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Improved mood, better concentration, reduced inflammation – these are just a few of the health perks that getting outdoors and spending time in nature can offer. But can nature actually influence your choices when it comes to health and wellness? New research suggests that getting outdoors might be beneficial for your nutrition, and it may help you make healthier food choices.
Here’s how spending time in the great outdoors can potentially have a positive effect on your eating habits.
Nature may wield some influence on the foods you choose
Researchers from multiple disciplines of study at Drexel University have found that spending more time in nature just might help you make more health-minded food choices. The results of their study, which were published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, suggest that getting outdoors – especially for those living in urban environments – may be beneficial for your nutrition.
The researchers examined how nature relatedness, or feeling connected to the natural world, influenced dietary diversity. Specifically, they looked at fruit and vegetable intake, surveying over 300 adults who self-reported both their connection to nature and their food and beverage consumption over the course of four months in 2017.
At the end of the study, those surveys showed participants who had stronger connections to nature consumed a more varied diet. They were also more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables. Overall, those with “higher nature relatedness” were more likely to stick with healthy eating habits.
Why your connection to nature matters for your nutrition
While researchers didn’t pinpoint what, exactly, it was about getting out in nature that may influence dietary choices, they did draw some key conclusions from their findings. They suggested that increasing nature relatedness, or being more connected to nature, may be a great complement to other healthy eating efforts.
Dr. Charles Tabone, N.M.D., the practitioner at Los Angeles based Pause Studio, believes that forging a connection to nature is beneficial well beyond your eating habits. According to Dr. Tabone, it’s essential for whole-body health: “I talk about different pillars of health, and nature is one of them. We evolved in nature, and that’s what our physiology knows, and any exposure to all sorts of different bacteria and information from the environment around us is super beneficial.”
If you want to reap the potentially positive impact nature can have on your food choices and your overall wellness, get outside! Take your workouts outside if you usually stick to the gym or indoors at home. To improve your connection with nature (or nature relatedness), make getting outside a regular habit. If you live in a urban area without a lot of greenery, you can plan weekend adventures into nature – hiking, short camping trips or even spending an afternoon at your local parks are all ways to surround yourself with natural wonders.
“I’ll go for a walk and put my feet in the ocean,” says Dr. Tabone. “I surf – getting out there, swallowing some dirty water, that’s something I think is important. Or, just going for a block walk… I think treating nature as essential to health and wellness, if you get in that mindset and try to make it a daily part of living, [is] super helpful.”
An even easier way to forge a connection if you’re staying home? Step into your own outdoor space. If you’re growing a garden, you can foster nature relatedness as you tend to your plants. Even a small herb garden counts!