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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 November, 2004, 01:41 GMT
Fruit fans differ from veg lovers
Image of chopping veg
Veg lovers are more adventurous in the kitchen
People who love their greens have different tastes and social habits to fans of fruit, say nutritional experts.

Vegetable lovers favour spicy foods, drink wine with their meals and will cook elaborate dishes for friends.

Sweet-toothed fruit fans plump for desserts, entertain fewer guests and are less adventurous in the kitchen, a US study based on 800 people reported.

Understanding these differences could help people cut down on junk food, the University of Illinois team said.

Sweet or sour?

The researchers interviewed 37 supermarket shoppers in Illinois and Michigan about their food preferences and cooking habits.

They also sent out and received back 770 completed questionnaires asking the same questions for their study, reported in the American Dietetics Association Journal.

Image of oranges
It is difficult to generalise...some people may enjoy fruits and vegetables equally.
Amanda Johnson from the British Dietetic Association

From their responses, people tended to fall into one of two categories - fruit or vegetable lovers.

People who said they liked to entertain, try out new and exotic recipes and eat spicy food tended to prefer vegetables.

Those who chose desserts and foods that were quick and easy to prepare, and who entertained guests less frequently tended to prefer fruit.

Lead researcher Professor Brian Wansink said: "It is easy to ask a couple of simple questions that will give you a rough idea whether a person is more likely to be vegetable-prone, fruit-prone, both, or neither.

"Simply ask them about their cooking habits and the foods they like to eat."

Food messages

He said knowing this information could help when advising people how to eat more healthily.

"If they say they like to cook, like to entertain, like to try new recipes, and like spicy food, tell them how vegetables can make their meals even better.

"If they say they like desserts and foods that do not take much time or talent to cook, tell them how fruits can quickly and sweetly add something to their routine."

Image of the Jolly Green Giant
Messages can be tailored appropriately.
Lead researcher Professor Brian Wansink

Professor Wansink said the findings were also relevant national education and promotional efforts, such as the US Five-a-Day for Better Health program.

This is analogous to the UK's recommendation that everyone should eat at least five portions of a variety fruit and vegetables each day to reduce the risks of cancer and coronary heart disease and many other chronic diseases.

Professor Wansink said: "Knowing the basic cooking habits and food preferences of these two different groups can offer insights into what types of media, such as which magazines or which form of in-store signage, would be most likely to reach which group.

"Messages can then be tailored appropriately."

Amanda Johnson from the British Dietetic Association said: "Overall, the message at a population level should continue to be that we should all consume at least five portions a day of fruits and vegetables.

"On an individual level, this research may help identify factors which may be associated with people who prefer fruits or vegetables, and this may help to tailor personal dietary advice for different individuals.

"However, it is difficult to generalise and some people may enjoy fruits and vegetables equally, some vegetables lovers may have preference for sweets, and fruit lovers may be gourmet chefs.

"It would be interesting to see further research on this area looking at different population groups and looking in more depth at the dietary habits of fruit and vegetable lovers."


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