More time in nature may lead to a more nutritious diet, study says

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A new study by Drexel University analyzed how nature relatedness, or feeling connected with the natural world, impacts people’s dietary diversity as well as vegetable and fruit intake.

The study was published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, and led by Brady-Joe Milliron, PhD, associate professor at Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professionals in Philadelphia on their preferences surround nature and food. To get an idea of people’s relatedness to nature and diet, Milliron and her team of researchers surveyed more than 300 adults in Philadelphia. The survey included questions about how connected participants felt to nature, their experiences and perspectives on nature, and the food and beverages they had consumed the previous day. The demographic characteristics of the participants was based off the Philadelphia 2010 census information on gender, income, education, and race.

The study’s results showed that those who reported a greater connection to nature had more variety in their diet and consumed more fruit and vegetables than those who reported weak connections with nature. According to the study, these associations were significant even after researchers adjusted the results for covariates.

The results of the study indicate that more time outside in nature may lead to a more nutritious, diverse diet. Researchers said that their findings highlight how important time in nature is to human health. They suggested that more green spaces in urban areas, nature-prescription programs in healthcare practices, and nature-based activities in schools, could benefit people’s diet and overall health.

"This work can impact health promotion practices in two ways," said Milliron. "First, nature-based health promotion interventions may increase nature relatedness across the lifespan and potentially improve dietary intake. And second, augmenting dietary interventions with nature-based activities may lead to greater improvements in dietary quality."