MEN are put off eating a healthy diet because they feel meat is masculine and vegetables are for wimps, new research suggests.
Researchers found men have a strong psychological association between meat and being macho and have the opposite association to salads and greens.
They conducted a number of experiments that looked at the metaphors and words men used in connection with certain foods, like meat and milk.
The psychologists also analysed 23 languages that use gendered pronouns to see if there was a connection between manly words and certain meats.
Results showed meat generated more masculine words when people discussed it, like strong and tough, with most languages relating meat to the male gender.
People also saw male meat eaters as more manly than non-meat eaters.
One of the research team, Professor Paul Rozin of the University of Pennsylvania, said: "We examined whether people in Western cultures have a metaphoric link between meat and men.
"To the strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, All-American male, red meat is a strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, All-American food.
"Soy is not. To eat it, they would have to give up a food they saw as strong and powerful like themselves for a food they saw as weak and wimpy."
But Liz O'Neill of the Vegetarian Society said there was "misconception" that vegetarianism was a "bit girlie".
"It’s absolute nonsense," she said.
"You don’t need to be a meat eater to be a red-blooded male. I can’t comment on my own vegan husband’s masculinity but I am very happy.”
She pointed out that factors such as obesity and high blood levels of blood pressure and obesity linked to erectile dysfunction were less likely to be suffered by vegetarians.