WELLNESS

New food ranking compass gives sense of direction to which foods are better than others

A team of researchers at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, has created a complex algorithm to rank the benefits of different foods. Picture: Shutterstock.

A team of researchers at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, has created a complex algorithm to rank the benefits of different foods. Picture: Shutterstock.

We're growing perilously close to Christmas and New Year, which means ...

Hangovers, overwhelm, empty bank accounts and office party embarrassments. That is, if you're a traditionalist.

Actually, Grinch, I was going to say rankings. Everything is rated at this time of year: from songs to movies to memorable moments.

True. 'Tis the season for compiling a top 100 of things we'd otherwise avoid, such as Mariah Carey and films with grown men dressed as elves.

Which is why I'm excited about the new food compass ranking. It's a totally relevant and useful thing.

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Food ranked, eh? On what criteria?

Health, naturally. The compass can rate everything you eat for nutritiousness, using simple numbers.

A team of researchers at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, has created a complex algorithm to measure 54 different aspects of 8,032 foods.

Each food is given a score from one (least healthy) to 100 (most healthy) based not only on their calories, salt and fat, but also various nutrients and levels of processing and additives. Foods even score points for beneficial plant compounds.

The Tufts experts, led by cardiologist Dariush Mozaffarian, reckon their compass is the most comprehensive food health ranking system yet developed.

Maybe so. But does it really expand our knowledge? I'm guessing celery is a solid 100, while a cheeseburger's somewhere in the single digits.

True. But the compass does help with those confusing food questions, such as: if it's low in fat, is it high in sugar and salt instead? All you need to do is aim to eat foods and drinks with a 70 or higher ranking, while consuming those from 31 to 69 in moderation and anything lower than 30 infrequently.

Any surprises among the rankings?

Quite a few. Dried apple scores a paltry 28, thanks to its high calorie and sugar content. But sweet potato chips with no added salt and cooked in healthy oil come in at an impressive 69, thanks to their vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium.

And your skimmed cappuccino is a respectable 73, because calcium and protein plus coffee's 500 plant components and some beneficial antioxidants equals a pick-me-up that's healthier than sweetened cranberry juice, which scores a meagre 11.

Nice. I'll see you later for a triple-digit dinner.

This story Calibrating your food ranking compass first appeared on The Canberra Times.