Do you get confused by contradictory and confusing claims about nutritional value of food items? Scientists have now developed a new tool to help consumers, food companies, restaurants, and cafeterias choose and produce healthier foods and governments to make sound public nutrition policy.
Food Compass, a nutrient-profiling system developed by scientists at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts in the US, incorporates a broader range of food characteristics, attributes and uniform scoring principles. The scientists say existing profiling systems often assess relatively few nutrients and ingredients, use inconsistent criteria across food categories and have not incorporated the newest science.
Food Compass scores 54 attributes across 9 health-relevant domains: nutrient ratios, vitamins, minerals, food ingredients, additives, processing, specific lipids, fibre and protein, and phytochemicals. The final Food Compass Score ranges from 1 (least healthy) to 100 (most healthy) for all foods and beverages.
“Once you get beyond ‘eat your veggies, avoid soda,’ the public is pretty confused about how to identify healthier choices in the grocery store, cafeteria, and restaurant,” said the study’s lead and corresponding author, Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School. “Consumers, policy makers, and even industry are looking for simple tools to guide everyone toward healthier choices.”
The lowest scoring category was snacks and sweet desserts (average score 16.4).
The highest scoring categories were vegetables (average score 69.1), fruits (average score 73.9, with nearly all raw fruits receiving a score of 100), and legumes, nuts, and seeds (average score 78.6).
Among beverages, the average score ranged from 27.6 for sugar-sweetened sodas and energy drinks to 67 for 100% fruit or vegetable juices.
Starchy vegetables scored an average of 43.2.
The average score for beef was 24.9; for poultry, 42.67; and for seafood, 67.0.
You can find more than 100 food items ranked by Food Compass here.
Among several aims of scientists is to extend Food Compass to rate retailers, restaurants, and company portfolios and assess uses of Food Compass for front-of-pack labeling and for driving government and private sector policy making, including supplemental nutrition assistance programming, school lunch programs and workplace wellness programs.