We’ve long known that nature is good for us. And now, a study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion further reinforces this idea. The research suggests that feeling connected to nature can positively affect our diet.
Study lead author Dr. Brandy-Joe Milliron is an associate professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions at Drexel University.
“Nature relatedness has been associated with better cognitive, psychological and physical health and greater levels of environmental stewardship. Our findings extend this list of benefits to include dietary intake,” said Dr. Milliron.
“We found people with higher nature relatedness were more likely to report healthful dietary intake, including greater dietary variety and higher fruit and vegetable consumption.”
To conduct the study, the research team surveyed approximately 300 adults in Philadelphia between May and August 2017. The team asked participants how close they felt to nature and what they ate the previous day to determine how many fruits and vegetables they consumed.
The study represented Philadelphia’s different socio-economic and racial demographics based on the 2010 census. The researchers believe the results of the study have profound implications for healthcare, lifestyle, and city planning.
“This work can impact health promotion practices in two ways,” said Dr. 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.”
However, the researchers emphasize that further research is necessary to understand the intricacy of these findings.
“Future research should explore the ways different communities experience and value nature,” said study co-author Dr. Diane Ward. “It needs to include how the intersections of environment, culture, race, history (including connection to land), social cohesion and other social and economic factors influence community identity relative to nature relatedness and dietary intake.”
In the meantime, perhaps we should consider ways to build a closer connection to nature. We could do this by advocating for more green spaces, encouraging schools to include nature in their curriculum, and prescribing time outdoors to those that suffer from mental and physical illness.