Plant phenolics are powerful antioxidants and free radical scavengers that can contribute to the healthy functional properties of plant-based food and beverages. Thus, dietary behaviours rich in plant-based food and beverages are encouraged. However, it is well-known that the bitter taste and other low-appealing sensory properties that characterize vegetables and some other plant-based foods act as an innate barrier for their acceptance. The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of psychological traits and PROP status (the responsiveness to bitter taste of 6-n- propylthiouracil) on the choice of and familiarity with phenol-rich vegetables and beverages varying in recalled level of bitterness and astringency. Study 1 aimed at assessing the variations of the sensory properties of vegetable and coffee/tea items with two check-all-that-apply (CATA) questionnaires (n
= 201 and n
= 188 individuals, respectively). Study 2 aimed at investigating how sensitivity to punishment, to reward, and to disgust, food neophobia, private body consciousness, alexithymia, and PROP responsiveness affect choice and familiarity with phenol-rich foods (n
= 1200 individuals). A Choice Index was calculated for vegetables (CV) and coffee/tea (CC) as a mean of the choices of the more bitter/astringent option of the pairs and four Familiarity Indices were computed for vegetables (FV) and coffee/tea (FC), higher (+) or lower (-) in bitterness and astringency. Subjects higher in food neophobia, sensitivity to punishment or sensitivity to disgust reported significantly lower choice indices than individuals lower in these traits, meaning that they systematically opted for the least bitter/astringent option within the pairs. Familiarity with vegetables was lower in individuals high in sensitivity to punishment, in food neophobia and in alexithymia, irrespective of their sensory properties. The Familiarity Index with coffee/tea characterized by higher bitterness and astringency was lower in individuals high in food neophobia, sensitivity to disgust, and alexithymia. No significant effect of PROP was found on any indices. The proposed approach based on product grouping according to differences in bitterness and astringency allowed the investigation of the role of individual differences in chemosensory perception and of psychological traits as modulators of phenol-rich foods preference and consumption.
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