CLOSE
iStock
iStock

We Really Need to Stop Assuming Healthy Food Is More Expensive

iStock
iStock

The sooner we can get over this whole “healthy = expensive” thing, the better off we’ll be. Researchers say not only are we more likely to believe that expensive food is good for us, but we also assume health claims on expensive foods are more trustworthy and important. Their report is forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Marketing experts designed a series of online experiments to understand how our beliefs about the cost of food affect our thoughts and behavior. Each experiment addressed one of five primary questions:

1. Do we actually believe that expensive food is healthier?
2. Do we believe the reverse is true (that healthy food is more expensive)?
3. Does a desire to eat healthier make us more likely to choose more expensive options?
4. Do health claims on more expensive foods increase our concern about the issue in question?
5. Does the cost of a product influence how likely we are to trust its health claims?

You can probably guess the answers to the first two questions: yes and also yes. Participants were shown two hypothetical brands of granola and told to select which one they thought was healthier. In the absence of any other information, people were far more likely to select the more expensive brand. And when participants in the second experiment were told one brand was healthier, they were more likely to assume it was also more expensive.

In the third experiment, participants were told to imagine that a coworker had asked them to order her a healthy lunch. They were then given the choice between a “Roasted Chicken Wrap” and a “Balsamic Chicken Wrap.” One was priced at $6.95, the other at $8.95. Regardless of the wrap’s ingredients, study participants consistently selected whichever was more expensive. The authors say this shows that people concerned with eating well are more likely to spend more money on their food even when they have no evidence it'll buy them the healthiest option.

Participants in the fourth experiment were shown four types of trail mix, some of which claimed to help prevent a relatively obscure vision problem called age-related macular degeneration. Some trail mix types claimed that a familiar ingredient (vitamin A) supported eye health, while others touted a lesser known ingredient (DHA) that also supported eye health. The participants were then asked to guess how much each type of trail mix would cost, and how important they considered vitamin A or DHA.

The less familiar the participants were with the ingredient, the more likely they were to assume it would be expensive—and important. The people who were shown an expensive trail mix containing DHA were also more likely to say they’d be interested in starting to take a DHA supplement, especially if they’d never heard of DHA before.

For the final experiment, participants were asked to rate a new (imaginary) snack claiming to be the “healthiest protein bar on the planet.” They were told that the average cost of a protein bar was $2. Some people were told the new product cost $0.99, while others were told it cost $4. Then everyone was given the opportunity to fact-check the bar’s health claims by reading other product reviews.

Participants with the $0.99 bar did some research, reading an average of three reviews before making a decision. Those with the $4 bar read only two. "People just couldn't believe that the 'healthiest protein bar on the planet' would cost less than the average bar," study co-author Rebecca Reczek of the Ohio State University said in a statement. "They had to read more to convince themselves this was true. They were much more willing to accept that the healthy bar would cost twice as much as average."

It is true that some healthy foods really are more expensive than their less-nutritious counterparts. Processed food is often cheaper than fresh produce or individual ingredients. But this is hardly a universal truth—and just because something claims to be “healthy” doesn’t mean that it is.

A caveat: Four out of five of these experiments were conducted on college students. The study size averaged about 176 people, which is not huge. More research will be needed to confirm these results.

Still, “anyone trying to manage their food budgets and feel good about the healthiness of their family meals may well pay too much for their nutrition,” say the authors. “This can occur despite ready availability of both pricing and nutritional information, due to the busy and often hurried consumer sacrificing health while attempting to balance budgets.”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Netflix/Facebook
arrow
entertainment
8 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 3
Netflix/Facebook
Netflix/Facebook

[Warning: There are lots of Stranger Things season two spoilers ahead.]

