_Hug Tree, Have Granola

Add healthy eating to the list of ways that nature is good for us.

_Brandy-Joe Milliron

Milliron is an associate professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions.

_Dane Ward

Ward is an assistant teaching professor in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Take a stroll… Stop to smell the roses… We all know that connectedness to nature is good for clearing our heads, staying fit and caring for the environment.

In fact, in late 2020, Canadian doctors made headlines for “prescribing nature,” or recommending time outdoors based on research that suggests people who spent two or more hours in nature per week improved their health and well-being.

It turns out that nature relatedness — simply feeling connected with the natural world — is associated with healthier eating habits, too, according to a study from a transdisciplinary Drexel team, published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Researchers surveyed more than 300 adults in Philadelphia in 2017 to measure their self-reported connection to nature, including their experience with and perspective of nature, and the foods and beverages they had consumed the previous day. Participants mirrored demographic characteristics (gender, income, education and race) of Philadelphia, as of the 2010 census.

“People with higher nature relatedness were more likely to report healthful dietary intake, including greater dietary variety and higher fruit and vegetable consumption,” says Brandy-Joe Milliron, an associate professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions and lead author.

“This work can impact health promotion practices in two ways,” says 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.”

Although future research would need to explore the ways different communities experience and value nature, the findings highlight the potential for leveraging nature-based experiences or interventions such as incorporating green spaces into city planning, integrating nature- and park-prescription programs into health care practices and promoting nature-based experiences in classroom settings, among many others.