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Food Safety Alert: Nationwide Shrimp Product Recall Intensifies

And… it has happened again. As of August 16, 2021, there have been nine reports of salmonella-related illnesses related to shrimp products sold by Avanti Frozen Foods India.  Three of these people have been hospitalized. This multi-state outbreak is currently being investigated by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Illnesses have been reported in four states, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, and Rhode Island. 

On June 25, 2021, Avanti Foods Pvt. issued a recall on frozen shrimp products distributed nationwide from November 2020 to May 2021. However, it is now thought that the products may have been sold in stores more recently, according to the CDC.  After the CDC reopened its investigation, the FDA requested Avanti to expand the prior recall.

The frozen shrimp was sold under multiple brand names including,  365, Ahold, Big River, Censea, Chicken of the Sea, CWNO, First Street, Food Lion, Hannaford, Harbor Banks, Honest Catch, HOS, Meijer, Nature’s Promise, Open Acres, Sandbar, Sea Cove, Waterfront Bistro, Wellsley Farms, and WFNO Brands.

Whole Foods Market lists two products associated with the recall under its 365 store brand, Kroger, Albertsons, Target, and Meijer, and Hannaford are among retailers impacted by this recall. Products included in the recall include various sizes of frozen cooked, peeled, deveined, shrimp (some packaged with cocktail sauce), tempura roles sold at Target stores in California, and rings of frozen shrimp distributed by Chicken of the Sea and sold at Meijer as well as bags of Meijer-branded bags of frozen shrimp.

Avanti is based in Visakhapatnam, India, partially owned by Bangkok-based Thai Union Group, a global seafood company.

Three smaller recalls linked to the nationwide recall

In addition to the nationwide shrimp recall, there are three smaller related recalls.

  • Mai Cuisine Inc., of Allentown – Recalling 67 packs of 12 piece Shrimp Tempura Kabuki Roll purchased at selected California Target Stores
  • Genji Pacific LLC, of Allentown – Recalling 1 490 packs of sushi containing cocktail shrimp purchased in Whole Foods Market in California stores
  • Mai Franchising Inc., of Allentown – Voluntarily recalling 103 packages of sushi containing cocktail shrimp purchased at New Leaf Community Market stores in Northern California

Stores linked to these California recalls can be found on the fda.gov site.

How seafood gets tainted

According to a study published in the Journal of Food Protection, unlike poultry and other warm-blooded animals, seafood such as shrimp do not naturally carry Salmonella bacteria. Study authors state the following.

“Salmonella is not part of the natural flora of the shrimp culture environment, nor is it inherently present in shrimp grow-out ponds. The occurrence of Salmonella bacteria in shrimp from aquaculture operations is related to the concentration of fecal bacteria in the source and grow-out pond water.”

More than 90% of shrimp consumed in the United States is imported from other countries, including Southeast Asia and Central Asia. There are numerous points from growing to harvest, processing, and shipping where shrimp can become contaminated. Each time seafood and meat are frozen, it becomes a better opportunity for bacteria to thrive. Additionally, if these foods are thawed and frozen again – more bacteria can grow.  The shrimp in question were sold frozen, then thawed before being sold.

Know where your seafood comes from 

Like all food you put on your table, knowing where it originated and is handled is essential. If you can’t catch your fresh seafood or don’t live close to the sea, pick a reputable company that sources only the best seafood possible. Here are a couple of great options to consider

 Vital Choice says this about their products.

“We seek ingredients that are certified organic and Fair Trade Certified™ whenever possible. We seek suppliers who uphold good manufacturing practices and who make a positive impact on their employees, communities, and the environment.”

Wild Alaskan Company says this about their products.

“We proudly ship a wide variety of wild-caught species from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, including sockeye salmon, coho salmon, pacific cod, pacific halibut, and wild Alaska pollock.”

