Gardeners tend to be healthier and longer living but only recently has it been realised that it’s not just because we enjoy an active hobby but we’re influencing our immune system through contact with soil and microbes all around our garden.


Michael shares the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ and how we can influence our immune systems for the better, through diet exercise and spending time outdoors. All of these activities benefit what’s known as our micro-biome, a vital part of our gut that keeps inflammation in check – helping us to fight chronic diseases such as cancer, ageing or dementia.

One of the problems with most supermarket fruit and veg is it’s not as fresh or full of nutrients as homegrown, he tells us. Growing your own food overcomes this, while ensuring your diet is rich in vegetables – particularly legumes, broccoli, chicories – and colourful fruit, means you’re consuming natural health-giving food full of phytonutrients.

He encourages us to experiment with our diet, aiming for a rainbow on your plate, as variety in type of food and colour is proven to be of huge benefit. While growing green and broad beans is a common activity, he suggests we explore further – into lentils and more unusual beans, not only for their fibre and nutrients but also to reduce the carbon footprint of our weekly shop, as so many protein-rich foods are brought into the UK, when we can – with care – grow our own at home.

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He also encourages us to spend as much time outdoors as we can, which is shown to be hugely beneficial for our mental and physical health – boosting natural cells which fight infections and also boost our immune system. And he reveals how planting trees on even a small scale in a city garden will benefit your health by improving air quality in and around our houses.

Listen now to this fascinating discussion between Michael Mosley and Lucy Hall, BBC Gardeners' World Magazine Editor.

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