We all know that being in nature can help to reduce our stress hormone cortisol and is a key way to clear the mind. However, new research has looked at whether being in nature and more specifically, feeling connected with the natural world, can influence our nutrition?
This study involved surveying 317 adults who resided in Philadelphia between May and August 2017.
The study looked at participants self-reported connection to nature, including their experience with and perspective of nature and the foods and beverages they had consumed the previous day to assess their dietary diversity and estimate their daily fruit and vegetable consumption.
To calculate dietary diversity, food groups reported were aggregated into nine food categories:
- starchy staples
- dark green leafy vegetables
- Vitamin A rich fruits/vegetables
- other fruits/vegetables
- organ meat – meat/fish
- milk products.
The overall results of the survey showed that participants with a stronger connection to nature reported a more varied diet and ate more fruits and vegetables. The authors concluded that connection with nature is associated with better dietary intake.
Diet diversity is beneficial because it helps us to get a greater spread of nutrients, vitamins and minerals because we are consuming foods which contain different nutrients, vitamins and minerals. It also helps to promote a healthy and varied gut microbiome which has positive impacts on many areas of health.
So how much time in nature do you need? While any time in nature is better than none, previous research showed 2 hours in nature per week resulted in beneficial health outcomes. However, this study more so looked at connection to nature.
Ways to take time out of your day to be in nature to help develop a connection to nature:
- take your lunch break outdoors
- turn your coffee run into a walk outdoors
- exercise outdoors daily or a few times per week
- catch up with friends in a park instead of a café
- meditate on the grass rather than in your home
- get a dog! Great excuse to go outdoors daily
- join a social group that does outdoor activities such as hiking
If you can’t get outdoors, here are some simply ways to bring nature inside
- grow herbs on your kitchen counter
- purchase indoor plants and make sure you have some near your work desk
- open your windows and have access to clear air
- put photographs of the forest, trees or ocean on your wall
- use photographs of the forest, trees, ocean etc as your desktop background and phone background
- go to bed listening to the sound of the ocean or a forest
Brandy-Joe Milliron, Dane Ward, Janeway Granche, Janell Mensinger, Dahlia Stott, Claire Chenault, Franco Montalto, Eugenia V. Ellis. Nature Relatedness Is Positively Associated With Dietary Diversity and Fruit and Vegetable Intake in an Urban Population. American Journal of Health Promotion, 2022; 089011712210869 DOI: 10.1177/08901171221086941