Stay safe and stay informed,

-The Backyard Vitality Team

Federal Officials Say STOP: Latest Salmonella Food Outbreak Sending People to the Hospital

Like a broken record playing over and over again, food recalls keep on coming. Federal officials have now identified specific stores where recalled frozen, raw, and breaded chicken products were sold. These products, manufactured by Serenade Foods in Indiana, include almost 60,000 pounds of chicken. So far, eight states have reported salmonella sickness, including New York, Illinois, Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Nevada, where 28 people have become sick, and 11 have been hospitalized. 

According to a CDC news release, The outbreak strain of salmonella was found in unopened packages of raw frozen breaded stuffed chicken that were collected from a sick person’s home.” Of course, consumers are being encouraged to return unopened food items to the store purchased for a full refund.

Specific stores involved in the recall include Walmart, Aldi, Save-A-Lot, and Food 4 Less. More retailers may be added as the case unfolds. Check here to see which stores have been added.

Branded products that have been recalled include:

  • Dutch Farms Chicken with Broccoli & Cheese (lot code BR 1055; best if used by Feb 24, 2023)
  • Milford Valley Chicken with Broccoli & Cheese (lot code BR 1055; best if used by Feb 24, 2023)
  • Milford Valley Chicken Cordon Bleu (lot code BR 1055; best if used by Feb 24, 2023)
  • Kirkwood Raw Stuffed Chicken, Broccoli & Cheese (lot code BR 1055; best if used by Feb 24, 2023)
  • Kirkwood Raw Stuffed Chicken Cordon Bleu (lot code BR 1056; best if used by Feb 25, 2023)

Salmonella sickness can be deadly

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC), there are about 1.35 million cases of salmonellosis each year, resulting in 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths. Contaminated food is the source of the majority of these cases.

Salmonella lives in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals and is one of the top causes of food poisoning worldwide. It is a general term for about 2,000 closely related bacteria that cause illness by multiplying in the digestive tract. Humans are generally infected by consuming foods that are contaminated with animal feces. Person-person transmission occurs when an infected person’s feces, unwashed from their hands, contaminates food during preparation or comes in direct contact with another person.

While foods contaminated by salmonella are generally animal in origin, including beef, poultry, eggs and dairy, fruits and veggies, and other processed, packaged foods, even spices can become cross-contaminated. 

For instance, the massive cucumber Salmonella outbreak of 2015 spread like wildfire through the country, leaving over 900 people sick, 204  hospitalized,  and six dead. Kellogg’s Honey Smacks recall in 2018 that sickened over 70 people in 31 states, sending 24 to the hospital.

The tricky part is that contaminated foods don’t generally look or smell any different than non-contaminated foods. This means we don’t hear about a contamination outbreak until someone becomes ill and the illness is investigated.

Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Dehydration

Symptoms typically start six hours to six days after infection and can last anywhere between four to seven days. Some symptoms may be so severe that hospitalization is required.

Here’s what to do during a recall

  1. Visit foodsafety.gov for recent recalls.  
  2. Check your freezer, refrigerator, and cupboards for the product.
  3. If you have the recalled product in your home, read the food label and compare it to the manufacturer’s lot codes on the recall notice. If it’s a match, do not eat it or feed it to your pets.
  4. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer or grocery store regarding returning or disposing of the product.

Who is touching your food?

None of us go to the grocery store seeking out contaminated food. We all want a safe, diverse, affordable, and abundant food supply all year long. Because of the demand, America imports about 15 percent of its overall food supply. Today, more than 200 countries or territories and about 125,000 food facilities and farms provide about 32 percent of fresh veggies, 55 percent of fresh fruit, and 94 percent of seafood that Americans eat each year. This, in and of itself, creates challenges when it comes to food safety.

Congress passed the FDA Food Safety and Modernization Act ( FSMA) in 2011. This act shifted the focus of federal regulators into more of a prevention mode regarding food contamination. There have been new standards applicable to foreign and domestic food growers, manufacturers, processors, packers, and holders, but there is much work still to be done in food safety.

