The healthiest foods you can eat, ranked according to scientists

Researchers have developed a new tool that helps consumers choose healthy products, as well as helping food companies and restaurants produce healthy foods.

Food Compass characterizes nutrients using the latest science to map the different properties that can positively or negatively affect health. The tool was developed over three years by a team from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Massachusetts.

The system classified sweets, desserts, sweetened soft drinks, and energy drinks as products that should only be consumed minimally. With raw fruits and other fruits and vegetables that scored the highest in the Food Compass Index.

Examples of foods listed as healthy in Food Compass. The tool was developed to track the healthy and unhealthy characteristics of foods to help consumers make an informed decision about their diet.
Tufts University

Once you get past the phrase ‘eat veggies and avoid soft drinks,’ the public gets very baffled as to how to decide on healthier options in the grocery store, cafeteria, and restaurant,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School. “Consumers, policy makers, and even the industry are looking for simple tools to guide everyone toward healthier choices.”

Mozaffarian is the author of a study published in nature foods It details how The Food Compass’s Nutrient Identification System (NPS) aims to distinguish between the health of foods for front-package labeling, warning labels, taxes, company ratings, and more.

“Current NPS often assesses relatively few nutrients and ingredients, uses inconsistent criteria across food categories, and does not incorporate the latest science,” the study authors said. “Here, we developed and validated the NPS, Food Compass, to incorporate a broader range of food properties, traits, and standardized scoring principles.”

The authors say Food Compass scores 54 attributes across nine health-related domains: ratios of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, nutritional ingredients, additives, processing, specific fats, fiber and protein, and phytochemicals.

These scores are then collected and ranked with a final Food Compass score ranging from 1, the least healthy, to the 100th healthiest, covering all foods and drinks.

A score of 70 or more indicates the food that should be encouraged to be consumed, and a score of 69 to 31 means that food should be eaten in moderation. Whereas, a score of 30 or less indicates a food or drink that should be consumed at the very least.

The average score for Food Compass was 43.2, and Sweets and Sweets scored the lowest with an average of 16 points. The highest-scoring items were vegetables and fruits, scoring between 69 and 74.

Sugar-sweetened soft drinks and energy drinks ranked 28th on the Food Compass. Fruit juices that were 100% fruit and vegetable scored 67.

In terms of proteins, beef scored about 25, chicken and other poultry around 43, and seafood 67.

The team tested Food Compass with a US database of more than 8000 nutrients and also evaluated items based on nutritional traits associated with chronic diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular problems, diabetes and cancer.

In addition, the Food Compass takes into account the risks of undernutrition, especially for mothers, young children and the elderly.

Food Compass is designed in such a way that the classification of nutrients evolves over time, based on future evidence provided by areas of research such as digestive health, immune function, brain health, bone health, and physical and mental performance. The system must also be able to take into account the broader aspects of food production, such as the need for sustainability.

The team hopes that in addition to helping consumers make informed choices, Food Compass can also help the food industry develop healthy products, as well as improve food labeling and inform agricultural policy.

“Through a publicly available scoring algorithm, Food Compass can provide a rigorous approach to promoting healthy food choices—helping to guide consumer behavior, nutrition policy, scientific research, food industry practices, and community-based investment decisions,” said the author and researcher at the University of Thessaly. , Renata Micha, who was a faculty member at the Friedman School when Food Compass was being developed.

food choices
Stock image of a woman choosing between a healthy and unhealthy snack. A newly designed system called Food Compass can help consumers make a more informed decision regarding diet.
Seva Ozil/Getty Images

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