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Going to Church May Encourage Healthy Eating Habits

Nov. 11, 2004 -- Going to church may do more than bring out your spiritual side; it could make you a healthier eater, according to a new study.

Researchers found that people who regularly attend church eat 25% more of the fruits and vegetables that pack the biggest nutritional punch. These nutritional powerhouses include citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, dark leafy greens, carrots, and cantaloupe.

"The body is your temple, and we should treat it that way," says researcher Deidre Griffith of the Saint Louis University, in a news release. "Church can be a big part of your support system for changing your diet."

Griffith presented the results of the study this week at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in Washington, D.C.

Church May Foster Healthy Eating Habits

In the study, researchers surveyed 315 people about their church attendance and eating habits. Most of the participants were black, 78% were female, and 32% had incomes below the federal poverty level.

The results showed that people who attended church ate 25% more of the most nutritious fruits and vegetables than those who did not go to church.

All of the participants ate the most popular fruits and vegetables, including corn, iceberg lettuce, and bananas. But the study showed that people who went to church frequently, such as choir members, participants in bible study groups, and others, ate more of the fruits and vegetables that contain the most vitamins and minerals.

Researchers say going to church may foster healthy eating habits, and the results suggest that churches should take an active role in encouraging these types of healthy behaviors.

"We're saying church membership or having that church community is one of the key links in the long chain of social support structures that help people eat better," says Griffith.

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