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Surprising Science

Salad Days

Single women eat salad because they use their food to signal their attractiveness to men, according to a scientist who observed 470 students at McMaster University, Ontario.

“I never knew a rocket leaf could speak. Then Meredith Young came along and now I do – although what it has to say is rather sad. Rocket leaves; thinly sliced portobello mushrooms; artfully wilted spinach: these aren’t the usual subjects of psychologist Young. But, with a team of researchers, she spent days in unobtrusive observation of almost 470 undergraduates eating at the canteens of McMaster University in Ontario. They found that when women sat with men they ate rabbit food or other meals “of significantly lower caloric value” than in all-women groups. The more men dining with a woman, the less she ate. Why? Young women use their food to send a signal to men, suggests the study. Just like clothing accessories, they pick meals to enhance their desirability to the opposite sex. ‘The salad leaves are meant to say, ‘I’m pretty; I’m attractive; I take care of myself’,’ says Young. And the pressure increases with the number of potential partners around. As for the men, they didn’t watch what they scoffed at all.”


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