INDIANAPOLIS — A new study is ranking more than 8,000 foods in order from least healthy to the most healthful.
The study, conducted by a scientific team at Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, scores 54 different characteristics across nine domains. Using these scores, they were able to objectively score all foods, beverages and even mixed dishes and meals.
“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.”
Under the ranking, foods that score 100-70 are encouraged/ Foods that score 69-31 can be eaten moderately. Those that score 30-1 should be minimized.
Across major food categories, study authors said the average score was 43.2. The lowest scoring category was snacks and sweet desserts while the highest scoring category was legumes, nuts and seeds.
Because the study authors intend the rankings, called a Food Compass, to be consistent across all categories, some interesting comparisons can be made. For example, the study’s data shows that while a chocolate ice cream cone with nuts only scored a 37 it has a higher score than chocolate milk, pizza from fast food, and even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Study authors hope that by offering a consistent scoring of diverse items, people can compare combinations of food and beverages that could be sold and consumed together, such as an entire shopping basket, daily diet pattern or portfolio of foods sold by a company.
“With its publicly available scoring algorithm, Food Compass can provide a nuanced approach to promoting healthy food choices–helping guide consumer behavior, nutrition policy, scientific research, food industry practices, and socially based investment decisions,” said last author Renata Micha, who did this work as a faculty member at the Friedman School and is now at the University of Thessaly.
You can browse through the study’s data to see how some products scored.