Does connecting with the natural world have nutritional benefits?

Time spent in the natural world influences what we eat, says study.

In our virtual world, nesting in front of computer screens means fewer people are spending time outside disconnecting from nature, and that’s bad news for our health.

Doctors in some countries are prescribing nature-based therapies to improve the health of their patients and for a good reason.

Evidence suggests that regularly connecting with nature increases life expectancy, boosts immunity, improves sleep quality, promotes cardiovascular health, reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety and enhances mental wellbeing.

But does spending time in the great outdoors also influence other health-related behaviours?

Brandy-Joe Milliron, an associate professor at Drexel University, surveyed over 300 adults from Philadelphia to compare nature-connectedness (a term describing the strength of connection someone has to the natural world) with dietary intake the previous day.

The results published in the American Journal of Health Promotion found those more strongly connected to nature also had healthier, more diverse diets and ate more fruit and vegetables compared to those less connected to nature.

Although more work is needed, the results indicate being in green spaces, a garden, or near water has broader implications for other behaviours that affect our health.

“This work can impact health promotion practices in two ways,” “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,” said Milliron in a Drexel University press release.

Reference:

Milliron BJ, Ward D, Granche J, Mensinger J, Stott D, Chenault C, Montalto F, Ellis EV. Nature Relatedness Is Positively Associated With Dietary Diversity and Fruit and Vegetable Intake in an Urban Population. Am J Health Promot. 2022 Apr 5:8901171221086941. DOI: 10.1177/08901171221086941.

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