Stranger Things season two is in the books, and like we all hoped, it turned out to be a worthy follow-up to an addictive debut season. Now, though, we’re left with plenty of questions, mysteries, and theories to chew on as the wait for a third season begins. But for everything we don’t know about what the next year of Stranger Things will bring us (such as an actual release date), there are more than enough things we do know to keep those fan theories coming well into 2018. While the show hasn't been officially greenlit for a third season by Netflix yet, new details have already begun to trickle out. Here’s everything we know about Stranger Things season three so far.

1. THERE WILL BE ANOTHER TIME JUMP.

The third season of Stranger Things won’t pick up right where the second one left off. Like the show experienced between the first two seasons, there will be a time jump between seasons two and three as well. The reason is simple: the child actors are all growing up, and instead of having the kids look noticeably older without explanation for year three, the Duffer Brothers told The Hollywood Reporter:

“Our kids are aging. We can only write and produce the show so fast. They're going to be almost a year older by the time we start shooting season three. It provides certain challenges. You can't start right after season two ended. It forces you to do a time jump. But what I like is that it makes you evolve the show. It forces the show to evolve and change, because the kids are changing.”

2. THE IDEA IS TO BE SMALLER IN SCALE.

If the series’s second season was about expanding the Stranger Things mythology, the third season won't go bigger just for the sake of it, with the brothers even going so far as to say that it will be a more intimate story.

“It’s not necessarily going to be bigger in scale,” Matt Duffer said in an interview with IndieWire. “What I am really excited about is giving these characters an interesting journey to go on.”

Ross Duffer did stress, though, that as of early November, season three is basically “… Matt and me working with some writers and figuring out where it’s going to go.”

3. THE MIND FLAYER WILL BE BACK.

The second season ended on a bit of a foreboding note when it was revealed that the Mind Flayer was still in the Upside Down and was seen looming over the Hawkins school as the winter dance was going on. Though we know there will be a time jump at the start of next season, it’s clear that the monster will still have a big presence on the show.

Executive producer Dan Cohen told TV Guide: "There were other ways we could have ended beyond that, but I think that was a very strong, lyrical ending, and it really lets us decide to focus where we ultimately are going to want to go as we dive into Season 3."

What does the Mind Flayer’s presence mean for the new crop of episodes? Well, there will be plenty of fan theories to ponder between now and the season three premiere (whenever that may be).

4. PLENTY OF LEFTOVER SEASON TWO STORYLINES WILL BE IN SEASON THREE.

The Duffer Brothers had a lot of material for the latest season of the show—probably a bit too much. Talking to Vulture, Matt Duffer detailed a few details and plot points that had to be pushed to season three:

"Billy was supposed to have a bigger role. We ended up having so many characters it ended up, in a way, more teed up for season three than anything. There was a whole teen supernatural story line that just got booted because it was just too cluttered, you know? A lot of that’s just getting kicked into season three."

The good news is that he also told the site that this wealth of cut material could make the writing process for the third season much quicker.

5. THERE WILL BE MORE ERICA.

Stranger Things already had a roster of fan-favorite characters heading into season two, but newcomer Erica, Lucas’s little sister, may have overshadowed them all. Played by 11-year-old Priah Ferguson, Erica is equal parts expressive, snarky, and charismatic. And the Duffer Brothers couldn’t agree more, saying that there will be much more Erica next season.

“There will definitely be more Erica in Season 3,” Ross Duffer told Yahoo!. “That is the fun thing about the show—you discover stuff as you’re filming. We were able to integrate more of her in, but not as much you want because the story [was] already going. ‘We got to use more Erica’—that was one of the first things we said in the writers’ room.”

“I thought she’s very GIF-able, if that’s a word,” Matt Duffer added. “She was great.”

6. EXPECT KALI TO RETURN.

The season two episode “The Lost Sister” was a bit of an outlier for the series. It’s a standalone episode that focuses solely on the character Eleven, leaving the central plot and main cast of Hawkins behind. As well-received as Stranger Things season two was, this episode was a near-unanimous miss among fans and critics.

