Junk Food Vs Health Food

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Junk Food vs. Health Food

[Michael C. Reyes]

Junk Food vs. Health Food


The addition of disreputable ingredients (e.g. fat) can reduce the perceived health value of foods and cause the foods to take on negative qualities (e.g. promoters of obesity). However, are foods that contain disreputable ingredients perceived to lack positive components (e.g. vitamins and minerals)? In the present study, college students were asked to rate the vitamin and mineral levels of a group of primary foods (e.g. apple) as well as their counterparts, i.e. a second group of similar foods (e.g. caramel apple) that contained disreputable ingredients. The results strongly suggest that college students believe that fat, sugar, and salt deplete foods of vitamins and minerals. Perhaps as much as anything these results indicate that more care and caution should be used when disseminating nutritional information.(Saltman,2000)

Americans are frequently reminded of a connection between eating certain food components (e.g. fat, sugar, or salt) and obesity, illness, and premature death.(McEwen,2006) To what extent has the demonizing of these food components shaped our views of foods? Have Americans assimilated the belief that the addition of these ingredients somehow converts good foods into 'junk ' or 'empty calories' that provide energy but no important nutrients and damage our health when eaten?

1. Method

1.1. Participants

Participants were 175 undergraduate students enrolled in the Fundamentals of Psychology course at the University of Scranton. The average age was approximately 19 years; 55 were male and 120 were female. Participation in the study fulfilled a research requirement for the psychology department (other options were available for the students to fulfill this requirement). Participants were told that they would be asked about their perceptions of foods.

1.2. Materials

A group of 17 primary foods along with their 17 counterpart foods were found with the help of a trip to the grocery store and by perusing Bowes and Church's Food Values of Portions Commonly Used by Pennington (1998). The names of most of the counterpart foods conveyed the message that sugar and fat (e.g. caramel apple), fat alone (e.g. creamed spinach), or sodium (salted nuts) was an ingredient of the food. The primary foods and their counterparts were divided in half to make two different survey forms. Form A included half of the primary foods (e.g. apples) and half of the counterpart foods (e.g. creamed corn) and Form B included the corresponding foods which completed each pair (e.g. caramel apples and cooked corn). Participants were asked both orally and in writing to rate each food (either primary or counterpart) in terms of vitamins and minerals on a seven-point Likert scale (with 1='Low Levels,' 4='Moderate levels,' and 7='High Levels'). Approximately one half of the participants were also provided some space to explain why they rated each food as they did.

1.3. Procedure

Participants were surveyed in groups of approximately 30 people per session. A between-subjects design was used. The participants were divided into two groups: one group rated the vitamin and mineral contents of foods on Form A and the other assessed the ...
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