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Our favorite foods to tweet about, state by state

Guava. (Washington Post archives)
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Five researchers at the University of Arizona have food on the brain.

They sifted through about 3.5 million tweets from October 2013 through May 2014, all of which used a hashtag indicating that the tweet had something to do with eating — #breakfast, #brunch, #dinner, #lunch, #meal, #snack and #supper.

Then they sorted those tweets by the state they were written in, and looked at how frequently more than 800 foods were mentioned in each state.

Comparing the frequency with which a food was mentioned in one state with the average frequency with with that food is mentioned nationwide, they came up with this map of the country’s particular tastes.

D.C., apparently, is the land of guava.


If that’s surprising to you, it is to us too. We searched Twitter for those seven hashtags and the word “guava,” and found that the only tweets in the Washington area in the past seven months that mentioned guava had to do with one restaurant, Zengo. Its D.C. branch, one of four scattered across the country, offers both a guava mimosa and “Hanoi Pandan Waffles” with strawberry-guava sauce.

While it may be hard to believe that Kentucky talks that much about tacos, or that Illinois really has a unique hold on “yolk,” the research paper may have important implications. The researchers found that simply by analyzing the content of a state’s food vocabulary, they could successfully predict whether the state’s rates of obesity and diabetes diagnoses fall above or below the national average.

States that tweeted a lot about breakfast — “bacon” and “eggs” as well as words like “start” “day” “right” — were more likely to have more overweight residents. Those that talked about the #paleo diet had lower rates of diabetes. Turkish food was associated with lower diabetes rates, and Mexican food with higher rates of the disease.

Perhaps a public health intervention by Twitter is on its way. Perhaps it starts by sending everyone to D.C. for some healthful guava.