One of the best ways to keep safe is to know where your food is coming from and grow as much as you can on your own. Eliminating the many hands that touch your food is a great first step in reducing your risk of food poisoning. Eat local, eat fresh, and eat in season are excellent rules to follow.

An excellent place to start is your community farmers’ market. You can meet local farmers who often specialize in just a few things, whether meat, poultry, vegetables, or fruit. This allows you to know where your food is grown. Many local farmers will allow you to visit their farms to check out the source of your sustenance. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon! 

More ways to prevent food poisoning 

Additionally, here are some things you can practice at home to further decrease the risk of contamination:

  • Wash your hands before handling any food and in between handling different foods
  • Wash hands after using the bathroom, blowing your nose, or touching animals
  • Wash counters, knives, and utensils before preparing food – hot water and soap work great!
  • Keep your kitchen towels and dishcloths clean – don’t leave them damp – this is the perfect place for germs to spread.
  • Use separate cutting boards for raw food and fish.
  • Keep meat away from any ready-to-eat foods such as fruit, bread, and salad. Store raw meat on the bottom shelf in the fridge where it is less likely to touch other food.
  • Cook all meat thoroughly.
  • Keep your refrigerator set to below 41 degrees F and avoid overfilling. 
  • Cool cooked food that you are not going to eat within 90- minutes and store in the fridge or freezer. 
  • Use leftovers within two days and never reheat the same food more than two times.
  • Don’t ever consume food that is past its use-by date.

Stay safe and eat well,

-The Backyard Vitality Team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eat Beef or Plants – Which is Better?

Fats, carbohydrates, and protein are the three macronutrients that are essential for human life. Protein is necessary for building and repairing tissue and is also needed to create hormones, enzymes, and other vital ingredients for health and wellbeing. 

You may think of meat when you think of protein, but there are plenty of alternatives, including plant protein, that are growing in popularity. But which is better, protein from meat – specifically grass-fed beef – or plants? Let’s take a look.

About 20% of the human body is made up of protein, but we must get it from our diet because the body does not store it. While some suggest that it does not matter where your protein comes from – say, plants vs. animals, others suggest that one trumps the other as far as quality is concerned. But what is the truth?

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein

We use about 20 amino acids to build protein in the body. These amino acids are considered essential and non-essential. We can produce non-essential amino acids but no essential ones, which must come from the diet. It is crucial to have all of the essential amino acids in the proper ratios for excellent health.

Animal sources for protein, such as beef, poultry, eggs, fish, and dairy, are similar to the protein in the human body and are considered complete. They contain all of the essential amino acids that the human body needs to function at its best. Plant sources of protein from sources including, but not limited to, beans, seeds, and nuts, are considered incomplete as they lack one or more of the essential amino acids that meat sources contain. 

Note: Some say that soy is a complete protein; however, two essential amino acids exist in only minimal amounts, so it is not comparable to animal protein as far as quality is concerned.

If you eat meat, grass-fed is the ONLY option

 Is grass-fed beef a healthy option?

If there is any truth in the saying, “you are what you eat,” then choosing to eat grass-fed meats and milk products is the obvious choice. Most animals commercially raised for meat and dairy products in the United States come from Confined Animal Feeding Operations, also known as CAFOs. Animals raised in CAFOs often have no space to move around. The stress and abuse of these conditions are truly horrifying, and many meat-eating Americans choose not to think about it, which only perpetuates the cycle of mistreatment.

CAFOs contribute significantly to industrial waste and pollution. Studies have shown that people who live near factory farms may suffer nausea, depression, skin infections, respiratory problems, and sometimes death from the toxicity of their environment.

Commercially-raised animals are fed multiple antibiotics and growth hormones, which end up in the meat and milk. The overuse of antibiotics in the meat industry leads to the growth of drug-resistant bacteria strains, which make individuals more susceptible to previously treatable diseases.

