Fruit and vegetable consumption is an evidence-based modifiable behavior known to improve physical and mental health for cancer survivors. Understanding sensory perceptions of various produce sources may provide insight into eating behaviors and inform interventions aimed at improving dietary patterns.
The objective of this study was to assess the sensory perceptions of cancer survivors and their caregivers when asked to evaluate garden-harvested vs grocery-purchased produce.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
Cancer survivors enrolled in a biobehavioral intervention and their caregivers (n = 32) participated in a sensory evaluation of 4 produce types sourced from a local garden and a grocery store: tangerine cherry tomatoes, green cabbage, green beans, and green bell peppers. For each type, participants were presented with blinded samples from each source and asked to conduct sensory evaluations.
Sensory evaluations included initial preference (garden vs grocery) and liking/acceptability (9-point hedonic scale) of blinded samples, followed by discrimination between garden- and grocery-source samples (tetrad test) and self-labeling of perceived source and repeat preference and liking/acceptability evaluations. Binomial statistics and Wilcoxon signed rank tests were used to assess differences in evaluations by source for each produce type.
Upon initial blinded evaluation, a significant preference for grocery-purchased produce was noted for green cabbage, green beans, and green bell peppers, but not for tomatoes (all P < 0.05). After self-labeling, participants reported a preference for perceived garden-harvested produce for all produce types (all P ≤ 0.001) even when incorrectly labeled. Liking/acceptability scores were significantly higher among self-labeled garden-harvested produce for all types (all P ≤ 0.001).
These data reveal adult cancer survivors and their caregivers perceive garden-harvested produce as superior in taste, smell, and texture to grocery-purchased even when incorrectly identified. These findings indicate future interventions should address these perceptions to facilitate improvements in produce consumption.