Scientists Say We’re Hardwired to Choose Red Foods Over Green

That's why it's so hard to choose salad over spaghetti with tomato sauce.

Nov 16 2016, 2:00pm

Never has the old "You eat with your eyes" adage been more relevant. If we're not scrolling aimlessly through #foodporn on Instagram, we're salivating over cookery shows or photographing our meals from every angle as they slowly turn cold.

And now, a new study from researchers at the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste suggests that the saying could also apply to our food choices. It claims that humans use colour to evaluate the nutrient value of food and opt for the most calorific choice.

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The report, published earlier this week in the Scientific Reports journal, revealed that with regard to unprocessed food, humans are more likely to choose red foods over green because the former indicates higher nutritional value.

Could be why you never wanted to eat your greens as a kid.

Researchers showed 68 participants a range of food and non-food images and asked them to rate their motivation towards each one. Participants were also asked to rate what they thought the calorie content was of each food picture.

No colour preferences were observed in the non-food images but the results showed that participants rated red foods like spaghetti Bolognese higher than green foods like cucumbers. The research concluded that "participants were biased towards attributing significantly less energy to greener food even when actual calorie content was controlled for."

Not surprising, really. A salad was never going to hold as much appeal as a hearty beef stew.

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Raffaella Rumiati, co-author of the study and neuroscientist, explained in a press release how the findings relate to other theories on human food choices. She said, "According to some theories, our visual system evolved to easily identify particularly nutritious berries, fruits, and vegetables from jungle foliage."

You can blame your ancestors for your "broccoli allergy" then.