According to the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences, the United States spends about 30 billion dollars per year treating antibiotic-resistant infections.

Animals raised in CAFOs are fed diets mainly consisting of GMO grain and soy, far from their natural diets. What’s worse is that the feed often contains ‘byproduct feedstuff,’ which can include chicken feathers, candy, and even municipal garbage.

All of this eventually ends up in consumers’ bodies. The bodies of you and your family every time you enjoy a commercially-raised steak, burger, or glass of milk.

Conversely, grass-fed animals are fed nothing but natural, pesticide-free grasses and are given room to roam and graze. No antibiotics, growth hormones, or garbage are added to their diets. As a result, these animals are not confined and subjected to stress, grow at a natural pace, and are naturally healthy and free of food-borne diseases.

Choosing to eat grass-fed meats and dairy products means significantly more nutrition and eliminates the risks associated with antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, GMOs, and random feed additives. This choice also benefits the environment and community farmers and ranchers who are working hard to create sustainable and humane agricultural conditions.

The resulting meat from grass-fed animals is significantly higher in nutrients. Grass-fed beef has been shown to contain more vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene than its commercially-raised counterpart. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is a potent anti-carcinogen. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant essential for the proper function of many organs in the body and helps cells live longer. Vitamin A is necessary for both eye and skin health.

A couple of key nutrients are found in meat but not in plants, including:

  • Vitamin B12: Many people who avoid meat/seafood products are deficient in vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 has a number of vital roles in the human body, including supporting normal nerve function, the formation of red blood cells, and DNA synthesis. Getting plenty of B12 helps boost energy, keep your mind clear, and helps to keep heart disease at bay.
  • Zinc: Zinc is found mainly in animal protein sources like beef and pork. It is easily absorbed and used when consumed from animal sources. Zinc is essential for a robust immune system and metabolism. It is also essential for wound healing and a sense of taste and smell.

Grass-fed beef is loaded with glutathione 

Glutathione (GT) is a powerhouse protein in foods that can eliminate free radicals within the cell. Grass-fed beef is supremely high in GT and can protect cells from oxidized lipids or proteins, thus preventing DNA damage.  Additionally, grass-fed beef is high in superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT), which work together as superpower antioxidants.

Healthy fat is healthy, and grass-fed beef has plenty of it

Studies done over the last several decades clearly show that neither saturated fat, including fat in meat, nor dietary cholesterol causes harm in humans. The old theory that told us to avoid meat, eggs, coconuts, and dairy stated that saturated fats raise bad cholesterol in the blood, and “bad”  cholesterol gets stuck in our arteries which causes hardening and eventually heart disease.

In reality, saturated fats help to elevate good cholesterol and improve the ratio of triglycerides to HDL. They also help change small and dense LDL cholesterol particles that can clog arteries to large, harmless particles.

A study done at Harvard University concluded that “greater saturated fat intake is associated with less progression of atherosclerosis.” In countries where the highest amount of saturated fat is consumed, there is the least heart disease. Saturated fat does not contribute to heart disease.

The documentary Statin Nation: The Great Cholesterol Cover-Up, presented by Rethink Productions, provides strong evidence disproving the widely believed ideology that high cholesterol leads to heart disease.

It details how the scientific groundwork that this belief is based upon was heavily manipulated from the start and presents large-scale studies that clearly show the lack of connection between cholesterol levels and heart disease.

In short, mounting evidence shows that our focus on lowering cholesterol, and our growing reliance on statins, a class of cholesterol-lowering pharmaceuticals, is both drawing research focus away from investigating the actual causes of heart disease and killing us.

Statin Nation interviews medical experts from various fields, who each present a wide array of large-scale studies showing that there is no evidence-based relationship between high cholesterol and heart disease.

Studies have found that LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol is LOWER in heart disease patients than in the general population and that low cholesterol levels are associated with earlier death.

