Posted on Aug 14, 2019, 1 p.m.
According to a University of East Anglia study published in the journal Nutrients young men in the UK aged 18-24 are not eating even 3 portions of fruits and vegetables a day, reasons range from not being able to cook to not liking the taste of vegetables.
The young men were found to be more focused on gaining muscle and improving their physique than following a healthy diet and improving their lack of culinary skills; those with the best diets had a more positive attitude towards healthy food, enjoyed preparing a wide range of fruits and veggies to eat, and had a more holistic view of diet and health.
"In England about half of men eat less than three portions of fruit and veg a day, and young men aged 18-24 eat the least.This is really worrying because men are more likely than women to suffer health problems later in life such as coronary heart disease. We wanted to find out why many young men aren't eating their five-a-day, and also what motivates those who do." says lead researcher Dr. Stephanie Howard Wilsher.
The 34 men in the study were normal weight, and lived in urban and rural areas, who largely used magazine images and health promotion material as talking points in discussions about fitness, diet, and health. The men kept food diaries for 4 days and were divided into groups of those who were low consumers, those who ate less than 3 portions a day; those who ate more than 4 portions a day; and those who were high consumers.
"We found that the young men with the best diets really believed in their ability to afford, shop for, prepare and cook fruit and vegetables. These high consumers felt that they had good control of their diet and health, and had positive attitudes towards healthy food. For example they found that cooking and eating healthy food gave them enjoyment, satisfaction and better mood. They had a holistic view of health, liked the taste and variety of flavours in fruit and veg and they had learned to cook for themselves.” says Dr. Howard Wilsher.
"Those who weren't eating enough either could or would not cook. For this group, convenience foods were easier and fruit and vegetables were viewed as expensive, not readily available and their preparation time-consuming.They had more negative attitudes such as not liking the taste of vegetables, and not finding fruit and veg very filling. Some weren't very open to trying new foods, and most didn't prioritise good health. They hoped they would stay healthy, even though many had close family members suffering from chronic health conditions. Low consumers were also more driven by social influences from friends, family, and social norms.”
"Interestingly, both groups believed that fruit and vegetables benefitted health and were nutritious.But none of the young men were aware that eating fruit and vegetables could lower the risk of developing chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, however, low consumers didn't think too much about their future health and had a 'live for today' attitude. Those who didn't eat much fruit and veg had a mistrust of health information. They thought that diet and health promotions should be better designed around their interests—such as sex, exercise and sports, with real examples of male health and fitness.”
“This research helps us understand the motivations of a hard-to-reach group, in order to develop and target diet and health interventions. Policy makers need to adopt different approaches to engage young men with health messages and improve their dietary choices.”
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