Thematic Nutrition Gardens

By Eve Pranis

While any food garden is a centerpiece for nutrition lessons, Columbia, SC, teacher and nutrition garden consultant Arlene Marturano helps teachers create thematic gardens to help students realize their power to control their own health and that of their families through gardening. A few of her suggestions follow.

Cancer Prevention Gardens: Numerous published studies reveal that people who consume large quantities of fruits and vegetables are much less likely to develop cancer than those who don't eat them consistently. A cancer prevention garden should contain abundant cabbage-family crops such as bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and mustard greens, which contain a compound believed to stimulate cancer-fighting enzymes. Carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, squash, spinach, red peppers, onions, and garlic are also believed to have a range of cancer-fighting properties.

Cholesterol-Control Gardens: Although vegetables don't contain cholesterol, scientists believe that foods rich in soluble fiber, like many fruits and vegetables, may actually help to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart attacks. Such a garden would include crops rich in soluble fiber such as apples, dry beans, carrots, eggplant, greens, peas, potatoes, and squash. Consider using this garden focus as a springboard for engaging students to notice and perhaps record the fat and fiber contents of foods they eat.

Garnish Gardens: Many processed foods have high sodium levels that can lead to high blood pressure and other problems. Consider growing a garden of flavorings such as basil, chives, dill, fennel, garlic, and mint to use in place of salt.

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