It shouldn’t come as a surprise that students who garden, or who learned to garden as children, eat more fruits and vegetables than those who don’t. A collaborative study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics follows eight American universities branching out on a research project dubbed “Get Fruved,” which aims to improve the health and diet of students across the country. The garden-findings were based on a survey of 1,351 college students conducted for the project.
This Health.com quotes Anne Matthews, PhD—an assistant professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Florida—citing previous studies suggesting that young children are more likely to eat fresh produce when they spend time in a fruit and vegetable garden. Matthews and her team of other doctors and educators wanted to test out whether this pattern progressed into adulthood.
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Matthews used survey data from all eight “Get Fruved” schools to look for correlations. She and her colleagues divided the results into four groups: students who gardened while growing up; students who garden now; those who did both; and those who did neither.
They found that 30 percent of the students gardened as children and 38 percent gardened at the time of the interview. Compared to students who said they’d never gardened, the green-thumb groups reported eating more fruits and vegetables: an average of 2.9 cups a day, versus 2.4 from the non-gardening group.
The results were consistent across the board, says Matthews: “It was the same for males, females, black, white, whether they were from West Virginia or from Maine. No matter what, actively being out in a garden increased their likelihood of eating more fruits and veggies.
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Additionally, Matthews and her team found that the children had to have been actively involved in the process for the correlation to stand true. “We found that if your parents gardened but you did not, just watching them did not make a difference in how much fruits and vegetables you eat in college,” says Matthews. “Hands on experience seems to matter.”
Health conscious parents who want to pass along healthy eating habits to their little ones should consider getting their hands, and their kiddo’s hands, in the dirt ASAP. With tons of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices to try, there’s no better time than the present to begin making dietary impressions that can last through a lifetime, and generations.
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