What is the better breakfast choice, a banana or a doughnut? Now, which is the better leafy green to add to your salad, Swiss chard or spinach? Some nutritional choices are easy while others are less clear. Often, looking for healthy foods to eat means digging through research on hundreds of micronutrients as well struggling to understand the complex nutritional needs of the body. However, nutritional scoring systems are changing that by creating simple, understandable ways for shoppers to compare the nutritional content of foods. Basic nutrition information being available to the public isn’t new. This information is listed on the back of processed food, as well as, fruits, vegetables, and other produce. However, nutritional scoring systems are beginning to take things beyond the calorie and recommended daily allowance information.
Bodies need specific amounts of vitamins and minerals, as well as protein and calcium to function. However, getting enough of those essential elements, without overdoing it on calories or fat, can be challenging. The key is to find the foods that pack the highest amounts of the vitamins and minerals that the body needs into the smallest amount of calories. The more of the health-boosting components food has per calorie, the higher the nutrient density and the better choice it is for your body.
Leading the way among nutritional scoring systems is the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI). Developed by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, ANDI uses the principle of nutrient density to rank foods against each other on a scale of one to 1000. The system looks at 34 nutritional parameters to create each score. Nutritional powerhouses kale, mustard greens, and collard greens all boast ANDI scores of 1000 while cola brings up the rear with a score of just one.
It’s not surprising that all the top-rated food on the ANDI scale are fresh vegetables and fruits. This supports the idea that the farm-to-fork method is the best way to get the necessary nutrients and energy. The more processing steps food goes through, or the longer produce takes to get from the vine to the plate, the more nutrients are lost. However, freshly picked produce, which is grown without chemicals or pesticides, is overflowing with nutrients. Farm-to-fork eating, in which consumers seek out the freshest and most natural foods possible, ensures that the calories consumed contain the most nutrients possible.
Even casual consumers have taken to carefully reading the nutrition panels on food packages. However, with a larger awareness of nutrition density and farm-to-fork eating, shoppers now want even more information. Supermarkets are responding by providing easy-to-access nutritional scores both online and on the shelves. Whole Foods utilizes the ANDI system while grocers such as Kroger, and Hy-Veeuse the similar NuVal scoring system, which works on a one to 100 scale. However, you can, also, access these nutrient score charts online, and either print them out or keep them on your smartphone to aid your shopping, whether in the grocery store or at the local farmer’s market. By utilizing anutrient scoringsystem such as ANDI, informed consumers can take the guesswork out of shopping for groceries and fill theircarts, and their plates with nutritionally dense foods that provide all the energy and nutrients they need.