A team of researchers at Tuft University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy has developed a tool that can help consumers, food businesses and restaurants choose healthier foods.
The tool is called Food Compass, and it is a profiling system that analyzes how food can affect health positively or negatively. It was developed by analyzing thousands of foods and scoring them according to 54 properties. This wide range allows the system to account for many foods and ingredients normally eaten, and its granularity makes it convenient for widespread use.
The tool is designed to be simple to use, but is more complicated than just indicating whether a food is healthy or not. Manufacturers are specifically considered as potential users of the tool to help them choose ingredients for making healthy snacks.
Foods are ranked on a 1–100 scale: the lower the score, the less healthy a food is. Anything that scores around 70 is considered healthy enough that its consumption should be encouraged – most raw fruits fall e.g. In this category. On the other hand, anything with a score below 30 should be eaten only minimally, such as sugary sodas or snacks. Everything in the interval between these numbers should be taken in moderation; lots of commonly eaten foods like potatoes and poultry fall into this moderate group.
Food Compass is said to be the first system of its kind to use consistent scores across different food groups – something that will prove particularly useful for dishes that combine different kinds of food and ingredients. For example, other systems can profile pizza solely by its ingredients (wheat, meat, cheese, and so on, each getting their own score), but this will also analyze the finished product itself, providing an easier and more useful calculation.
Manufacturers can benefit from the system either in the ingredients used in their products or how they market and sell their finished goods, and consumers will be able to quickly understand what the numerical scores indicate so they can make decisions about what they eat.
The paper, published in Nature food, is available here if you are interested in finding out more.