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The Surprising Benefits of Growing Your Own Food

The Surprising Benefits of Growing Your Own Food

When Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong advocated growing your own, they almost got it right. Turns out folks who cultivate vegetables (not marijuana) transform their diet—and their risk for obesity, cancer and cancer reoccurrence. Now that’s not blowing smoke.

University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers worked with 46 cancer survivors age 60 plus and found that having your own vegetable garden significantly reduced weight gain in the belly and upped their intake of veggies.

Whether you have a normal BMI or are obese, eating foods with high levels of dietary energy density or DED (that’s foods over-packed with calories in every bite) increases your cancer risk, interferes with recovery from cancer and increases your chances of recurrence. We know obesity is an inflammatory state, but why does such a diet also harm folks who are not overweight? Well, anyone eating fatty, sugary, processed foods faces health-threatening metabolic disruption. And not only are DEDs implicated in development of cancer, they up the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia and a lousy sex life.

So, if you’re struggling to control your weight, are recovering from cancer or trying to dodge type 2 diabetes, here’s a fun way to improve your health: plant some veggies.

Window boxes on sunny window sills work for herbs, onions, lettuces and even cherry tomatoes. Backyard or community gardens let you add root and cruciferous veggies, and in some areas even fruit. To find a community garden in your locale, visit American Community Gardening Association.

Medically reviewed in November 2019.

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