Food aversion is a ‘survival mechanism’


Broccoli haters now have an even better excuse to avoid greens: survival.

Experts say the repulsion from certain foods — mushrooms, tomatoes and certain vegetables, for example — is actually part of a “survival mechanism,” according to psychologist Dr. Jennifer Carter.

“If we eat something and we feel nauseous and/or vomit, it may be bad for us, so we don’t want to eat it again,” Carter, an associate professor at Ohio State University, told Yahoo! News.

Certain conditions, pregnancy, sensory issues, or even genetics also play a role—think: a predisposition to cilantro’s soapy flavor.

A food aversion that doesn’t affect quality of life isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, experts say, unless it negatively affects mental or physical health.

“There are some components to the development of food aversions,” said clinical psychologist Dr. Rebecca Boswell. “Picky or picky eating is more common in children as they learn which foods are safe and unsafe to eat.”

Getting enough fruits and vegetables in your diet is vital, but missing a few broccoli florets isn’t necessarily life-threatening.
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Although some children will grow out of selective eating, there may be something psychological going on under the surface, such as avoidant restriction of food intake, also known as ARFID, which is not caused by a fear of gaining weight, but rather from certain foods.

Like anorexia, ARFID involves excessive restriction that can lead to malnutrition and dramatic weight loss, but is unrelated to appearance.

“People with ARFID don’t experience concerns about body size or shape—a fear of gaining weight—as with other eating disorders, but they experience the same negative medical and psychological consequences of malnutrition,” said nutritionist and author Jessica Cording.

Eating a nutrient-dense diet is vital to maintaining optimal health, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services’ Dietary Guidelines recommend 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day.

Alarmingly, about half of U.S. children don’t eat a single vegetable a day, according to findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released earlier this year.

But there’s no need to panic if you just despise mushrooms — not all picky eaters have eating disorders, Cording said. As long as there are no nutritional gaps or anxiety related to eating, you are probably aware of avoiding certain foods, such as broccoli, for the rest of your life.

Picky eating is usually not a cause for concern unless it affects physical and mental health.
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“If a food aversion is associated with distress, such as significant anxiety, and interferes with functioning, then it may be a symptom of an eating disorder,” Cording explained.

Such eating disorders are treatable with the help of experts, such as a nutritionist, who can slowly integrate different foods into the diet.

Previous research into picky eating suggests that food aversions can have lasting effects into adulthood, with one study published last month in the journal Appetite claiming that people who were previously picky eaters ate less. healthy as adults.

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