Gardening is associated with health and health behaviors, including vegetable intake. Qualitative research has indicated that gardening may increase preferences for vegetables, which may contribute to higher vegetable intake frequency found in gardeners, but quantitative research examining vegetable preferences of gardeners is scarce.
The objective of this pilot study was to examine vegetable preferences, variety, and intake consumed before gardening and during peak harvest time. This data was collected as part of a larger study examining the relationship between gardening and the composition of the gut microbiome.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
Participants were adults enrolled in a gardener support program that serves both home and community gardeners. Thirty-two percent of participants had no previous gardening experience, 36% had 1-5 years of gardening experience, and 32% had 5 or more years of experience. Twenty-nine participants enrolled in the study and completed a baseline survey prior to beginning gardening and 25 of these completed a follow-up survey at the peak of garden harvest.
Surveys assessed vegetable intake frequency, preferences for 20 different vegetables, and number of the 20 different vegetables eaten in the past month (variety). Paired, 2-tailed t-tests were used to compare pre-gardening and harvest time survey data. T-tests were considered significant at P < .05.
Preferences for vegetables were initially high and did not increase from baseline to harvest time. Vegetable consumption frequency in times per day also did not significantly change from baseline to harvest time. Vegetable intake variety significantly increased from 12.1(SD ± 2.9) at baseline to 13.6(SD ± 3.1) at harvest time (P = .026).
In this study, we found gardeners consumed a greater variety of vegetables during harvest time than before gardening. Previous research has found that consuming a high variety of plant-based foods has a positive influence on gut microbiome diversity. This has relevance to the primary aim of this study, to examine the relationship between gardening and gut microbiome composition.