Takeaway

Here is a quick snapshot summary of the top reasons why everyone should include at least some meat in their diet. Yes, plants are important too because they contain nutrients not found in beef but consuming BOTH provides a fantastic basis for amazing health.

  • The protein found in beef is complete – it doesn’t get any better than this!
  • Beef contains heme iron which the body readily absorbs and helps to prevent anemia.
  • High-quality beef may help to prevent muscle loss which accompanies aging.
  • Consuming a high protein diet including beef may help to balance blood sugar.
  • Beef is the #1 dietary source of zinc which is necessary for optimal immune system function and wound healing.
  • Just one serving of beef provides half of the daily recommended value of selenium which helps to prevent cell damage, promotes proper thyroid production, and may even help prevent cancer.
  • Eating a diet that includes protein found in beef has been found to promote long-term weight loss better than other diets.
  • Animal products including beef contain the only natural source of B-12 which is important for healthy brain and nervous system function. 
  • People who don’t eat meat such as beef have lower levels of calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B-23, and omega-3 fatty acids which are vital for bone health.

 

Who’s ready for some delicious and nutritious grass-fed beef?

-The Backyard Vitality Team

 

 

Additional sources

  • Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2000.
  • Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 1998.
  • Effect of an energy-restricted, high-protein, low-fat diet relative to a conventional high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet on weight loss, body composition, nutritional status, and markers of cardiovascular health in obese women, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005
  • Vegetarian diets and bone status, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2014

11 Amazing Benefits of Sweet Basil

Fresh sweet basil is floral, pungent, and readily available in the U.S. You’re probably well aware of the flavor it contributes to dishes, like pasta and salads. But what you may not be aware of are the powerful healing compounds associated with the essential oil. In fact, sweet basil oil can help the digestive, immune and nervous systems. If you haven’t tried it yet, here are some natural fixes that can really boost your health.=

Sweet basil’s essentials

Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum), is a plant with thick foliage and small white flowers. Fresh basil projects a fresh and floral aroma, while the dried basil has a spicy and earthy scent. Like most herbs, sweet basil is loaded with health benefits. In fact, it’s a rich source of vitamin K, beta carotene, and iron. In addition, this herb has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.

But the majority of basil’s benefits are attributed to its volatile oil and flavonoids. The preferred method for obtaining the oil is through steam distilling the flowers or the whole basil plant. These powerful, plant-based antioxidants reduce inflammation and help fight aging. Whether you take it internally or use it topically, here are some basil oil benefits you may want to consider.

1. Antibacterial and antifungal

Basil oil for cleaning

Basil oil has antimicrobial activity that fights a wide range of foodborne bacteria, yeasts, and even mold. A study published in Food Microbiology found that basil oil can stop the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Researchers looking for natural, toxin-free food preservatives, discovered that washing produce in a basil oil solution decreased shigella.

Shigella, a bacterium closely related to salmonella, produces abdominal pain, tenesmus, watery diarrhea, and dysentery. Other symptoms may include abdominal tenderness, fever, vomiting, dehydration, and convulsions. Interestingly, a solution made from one percent basil oil decreased contamination below levels at which it could be detected. Scientists suggest including basil in your salad to provide similar safeguards.

In another earlier study from Australia, researchers looked at the effects of basil oil against bacteria, fungi, yeasts, and molds. All five essential oils of basil showed antimicrobial activity against most of the organisms. That means you can use a solution of basil oil to remove bacteria and prevent contamination from kitchens and bathrooms. Simply combine basil oil with water in a spray bottle and wipe down surfaces.

2. Indigestion and cramping

Basil oil can help increase urine production, which in turn, can reduce water retention, uncomfortable bloating, and digestive issues. It’s also an effective antispasmodic and can reduce food and illness-associated cramping. Add one to two drops of sweet basil oil to warm water or tea. You can also inhale it or massage it directly into painful areas, such as the abdomen and lower back.

