New study puts whole concept of 'healthy foods' up in the air

New study puts whole concept of ‘healthy foods’ up in the air

When we buy groceries, we may often look at the nutritional information panel on the package. But according to a new study, a lot of the information we provide may be irrelevant. Instead, a team of researchers created a “food compass” to give us a better indication of which foods are really healthy, and which ones aren’t.


The food compass It was created by a team of researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Massachusetts, who have claimed that nutritional information on packages can be misleading. They say that the Nutrient Identification Systems (NPS) currently in use “often assess relatively few nutrients and ingredients, use criteria that are inconsistent across food categories and do not incorporate the latest science.”

To compensate, the team of researchers developed their own NPS, which “includes a broader range of food characteristics, traits, and standardized scoring principles.” For foods to be placed in Food Compass, each is scored for “4 attributes across 9 health-related domains: ratios of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, nutritional ingredients, additives, processing, specific fats, fiber, protein, and phytochemicals.”

About 8,032 different foods and drinks were analyzed, and once analyzed, each had a score from 1 to 100, with 1 being the least healthy and 100 being the healthiest. Food Compass has been specifically designed to take into account standards and other information currently missing from current food labels, including “gastrointestinal health, immune function, brain health, bone health, physical and mental performance; as well as sustainability considerations.”

Foods with a score of 70 or above are encouraged to be consumed, foods with a score of 31-69 can be eaten in moderation and any food or drink with a score of 30 or less should be taken as a minimum or avoided.

A graph showing some of the major food groups listed on Food Compass. Photo: Tufts.

Unsurprisingly, snacks and sweets scored the lowest on Food Compass, with an average of 16.4. At the upper end of the scale, vegetables had an average score of 69.1, fruits scored an average of 73.9 and nearly all raw fruits scored a 100. Other foods we’ve long thought were healthy and good for us, like legumes, nuts, and seeds, scored 78.6.

One slightly surprising finding was the score for beef, which came in at an average of 24.9, indicating that it should be consumed as little as possible (and perhaps providing a stronger argument for people to switch to vegetarian beef).

Other notable and surprising results from Food Compass include that cereals like Cheerios and Shredded Wheat are incredibly good for you, with scores of 95 and 83, respectively. Both scored higher than a boiled egg, which came in at 51. So, probably all the “what I eat a day” videos posted on TikTok by fitness “experts” could be a load of tripe.

Professor Jeffrey Bloomberg, one of the study’s co-authors, said, “Grains are not inherently bad. In fact, if they have a high percentage of whole grains, they will get a good score for it, and if they don’t add sugar, they will not lose any points.”

Also – to the shock of many of us – the espresso score came in at 55. Contrary to what you might think, the skimmed milk cappuccino scored 73. We imagine this takes into account the nutritional content of the milk, as we often thought that an espresso or a long black would be better for us. Our. Especially when there are studies claiming that drinking espresso can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

The Food Compass is open to the public, although from what we can see, it is only Can be accessed behind a firewall. You can reach, though, and it could change the way you eat forever.

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