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Children prefer natural food more than processed: Study

by Vaishali Sharma

According to the findings of a recent study, children rank meals perceived to be natural as having higher levels of flavour, safety, and desire than those perceived to be produced.

According to researchers, people have a well-documented preference for natural foods. However, new research has discovered that this dietary preference occurs in early and middle childhood as well. Researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Yale examined the preferences of over 374 adults and children in the United States when they were given with apples and orange juice and told about their origins.

In one research, 137 youngsters between the ages of six and ten were presented three apples. One was developed on a farm, one in a lab, and another on a tree within a lab, they were informed.

The researchers assessed the children’s apple preferences using questionnaires and statistical models in terms of perceived tastiness, perceived safety, and willingness to consume. The same research included adults to compare age groups.

Researchers discovered that both toddlers and adults preferred apples produced on farms to those cultivated in laboratory.

When asked why they preferred the farm apple, children were more likely to mention freshness, being outside, or sunlight. Naturalness was mentioned more frequently by adults.

In a second trial, 85 children aged five to seven and 64 adults were presented four different types of orange juice: one described as squeezed on a farm, one with no information about it, one with chemicals reportedly removed, and one with chemicals added.

The researchers discovered that information about the juice’s naturalness had a substantial impact on its assessment. Based on perceived flavour, safety, and willingness to eat, participants preferred the more natural choice.

Both studies showed that age had little effect on the outcome, with children as young as five and as old as ten responding similarly.

Researchers say the findings suggest the belief that natural foodstuffs are good could be established at five-years-old — and possibly even younger.

Dr Matti Wilks, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, said: “Overall we provide evidence that, at least in the United States, our tendency to prefer natural food is present in childhood. This research offers a first step towards understanding how these preferences are formed, including whether they are socially learned and what drives our tendency to prefer natural things.”

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