3. Constipation relief

Sweet basil oil can also provide natural constipation relief. Add one to two drops of sweet basil oil to warm water or tea. You’ll be feeling better in no time.

4. Flatulence and upset stomach

Basil oil for gas and upset stomach

Basil essential oil is also useful as a digestive tonic. Since basil oil has carminative properties, it prevents or relieves flatulence. In fact, it can provide immediate relief from gas. It also has colic qualities and is therefore used to alleviate bowel pain. Alternately, sweet basil oil can expel gas from the stomach and intestine, helping calm an upset stomach, suggests the University of Michigan Health System.

5. Prevents infections

Due to basil’s antibacterial properties, it may also treat several infections, including cuts, wounds and bladder infections. It’s also great for avoiding viral infections that attack and enter the body through other wounds.

6. Pain relief

Often used for arthritic pain, wounds, sprains, and headaches, basil oil is an analgesic and provides effective relief from pain. According to a study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, basil oil was found to reduce hyperalgesia in mice. Research suggests that sweet basil oil may also be a natural alternative for treating chronic painful conditions, such as fibromyalgia.

7. Anti-inflammatory

Basil’s powerful essential oils contain eugenol, citronellol, and linalool. These enzyme-inhibiting oils help lower inflammation — the root cause of most diseases. In a 2007 study, researchers found that sweet basil oil significantly reduced an induced inflammation response in rats. Researchers found that sweet basil showed important anti-inflammatory effects.

8. Insect repellent

Similar to citronella and thyme oil, the volatile oils found in basil make a good, natural mosquito repellent to prevent bug bites. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association investigated sweet basil oil as an irritant and repellent against mosquitoes. Pure essential oil was used in combination with absolute ethanol. Researchers found that sweet basil oil is a moderate mosquito irritant and repellent. However, they found that another variety of basil, hairy basil, was a much more effective mosquito repellent.

Make your own homemade bug lotion by diluting several drops of basil essential oil in a carrier oil. Massage into the skin as needed.

9. Anxiety relief

A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology reported that basil oil relaxed mice experiencing stress. The study found that the protective properties of basil (particularly holy basil) on the brain tissue protected mice against the detrimental effect of noise stress.

10. Cold and flu Relief

Basil oil for cold relief

If you feel a cold or flu coming on, basil oil may help diminish symptoms. This essential oil helps detoxify the body of bacteria and viruses. It also fights inflammation, pain, and fatigue. Simply add one to two drops to a steam bath. Alternately, make your own homemade vapor rub with eucalyptus oil and basil oil. Rub it into your chest to open nasal passages.

11. Air freshener

Sweet basil oil is ideal for eliminating odor-causing bacteria and mold in your home, car, and furniture. Combine basil oil with baking soda to remove stains and bacteria from pots or pans. You can even spray it inside your toilet, shower, and garbage cans.

Now that you know everything sweet basil can do, are you ready to give it a try? Here are all the ways that you can get it into your system.

Inhalation

Inhale the oil directly from the bottle or rub several drops into your palms. Hold your hands over, but not touching, your face to inhale.

Topically

Always dilute basil oil with a carrier oil such as coconut oil or almond oil. Use a 1:1 ratio before applying to the skin. Because it is potent, it’s best to start slowly. Basil oil may cause reactions in people with sensitive skin. Test before applying to the skin and avoid the face, neck, and chest prior to testing.

Internally

The FDA recognizes pure basil oil as safe for consumption, but only when using 100 percent therapeutic-grade, high-quality oil. Look for Ocimum basilicum and add a drop in water. Or, take it as a dietary supplement by mixing it with raw honey.

You won’t have any trouble finding sweet basil oil because it’s produced in the U.S. and harvested from February to September. So the next time you have a cold, or simply want to freshen your home naturally, give it a try. Your nose will thank you.

