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Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald

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Obama Garden Watch: 10 Vegetables Worth A Fist Bump

Posted: 04/06/09 09:41 AM ET

"Hope won" took on new meaning for me when I found out that Michelle Obama was planning a 1,100 square-foot kitchen garden on the south grounds of the White House. Seriously, I see almost everything through a health and wellness lens. During the time of the inaugural balls and parties, I watched the Obamas dance together until the wee hours of the morning. My thoughts and concerns were: "Wow, can the President go to work a little later tomorrow? He'll need a good night's sleep and some time to recover from the excitement to be at his best. We need our President to be healthy in body, mind, and spirit."

President Obama may not be getting all the sleep he needs, but at least he's going to be eating his veggies.

I've lectured at schools over the past 20 years, attempting to inspire kids to make healthier choices when it comes to the dinner plate. I've found kids to be very receptive and interested in what foods are healthy for their growing bodies. They go home from the lectures asking their parents for more fruits and vegetables. Armed with knowledge and enthusiasm, they start incorporating healthy changes into their diet.

Although these changes often take place, the inspiration from lectures about fruits and vegetables can get steamrolled by Saturday morning cartoon commercials, and one of my main competitors - high fructose corn syrup. Childhood obesity and related health concerns have reached epidemic proportions, yet we still have junk food being heavily marketed to kids.

We need help, big time!... Enter Michelle Obama.

Thank you Mrs. Obama for giving hope to parents, educators, healthcare professionals, and others who try to inspire young and old with ideas for healthier ways of eating. Thank you Michael Pollan and Alice Waters for spreading the word about the necessity of growing our own food and supporting our local small farms.

In a recent interview with Oprah, Michelle Obama described her goals for the garden: "We want to use it as a point of education, to talk about health, and how delicious it is to eat fresh food, and how you can take that food and make it part of a healthy diet... And hopefully kids will be interested because there are kids living here." In addition to her two daughters, Mrs. Obama is involving students from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington, DC in the garden project.

Beyond the important issues regarding children, there are rewards for adults in following Michelle Obama's example. Planting a garden can give us hope and inspiration that we can be resourceful no matter what the state of the economy.

Hopefully the White House garden can be an example to all of us to listen to our grandmother's advice and "eat our vegetables." In general, vegetables are a great source of nutrients, especially antioxidants such as vitamins A (in the precursor form of betacarotene) and C, fiber, minerals, and water. An informative site from the Harvard School of Public Health discusses how these foods help prevent everything from heart disease, to some forms of cancer, to vision concerns. To calculate the daily amount of fruits and vegetables recommended for your age and activity level, visit a helpful webpage provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The 10 Power-Packed Veggies

It has been reported that the White House's edible organic garden will include 55 varieties of vegetables. Below are nutritional highlights of 10 that are included in the initial layout:

Kale: Delivers betacarotene, along with other eye-health supportive carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin. Its organosulfur compounds are thought to reduce the risk of some types of cancer. Also provides a good dose of vitamin C, manganese, magnesium, iron, calcium, and fiber.

Spinach: Good source of betacarotene, magnesium, and folate. In addition, spinach offers nice amounts of vitamins C, E and K; calcium, potassium, iron, lutein, lipoic acid, and fiber. Studies show that the phytonutrients in spinach may aid in the prevention of heart disease, arthritis, and certain forms of cancer.

Broccoli: Considered a cancer risk reducer, partly due to its phytonutrient content (such as indoles and sulforaphane). An excellent source of vitamin C. Also delivers betacarotene, calcium, folate, and fiber.

Sugar Snap Peas: Provide insoluble fiber; may help lower cholesterol. Offers vitamins B1, B6, C and K, as well as iron, potassium, and lutein. New research shows promise for helping with high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Rhubarb: The stalks from rhubarb deliver vitamins C and K, fiber, potassium, and calcium. Rhubarb may benefit those with high cholesterol.

Romaine Lettuce: This salad green is packed with folate, vitamin C, and betacarotene. Other nutrients include vitamin K, manganese, chromium, and fiber.

Carrots: Good source of fiber, vitamins C and K, and the minerals potassium and manganese. Rich in antioxidants such as betacarotene, which can aid in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Collard Greens: Also has cancer-protective organosulfur compounds. Delivers betacarotene, vitamins B6 and C, calcium, zinc, and folate.

Swiss Chard: Provides vitamins B2, B6, C, K, and betacarotene, as well as the minerals iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium.

Onions: Rich source of vitamin C, chromium, and quercetin. Studies indicate that onions may improve cardiovascular health and lower cancer risk.

Veggies: delicious and nutritious. An investment in your health with guaranteed dividends. What other kind of investment can really offer that in these challenging economic times?

OK, ready to dig in?

Getting Involved

You can get great ideas for starting a garden, whether in your yard, on your porch, or on your windowsill from the Kitchen Gardeners International website. KGI is a non-profit network of 10,000 gardeners from 100 countries whose mission is to inspire and inform people to grow their own food. KGI gathered 100,000 signatures to petition the Obamas to support sustainable agriculture by growing an organic garden.

Check out their cool video that presents the history of gardening at the White House.

Abundance and hope. In a seed. Get some for free at onemilliongardens.com, and join the revolution of bringing power back to the people.

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