Gardening enthusiasts have long insisted that the stuff they grow is better than what the grocery store sells. As it turns out, they might be right. Numerous studies have shown that homegrown produce is often healthier and tastier than what you’d find at your local supermarket. Here’s why.
Doesn’t Degrade and Lose Nutrients
Fruits and vegetables from your own garden are about as fresh as it gets. You can pick them when they’re at their ripest when they have peak nutrients and flavor.
Grocery store produce, on the other hand, may travel thousands of miles before reaching supermarket shelves. During this long journey, it may lose some of its nutrients and flavor, especially if it’s exposed to heat.
To reduce costs, stores may ship items in non-ideal conditions. For example, different fruits and vegetables stay fresh best at different temperatures, but they may get sent together to lower expenses.
A study conducted by Kew Gardens researchers backs up this claim. They tested different kinds of tomatoes and found that homegrown varieties had more natural sugars, anti-oxidants, and phenols, a type of nutrient-rich compound.
Grocery Stores Don’t Buy for Quality
Grocery stores want high-quality products, but they also have a lot of other characteristics they look for in what they buy.
For instance, they only stock produce that meets certain aesthetic standards because people are more likely to buy products if they look appealing. That means slightly misshapen tomatoes get discarded, even if they’re more nutritious than other perfectly round ones.
When buying items that need to be shipped long distances, supermarkets choose products that can survive these long trips. These varieties sometimes aren’t as nutritious as others.
No Pesticides or Herbicides
When you grow your own food, you control what goes into it and onto it. You can be sure it isn’t exposed to herbicides or pesticides.
Food from the store, however, may have been treated with pesticides, herbicides and other contaminants that are difficult to remove entirely. Even food labeled as “pesticide-free” could have come into contact with something accidentally. With homegrown food, you remove all doubt.
You’ll Likely Eat More
When you plant a garden, especially a larger one, you’ll likely eat more fruits and vegetables than you otherwise would. This is, in part, because you simply have more produce on hand, and it stays fresher for longer.
You’ll also have more pride in the food you grow than the food you buy, which will encourage you to eat more as well. Not to mention the fact that it tastes better.
Exercise and Sun
The work you do planting, weeding, watering and otherwise working on your garden will also help you to be healthier.
Doing light to moderate gardening for an hour can burn up to 330 calories, and being outside helps you get your daily dose of vitamin D. Studies to show that regular gardening can reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke and extend life by 30 percent for adults over age 60. It has also been shown to boost mood and mental health.
Fruits and vegetables are good for you whether you get them from the grocery store, local farmers’ market or your backyard. In general, though, fresher is better, and homegrown produce can help you to optimize freshness. If you really want to get the most out of your fruits and veggies, try gardening.
Emily Folk: Conservation and Sustainability Writer.