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Certain factors may influence people's perception of food

April 21, 2014

Food is one of the most important factors to consider when following a healthy lifestyle for seniors. Researchers have found a number of connections between certain food groups and improved overall health, but a number of recent studies discovered that some people's nutritional choices are swayed by external factors surrounding the foods.

Seniors' diets should be replete with fruits, vegetables and grains, but are their choices being guided by appearance? Color, texture and size are all things that come into consideration when purchasing foods, but researchers have determined how slight alterations in these factors may influence people when purchasing their groceries.

Texture tricks the brain 
In a study recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research, scientists discovered that people believe foods hard or rough in texture have fewer calories than those that are soft or chewy. The researchers conducted five studies where participants ate foods of several different textures, then guessed how many calories were in each item. Participants were exposed to foods with several different textures, then asked to decide which had higher amounts of calories. People identified harder foods with fewer calories, while softer ones were thought to have higher amounts. 

While people believed that hard foods were likely more nutritious, that did not stop them from consuming large portions of soft items. During the study, people were given a small bowl of brownie bits to consume between breaks, one group having hard bites while the other had soft. Researchers saw that participants consumed more soft brownie bites than hard ones.

The authors of the study explained that the connection between perception and food intake was essential for determining how to better serve people.

"Understanding how the texture of food can influence calorie perceptions, food choice and consumption amount can help nudge consumers towards making healthier choices," the authors said, as quoted by a University of Chicago Press Journals release.

Color affects taste
Researchers from D.D. Williamson, a company that manufactures food coloring, conducted a study in which they examined the effect color may have on intake. They found that people associate certain colors with health, emotion and taste, meaning that they are both consciously and subconsciously driven by color. Specifically, the source noted that one study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that 93 percent of purchases are affected by visual appearance. Some colors commonly associated with healthy foods included green and orange.