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Vegetable lovers should be
viewed as different from fruit aficionados
Business & Law Editor
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. —
Health educators and dietitians ought to be more precise the next time
they advise Americans that “vegetables and fruit are good for
you,” according to a study by a nutritional expert at University
of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
That’s because a person who likes vegetables tends to have different
food tastes and social habits from a person who prefers fruits. Lumping
the two groups together may undercut the effectiveness of “better-health”
educational campaigns that seek to reduce America’s over-consumption
of processed snacks, desserts and fatty foods.
The study by Brian Wansink, a professor of nutritional
science and of marketing at Illinois, was published in the November issue of the Journal of the
American Dietetic Association.
It found that adults who preferred vegetables to fruits ate more spicy
foods, drank wine more frequently with dinner, cooked more elaborate
meals and liked to try new recipes.
Fruit lovers not only had a greater hankering for sweets, but were less
adventurous in the kitchen, entertained fewer guests and ate desserts
more often after dinner.
“A vegetable-lover’s taste for savory or bitter taste sensations
is consistent with an attraction to spicy foods and tannic red wine,
and a fruit-lover’s sweet tooth is consistent with an attraction
to desserts,” Wansink wrote.
By knowing the different cooking habits and food preferences of these
two groups, a dietitian or health professional can better tailor healthier
eating recommendations. “You can show them, for example, how fruits
are healthy replacements for desserts or candy, and how fruits can offer
an easy way to complement a meal without requiring much time or talent,”
Wansink said in an interview.
Conversely, a person with a predilection for spicy foods and entertaining
could be encouraged to try different spices with vegetables rather than
meats and impress dinner guests with the right choice of wine.
“For health professionals and educators, the importance of targeting
different messages to differently predisposed target markets can mean
the difference between a cost-effective program and a wasted effort,”
The study was based on a random selection of 2,000 adults who were mailed
a survey. The 770 people (38 percent) who completed the survey had an
average of 1.6 children living at home, were 37 years old and had a
median household income of $38,000. Seventy percent of the respondents
were Anglo-American, and 61 percent were women.
Of these, 508 could be categorized as either prone to vegetables or
fruit by using a cross-classification technique based on their preference
ratings for fruits and vegetables and by their self-perceptions.
The study was co-written by Kyoungmi Lee, a graduate student at Illinois.
Wansink is the director of the Food & Brand Lab at Illinois.
The paper is titled, “Cooking Habits Provide a Key to ‘Five-a-Day’
Success,” five-a-day referring to a better-health campaign sponsored
by the National Cancer Institute.