Nutrition and You!

Would You Try Gardening to Beat Cancer?

gardening.jpgTo fight cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends that you eat at least 2 Ĺ cup of fruits and vegetables daily.

But could there be an added advantage if you grew them yourself?

A current study, Harvest for Health, is teaming 100 breast cancer survivors with gardeners to measure how gardening affects the survivors' diet and exercise behaviors as well as their quality of life. The gardeners are providing advice, expertise, and suggestions to the survivors twice a month for a year. The study is funded in part by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).

Harvest for Health builds on a smaller study that was conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, which paired 12 cancer survivors with a volunteer master gardener. (A master gardener must meet certification criteria that require a minimum of 60 hours of combined instruction and community service.)

After the initial garden was designed and planted, the master gardeners made bimonthly visits to the survivors? homes and communicated between visits via email and telephone. In this one-year study, the majority of survivors not only ate more fruits and veggies than they typically had prior to the gardening project, but there also was an observed improvement in the strength, agility, and endurance in 90 percent of the survivors.

Diana Dyer, a registered dietitian and cancer survivor herself, was quoted in a recent AICR newsletter, stating that "this study is important because gardening as a therapy is accessible to all people with a cancer diagnosis, from the point of diagnosis forward, at a low cost, low risk, and potential for multiple, large, and long-lasting benefits."

Cancer aside, gardening is an excellent way to stay active throughout the summer and grow affordable produce. It is not too late in the season to grow vegetables such as beans, beets, carrots, swiss chard, cucumbers, peas, and spinach. Look to AICR for guidance on how to start a garden with their Seed to Plate program.

Be well, Joan

Follow Joan on Twitter: @JoanSalgeBlake

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