Healing Through Herbs: Benefits of At-Home Gardening
Written by Megan Young, MS, RDN, and Noel Le, RDN
The hobby of at-home gardening has become increasingly popular as people are discovering the gratification of growing their own produce. If a balanced, nutritious meal is a goal for your family, starting an herb garden can be a great way to add extra flavor to your cooking and kick up the health benefits of your home-cooked meals. Read on to learn about gardening at home, and then try one of these delicious recipes.
Health Benefits of Gardening at Home
Gardening not only offers the benefits of conventional exercise, such as aerobic gains and strength, but it also helps improve dexterity. It helps you expend the same number of calories as squatting or weight lifting at the gym! Recent studies have also suggested daily contact with nature has a long-lasting and positive impact on physical health issues including but not limited to diabetes, obesity, circulatory and heart disease, and longevity. Mental health benefits also occur because it increases an individual’s life satisfaction, vigor, psychological well-being and cognitive function while decreasing depression, stress, anger, fatigue and anxiety symptoms.
Sustainability Impact of Gardening at Home
Our actions and choices contribute to Earth’s ecological decline, and even minor changes can help decrease our carbon footprint. Gardening at home reduces the carbon and pollution emissions from transportation and greenhouse gas emissions, omits the necessity for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and prevents leaching losses—consequences of large-scale commercial farming. On the flip side, plants can trap pollutants and prevent passing them to soil microorganisms. The more plants present (including the ones from your garden), the less pollution.
Growing Herbs at Home
Not only do herbs play an important role as flavoring agents, they also help protect against cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative conditions, inflammation, cancer and acute/chronic diseases as well as combating obesity and type 2 diabetes with their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumorigenic, anticarcinogenic, and glucose- and cholesterol-lowering properties.
Four herbs that can be grown year-round include rosemary, basil, peppermint and sage. Plant them in your garden and try these recipes to maximize their benefits both mentally and physically.
Pasta with Butter, Sage & Parmesan
Total Time: 20 minutes | Serves: 4
Native to the Mediterranean region, sage is an aromatic herb traditionally used in medicine for the treatment of seizures, ulcers, gout, inflammation, paralysis, diarrhea, hyperglycemia and more. With its savory, slightly peppery flavor, it can be used for seasoning foods from sausages to stuffing and even pasta.
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound cut pasta, such as ziti
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 30 fresh sage leaves
- 1 cup (or more) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add salt. Cook pasta until tender to the touch but not quite done.
- While pasta is cooking, place butter in a skillet or saucepan large enough to hold the cooked pasta; turn heat to medium and add sage. Cook until butter turns dark brown and sage shrivels, then turn heat to very low.
- When the pasta is just about done, save 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain pasta and immediately add it to butter-sage mixture. Raise heat to medium. Add 3/4 cup pasta cooking water and stir; the mixture will be loose and a little soupy. Cook for about 30 seconds or until some of the water is absorbed and the pasta is perfectly done.
- Stir in cheese; the sauce will become creamy. If desired, thin it with a small amount of water. Season liberally with pepper and salt to taste and serve immediately. Top with more grated cheese to taste.
Nutritional analysis per serving:
607 calories; 16 grams fat; 9 grams saturated fat; 90 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams dietary fiber; 26 grams protein; 397 milligrams sodium.
Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Fresh Peppermint Ice Cream
Prep Time: 25 minutes | Total Time: 4 hours, 25 minutes | Makes: 1½ quarts—10 (½ cup) servings
A cross between water mint and spearmint, peppermint is indigenous to Europe and the Middle East. High in menthol—responsible for its cooling sensation—peppermint is known for its benefits in the treatment of menstrual pains, depression-related anxiety, muscle and nerve pain, and gastrointestinal disorders such as nausea and irritable bowel syndrome. The spicy, minty-cool, sweet, slightly pungent properties of peppermint make it a great addition to herbal teas, desserts, confectionery, gum and even ice cream.
- 1 cup milk
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 2/3 cup fresh peppermint leaves
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
- In a saucepan, heat milk, whipping cream and sugar together over medium-high heat until mixture just starts to bubble. Turn off heat, add peppermint and steep, covered, for about 2 hours.
- Strain and discard peppermint leaves, firmly pressing out any extra liquid.
- Stir in vanilla.
- Chill mixture in fridge about 2 hours until completely cold.
- Pour mixture into ice cream maker and churn about 25 to 30 minutes or according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- If you don’t have an ice cream maker, pour mixture into a wide metal bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Then place in freezer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes in the freezer, beat ice cream mixture with an electric mixer until smooth. Put the mixture back into the freezer for 40 minutes, then beat with an electric mixer again until smooth. Repeat this step 3 times (for a total of 2.5 hours freezing time).
- Take ice cream out of freezer and let thaw for several minutes before serving.
- Serve by itself or with curls of shaved chocolate and a fresh sprig of peppermint.
Megan Young and Noel Le are Torrance Memorial registered dietitians. If you are interested in learning more techniques to help build a healthy and nutritious lifestyle, contact one of our registered dietitian nutritionists at the Outpatient Medical Nutrition Therapy office or our Diabetes Self-Management Program to schedule a consultation. Located in the Torrance Memorial Specialty Center, 2841 Lomita Blvd., Suite 335, Torrance, 310-891-6707. Visit our nutrition blog for our monthly recipes and posts: TorranceMemorial.org/nutrition