Did You Know? Some Tidbits on Health, Food & Gardening


  • There are around 2000 different plant types that humans use to cultivate food.[1]
  • The U.S. is the largest producer of genetically modified crops.[2]
  • The bulk of US genetically modified crops are commodity crops. Sugar beets 95%, Soybeans 94%, Cotton 90%, and feed corn 88%[3]
  • 60% to 70% of processed foods on U.S. grocery shelves have genetically modified ingredients.[4]
  • Americans buy an average of 787 pounds of processed food a year compared to 602 lbs. of fresh food[5]
  • We’re on par with many developed countries for amount of vegetables we consume, but China’s got us beat with 313 percent more vegetables consumed annually[6]
  • Processed foods account for roughly 70 percent of our nation’s calories[7]
  • The average apple contains around 130 calories
  • Since 1980, U.S. obesity rates have doubled for children and tripled for adolescents[8]
  • Kids 2-11 watch 14 hours/week of television and have and average of 50 minutes/week of unstructured play outside[9]
  • The average person burns about 360 calories an hour gardening, 30 calories/hr watching television[10]
  • There is no FDA definition or policy regulating the use of the word ‘natural’ on food labels, so it could mean just about anything. [11]
  • A cup of parsnip is rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, B-complex groups, and holds a Potassium content equivalent to a small banana. [12]
  • Gardening has been proven to help prevent dementia in seniors. [13]
  • Healthcare facilities are increasingly designing gardens into their architecture as more studies reveal that a natural environment and gardening can encourage medical recovery and biopsychosocial well being. [14]

[1] McGee, H. (2004). On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. New York: Simon and Schuster.

[2] Initiative on Food and Biotechnology (2004). Issues in the Regulation of Genetically Modified Plants and Animals. Pew Research Institute.

[3] Weise, E.  (2012, October 28). Genetically Engineered Food Q & A. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/10/28/gmo-questions/1658225/

[4] Byrne, P. (2010) Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods. Colorado State University Extention from http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09371.html

[5] Fairfield, H. (2010, April 4). Factory Food. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2010/04/04/business/04metrics_g.html?ref=business

[6] Fairfield, H. (2010, April 4). Factory Food. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2010/04/04/business/04metrics_g.html?ref=business

[7] Warner, M. (2013). Pandora’s lunchbox, How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal. New York: Scribner

[8] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facts About Obesity in the United States. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/pdf/facts_about_obesity_in_the_united_states.pdf

[9] Juster, F.T et al. (2004). Changing Times of American Youth. Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan.Nielsenwire. Retrieved from http://www.ns.umich.edu/Releases/2004/Nov04/teen_time_report.pdf

[10] Christensen, J.W. Global Science: Energy, Resources, Environment, 4th ed. Kendall-Hunt. Retrieved from http://www.auburn.edu/academic/classes/matl0501/coursepack/calories/text.htm

[11] United States Food and Drug Administration(FDA).  (April 4, 2012). What is the meaning of ‘natural’ on the label of food?. FDA basics.  Silver Spring: MD. Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/Transparency/Basics/ucm214868.htm

[12] Kaiser Permanente.  (2005). Potassium Contents of Foods. Nutrition Keynotes. Oakland: CA http://www.permanente.net/homepage/kaiser/pdf/55929.pdf

[13] Fabrigoule, C. (1995). Social and leisure activities and risk of dementia: a prospective longitudinal study. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 43(5):485-90.

[14] Irvine, KN. (2002). Greening Healthcare: Practicing as if the Natural Environment Really Mattered. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 8(5):76-83.

Abridged version originally printed in Seattle Tilth’s newsletter, Way to Grow (June/July 2013).

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