The episode did, however, introduce us to the character of Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), who has the ability to manipulate people’s minds with illusions she creates. Despite the reaction, the Duffers felt the episode was vital to Eleven’s development, and that Kali won’t be forgotten moving forward.

“It feels weird to me that we wouldn’t solve [Kali’s] storyline. I would say chances are very high she comes back,” Matt Duffer said at the Vulture Festival.

7. OTHER "NUMBERS" MIGHT SHOW UP.

We're already well acquainted with Eleven, and season two introduced us to Eight (a.k.a. Kali), and executive producer Shawn Levy heavily hinted to E! that there are probably more Hawkins Laboratory experiments on the horizon.

"I think we've clearly implied there are other numbers, and I can't imagine that the world will only ever know Eleven and Eight," Levy said.

8. THERE MIGHT NOT BE MANY SEASONS LEFT.

Don’t be in too much of a rush to find out everything about the next season of Stranger Things; there might not be many more left. The Duffer Brothers have said in the past that the plan is to do four seasons and end it. However, Levy gave fans a glimmer of hope that things may go on a little while longer—just by a bit, though.

“Hearts were heard breaking in Netflix headquarters when the Brothers made four seasons sound like an official end, and I was suddenly getting phone calls from our actors’ agents,” Levy told Entertainment Weekly. “The truth is we’re definitely going four seasons and there’s very much the possibility of a fifth. Beyond that, it becomes I think very unlikely.”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
Why Do Fruitcakes Last So Long?
iStock
iStock

Fruitcake is a shelf-stable food unlike any other. One Ohio family has kept the same fruitcake uneaten (except for periodic taste tests) since it was baked in 1878. In Antarctica, a century-old fruitcake discovered in artifacts left by explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s 1910 expedition remains “almost edible,” according to the researchers who found it. So what is it that makes fruitcake so freakishly hardy?

It comes down to the ingredients. Fruitcake is notoriously dense. Unlike almost any other cake, it’s packed chock-full of already-preserved foods, like dried and candied nuts and fruit. All those dry ingredients don’t give microorganisms enough moisture to reproduce, as Ben Chapman, a food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, explained in 2014. That keeps bacteria from developing on the cake.

Oh, and the booze helps. A good fruitcake involves plenty of alcohol to help it stay shelf-stable for years on end. Immediately after a fruitcake cools, most bakers will wrap it in a cheesecloth soaked in liquor and store it in an airtight container. This keeps mold and yeast from developing on the surface. It also keeps the cake deliciously moist.

In fact, fruitcakes aren’t just capable of surviving unspoiled for months on end; some people contend they’re better that way. Fruitcake fans swear by the aging process, letting their cakes sit for months or even years at a stretch. Like what happens to a wine with age, this allows the tannins in the fruit to mellow, according to the Wisconsin bakery Swiss Colony, which has been selling fruitcakes since the 1960s. As it ages, it becomes even more flavorful, bringing out complex notes that a young fruitcake (or wine) lacks.

If you want your fruitcake to age gracefully, you’ll have to give it a little more hooch every once in a while. If you’re keeping it on the counter in advance of a holiday feast a few weeks away, the King Arthur Flour Company recommends unwrapping it and brushing it with whatever alcohol you’ve chosen (brandy and rum are popular choices) every few days. This is called “feeding” the cake, and should happen every week or so.

The aging process is built into our traditions around fruitcakes. In Great Britain, one wedding tradition calls for the bride and groom to save the top tier of a three-tier fruitcake to eat until the christening of the couple’s first child—presumably at least a year later, if not more.

Though true fruitcake aficionados argue over exactly how long you should be marinating your fruitcake in the fridge, The Spruce says that “it's generally recommended that soaked fruitcake should be consumed within two years.” Which isn't to say that the cake couldn’t last longer, as our century-old Antarctic fruitcake proves. Honestly, it would probably taste OK if you let it sit in brandy for a few days.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios