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Why Pollination Matters

When I am not speaking at conferences, meeting with patients or new business partners, or training dietitians, one of my favorite hobbies is gardening. In honor of Earth Month, I’d like to discuss the importance of pollination and how it relates to nutrition.

Pollination is nature's way of transferring pollen from one flower to another, helping plants reproduce. It's mainly done by animals like bees, butterflies, and birds, ensuring the growth of fruits, veggies, and flowers. These pollinators can carry pollen up to 3 miles!


Five Reasons Pollination is important for nutrition include:


1.      Nutrient-Rich Foods: Pollination is essential for the production of many fruits, vegetables, and nuts that are staples of a healthy diet. These foods provide essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, which are important for overall health and disease prevention.


2.      Gut Health: Pollination supports the production of fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts, which are important for digestive health. Fiber helps regulate bowel movements, prevents constipation, and supports the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. A diverse and healthy gut is associated with numerous health benefits, including improved digestion, immune function, and mental well-being.


3.      Dietary Diversity: Pollination contributes to the diversity of plant foods available for consumption. Eating a diverse range of fruits and vegetables ensures that you obtain a wide spectrum of nutrients, as different plant foods contain unique combinations of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.


4.      Plant-Based Diets: Pollination supports the production of plant-based foods that are central to vegetarian, vegan, and plant-forward diets. These diets are associated with numerous health benefits, including reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.


5.      Healthy Aging: Consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and nuts, which are made possible through pollination, is associated with healthy aging and longevity. These foods provide nutrients that support cognitive function, immune health, and overall vitality as we age.


I have five pollination-promoting plant recommendations that are great in small gardens or landscaping:


1.      Nasturtiums: Nasturtiums produce colorful flowers that are not only attractive to pollinators but also edible. Both the flowers and leaves have a peppery flavor that can be used in salads or as garnishes. They grow well in containers or hanging baskets.


2.      Calendula (Marigold): Calendula flowers are not only beautiful but also edible and attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. The petals can be used fresh or dried to add color to salads, soups, and teas. Calendula plants are compact and can be grown in pots or small garden spaces.

3.      Lemon Balm: Lemon balm is a fragrant herb that produces small white flowers loved by bees and other pollinators. The leaves have a mild lemon flavor and can be used fresh or dried to flavor teas, salads, and desserts. Lemon balm grows well in pots or small garden beds.


4.      Thyme: Thyme is a versatile herb that attracts bees and other pollinators with its tiny flowers. It's perfect for small spaces as it can be grown in pots, window boxes, or even as a ground cover. Thyme adds flavor to a variety of dishes, including meats, soups, and roasted vegetables.


5.      Chamomile: Chamomile produces small, daisy-like flowers that attract bees and butterflies. The flowers can be dried and used to make chamomile tea, known for its calming properties. Chamomile plants are compact and can be grown in pots or small garden spaces.


You don’t need a green thumb to plant any of these beautiful flowers and herbs. Give them a try and give yourself a pat on the back for supporting pollination and its nutritional benefits!


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