Home gardening fuel for healthy living

“Let your garden be your health and your health be your garden”  By Dr Viliami Puloka, Senior Health Promotion Strategist New Zealand Health Promotion Forum When Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine some 2500 years ago said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”, I can assure you he was not talking about fast food like cheese burgers, fizzy drinks and French fries. He was talking about fresh produce from people’s home gardens. Being the top physician of his time and a leading scientist in the field of medicine, he knew the importance of whole food /good healthy food in providing fuel for healthy living. Consumption of foods that are highly processed, but empty of proper nutrients is one of the key drivers of the obesity and diabetes pandemic the world is facing today. The New Zealand Ministry of Health report in 2016/17 showed that nearly 100,000 children are obese (12.3%) and 32% of adults which is about 1.2 million men and women. The prevalence of diabetes is estimated to be 7% overall but threefold among Pacific and Maori communities. Eating fresh food, locally grown in home gardens, is a very good way to prevent and control chronic diseases including diabetes and obesity. The health benefits of growing your own food are well documented. You are in control of what to grow. You are not dependent on food produced by someone you do not know, whose interest is your money not your health. Growing your own garden provides opportunities for physical activity which is required for good health. One can also enjoy fresh air, sunshine and direct engagement with Mother Nature, which is good medicine for the whole person. Here in New Zealand we are very fortunate to have such fertile soil and good climate for gardening. Many people still grow food in their own gardens. The challenge is the ever-increasing amount of readily available imported processed food that competes with traditional local cuisines. I would like to suggest that the way forward to good health Includes home gardening. A healthy garden needs good soil, good seed and a good dose of TLC (Tender Loving Care). TLC includes watering, feeding, weeding, protecting from sun, frost and too much wind throughout the life of your garden. Likewise, when you look after your health, you also need a good dose of TLC. Caring for your body begins with you respecting your body by having a balanced healthy diet, regular physical activity and having fun. Equally important is having enough rest and relaxation, avoiding poisons such as tobacco, alcohol and negative thoughts. Good soil to grow your health is good people surrounding you with knowledge, skill and experience willing to build you up. We can tell if we have a good garden by the quality and quantity of our harvest. We know if we are in good health when we are physically fit, mentally sharp, socially well connected and spiritually at peace with ourselves, our loved ones, family and friends. “Let your garden be your health and your health be your garden.” Dr Viliami Puloka