Did you know that vegetable gardening can offer several benefits to cancer patients? Here’s why.
According to a recent study featured in Reuters Health, researchers found that cancer patients who have a home garden receive several benefits, including increased physical activity, a diet filled with more fruits and vegetables and enhanced feelings of self-worth.
However, if patients do not have access to their own outdoor garden, there are still ways to receive comparable benefits, says, Maria Petzel, senior clinical dietitian for the Pancreas Surgery Program at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and a member of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Scientific and Medical Advisory Board.
“Consider a container garden or becoming part of a community garden,” said Petzel. “Also, there are potential benefits to simply harvesting fruits and vegetables grown by others.”
Petzel pointed to a study published by researchers at Ohio State University (OSU) who evaluated personal health behavior changes in cancer survivors following their participation in a gardening program.
“The study found that patients who participated in the program had improved mental and physical health,” said Petzel.
In addition to improved mental and physical health, OSU researchers identified additional benefits of the gardening program. Participating patients had a greater dietary intake of produce and an enhanced sense of community and social support.
Another benefit to gardening?
“It’s more interesting than the gym,” said Joyce Sager, a cancer survivor featured in another study evaluating the benefits of vegetable gardening. “Plus, watching my plants grow gives me something to look forward to every day.”
With an increased understanding of the benefits gardening can provide to both patients and survivors, many cancer centers have created their own gardens or are partnering with local community gardens.
“Patients should check with their local cancer center for resources and information about gardening opportunities in their local community,” added Petzel.
Pancreatic cancer patients often have many questions and concerns about nutritional care. In addition to PanCAN’s PanCAN Patient Services, both MyPlate and the American Institute for Cancer Research provide resources on healthy diets, including eating well on a budget. A registered dietitian is also an invaluable resource for cancer patients with dietary restrictions.
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