoothies, salads and dressings, omelets, and even tea.


Our global food system is struggling to keep up with demand. There are four main limitations:

  1. One out of every three people suffer from malnutrition. 794 million people suffer from hunger. And 2 billion people do not have sufficient access to vitamins and minerals necessary for growth and development.

  2. Our food is too rich in fat, sugar, salt, and meat. This type of diet has an impact on health and the environment. Our food is less diverse: 75% coming from only 12 plants and 5 animals.

  3. Out of all the food we produce 1/3 is not consumed but thrown away.

  4. Natural resources are under pressure: sources of freshwater are running dry and 33% of global soils are degraded. Not to mention climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.

Those are just the highlights. For a deeper dive, check out this video:

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