– The Backyard Vitality Team

8 Mental Health Benefits Of Community Gardening

The vacant lot that we would ultimately turn into a vibrant community garden was overgrown with grass grass that was taller than we were. We had to use machetes to cut it down, then we let the grass fertilize the ground and we began an extensive cleanup and leveling process.

But many hands make light work, and that garden is now a key source of vegetables and herbs for people in the nearby area. The benefits it brings, however, go well beyond the vegetables themselves. Children from the local school work the garden side-by-side with retirees fostering a sense of community.

Community gardens bring people together.

The mental and physical health benefits of community gardens are well documented. They include:

1. Developing social support and social skills

People who contribute to community gardens be it street and urban gardens, or gardens set up for a school, prison, hospital, restaurant or other places almost always make friends there, surveys have found. Gardens can be a great place to meet people you wouldn’t normally come across people outside your family and workplaces as well as a space to learn from others. In turn, people with these stronger social networks have an increased life expectancy and greater resilience to stress.

2. Sense of achievement

It’s a wonderful thing, to look after life and plants provide an achievable way to do this. In a community garden, you’ll often find yourself taking home vegetables and herbs, or giving them to your neighbors and being able to hold the literal fruits of your labor in your hands is rewarding and fulfilling.

Connect with others who share a passion for gardening.

3. A great use of leisure time

Sometimes work and caring duties can be so exhausting that the only leisure time we squeeze in involves a television. But, TV and Netflix aren’t great for mental health they promote lazy thought and the consumption of unhealthy food, encourage unrealistic expectations of life, and promote a sedentary lifestyle. Urban and community gardening, on the other hand, can be really relaxing, while also getting you moving in a chilled-out way. Respondents to a survey on community gardening said that it made them “happy…when things grow back in spring,” and, “I feel alive. I’d die if I stayed in my apartment.”

4. Decreased stress and pain

A garden is a great and convenient getaway from the stress of everyday life, and studies have found that gardens can lower pain levels and speed up the healing process, decrease stress and release tension. Community gardens can be especially beneficial to people in highly urbanized areas who don’t have a garden of their own or access to plants on a daily basis. In fact, researchers have found that gardening is more efficient at reducing stress than reading indoors or indoor exercise.

Community gardening gets you out of the house.

5. Better diet and lifestyle

People working in community gardens often feel inspired to eat better and are more motivated to exercise. Learning how vegetables grow and everything that goes into that process helps people to appreciate their food in a different way.

6. A greater sense of security

By getting to know one’s neighbors, people start to trust them and their alienation made all one’s neighbors’ strangers starts to break down. This leads to an increased feeling of safety and security.

7. Happiness

Research shows that nature evokes positive emotions, as well as facilitates cognitive functioning, and promoting recovery from mental exhaustion. People spending time in nature also have better concentration and attention levels.

8. Enhanced self-esteem

In-depth studies consistently find that gardening is great for self-esteem and just one session can be beneficial. The main reason is that a reduction in anger, confusion, tension, and depression is conducive to improving a person’s sense of self-worth.

Community gardening tips

Not everyone has a vacant block of land waiting around to be rescued. But there are lots of alternatives; a park in disrepair, the unused but accessible roof of a block of flats, the back porch of the local pub, a corner of a local primary school and even your own small patio or window sills can be used for seedlings or a shared worm composter.

Indulge your gardening hobby where you can.

If you don’t have access to green space and have to grow food on a rooftop, paved area, or patio, the following foods do really well in pots: oregano, tomatoes, basil, potatoes, beets, turnips, radish, rosemary, cucumber, lettuce, parsley, carrots, chilis, strawberries, cantaloupe, eggplant, peppermint, peppers, peas, onions, beans, kale, chard and medicinal plants like aloe vera work well as well.

For some non-edible plants that will lift your mood lavender smells wonderful and has been shown to lower stress on its own. Roses promote relaxation (and if they are organic, are edible as well) and the bright colors of sunflowers make most people feel happy.

