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Does being a foodie make you healthier?

07/13/2015 03:55 EDT | Updated 07/13/2016 05:59 EDT
Scientists call them "food neophiles," and they seem to have a taste for anything under the sun, from artisanal doughnuts to kale salads.

New research into "foodies" who Instagram every meal and are up on the latest trends has found that those who treat food as a passionate hobby and are willing to eat anything are healthier than others.

A study by Brian Wansink, an expert on consumer behaviour and nutritional science at Cornell University, was published this month in the Obesity Journal and attempts to answer this question: Do foodies eat a healthier diet?

In the study, he focused on 501 test subjects and asked them a series of questions about their perceptions of novel foods, their level of willingness to try new things and their psychological characteristics.

"What we find is the typical person who is an adventurous eater, a person who will try anything, who experiments with all sorts of foods in general, they're not less healthy," said Wansink, who is also the author of Slim by Design, a book about the impact of design and eating choices, and has been an advisor to the White House on nutrition policy.

"They are lighter and more healthy than the person who is restrictive in their diet, who is cutting things out or being picky about what they eat."

'Experiment with new things'

Wansink admitted he was a little bit surprised by those findings, and added that the common perception is that health-obsessed eaters, not foodies, tend to have better overall health.

But it turns out that the eaters who count calories, obsess over labels and follow strict rules and self-imposed dietary restrictions don't fare as well as the food neophiles.

"So what I try and encourage people to do is enjoy the food they do eat and maybe experiment with new things," Wansink said, "and in some ways become more mindful of the foods that are in front of them rather than dourly looking at something just by its nutrition content and calorie level."

Wansink said because no one had previously measured the health impacts of treating food as a passionate hobby, this kind of study is rare.

He added that more studies into adventurous eaters may change the way we introduce foods to fussy kids, or those who don't eat entire categories of food.

Wansink is encouraged that this research may help shift public messaging about nutrition from a rule-based system to one intended to encourage more passionate eaters — that is, people who take joy in new foods and experiences.

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