Use a worm composter to reduce waste and generate fertilizer I made mine out of two bucket-like plastic containers in about ten minutes and throw your coffee grounds and eggshells straight into the pots.

-The Backyard Vitality Team

 

12 Tips to Keep Your Garden Harvest Fresh for Longer

Have you ever been so blessed by a massive harvest that you become overwhelmed? I know the feeling! Sometimes you just have so many fresh veggies that you become worried about using them all before they go bad. Believe me, this is a problem. However, you can turn your problem around if you follow these tips on preserving and keeping your harvest fresh for longer.

Read more

Yes, You Should Eat the WHOLE Avocado – Even the Pit

There aren’t many people out there who don’t like avocados. They’re creamy, delicious, brilliantly versatile, and undeniably one of the greatest superfoods available on supermarket shelves. Most people are aware of the wide-ranging health benefits that avocado flesh provides, but few know that the seed they throw away each time they eat an avocado can provide an impressive array of health-promoting properties. While the flesh of an avocado is packed with nutrients and healthy fats, you may be surprised to learn that over 70 percent of the total antioxidant concentration in avocados is contained in the seed. Here are five compelling reasons to stop you from throwing that next avocado seed away.

Reduce inflammation: The same powerful concoction of antioxidants in avocado seeds is responsible for their potent inflammation-fighting properties. Avocado seeds contain high concentrations of catechins and procyanidins, antioxidants that reduce inflammation associated with pain, swelling, stiffness, and impaired joint function. This heroic pair of antioxidants also promotes heart health and proper blood circulation.

Fight cancer: A 2013 study from the University of Antioquia demonstrated that extracts from avocado seeds had a pro-apoptotic influence on leukemia cells, meaning that the extract caused leukemia cells to die and left the normal cells healthy and stable. For this reason, avocado seeds could be an important way to fight or reduce your cancer risk.

Improve digestion: Avocado seeds have long been used in their native homeland of Mexico and Central America to treat a range of digestive issues, including dysentery and gastric ulcers. Today, avocado seeds can be used to promote healthy digestive function, with their potent concentrations of antioxidants and fiber helping to support your gastrointestinal tract by promoting the growth and maintenance of healthy gut bacteria.

Encourage weight loss: The same fiber found in avocado seeds that helps support healthy digestion can also help you maintain a healthy weight. Their high fiber content provides feelings of fullness and satiation, meaning you don’t get the same urge to eat as often. They can also help control your blood sugar levels, with stable blood sugar meaning you’re less likely to give in to food cravings throughout the day.

Support your skin: The powerful cocktail of antioxidants contained in avocado seeds can be just what your skin needs to become supple and clear. These antioxidants can help to rebuild collagen, promote the repair of cells damaged by free radical activity and generally just make your skin look and feel healthy.

How to eat avocado seeds 

Now that you’ve learned about the many benefits that avocado seeds can provide for your health, you’re probably wondering how the heck to eat them. They’re hard, heavy, and seemingly close to indestructible. 

The first step is to remove the seed from the surrounding flesh by cutting the avocado in half with a large sharp knife then whacking the knife down hard on the seed to stick it onto the blade. Use the edge of a cutting board to dislodge the seed from the knife blade, then cut it into quarters with a sharp knife, being careful of your fingers. The seed is actually surprisingly easy to cut with a suitably sharp knife.

Now throw the quarters into a powerful blender and process until you make a fine powder. Divide the resulting powder into two piles— one pile is enough for a single serving, so put the other pile in a storage container in the fridge. Now you can throw the powder into a smoothie mix, but be sure the other ingredients are relatively strong, as the seed powder can be quite bitter due to its tannins.

Nevertheless, don’t forget that the avocado seed is highly valuable and should not be forgotten! 

 

Susan Patterson, Certified Health Coach, and Master Gardener

 

 

 

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