Fritos, Fritos better off with Food Compass

Fritos, Fritos better off with Food Compass

If you're looking to eat healthier, research from Tufts University suggests that you might be better off snacking on Fritos PEP or savoring an ice-cream cone with chopped nuts, rather than devouring a multigrain bagel.

The scientific team at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition and Science created a new nutrient profiling system that is designed to help consumers, food companies, restaurants, and cafeterias choose and produce healthier foods. The Food Compass rating is based on the food ingredients, processing characteristics, and additives, and the system ranks foods on a 1 to 100 point scale, with 100 being the healthiest rating.

Food shoppers may be surprised by the system's ratings. Many items that might be considered unhealthy received a score of higher than 50. Some items that are often deemed healthier choices get a score lower than 50, as plain Fritos 55 lightly salted potato chips 69 and chocolate-covered almonds 78. The research was released last year, but found that those who ate foods with higher Food Compass scores had better long-term health outcomes, including reduced-calorie rye bread 34 Kellogg s K, Corn Flakes 19 and a multigrain bagel with raisins 19. The study looked at dietary records and health data from nearly 48,000 U.S. adults between the ages of 20 and 85.

This is a call for action to improve diet quality in the United States, said Meghan O Hearn, the study's lead author and doctoral candidate at Tufts Friedman School, in a statement released by Tufts.

The Food Compass system has generated a lot of discussion in the past few months. Much has been made of the fact that a serving of chocolate ice cream with nuts served in a cone gets a higher score — 37 — than does a multigrain bagel.

According to the Food Compass scale, fruits and vegetables are the foods that rank highest, with several items receiving a perfect score of 100. Those include low-sodium tomato juice, celery juice, blackberries and grapefruit.

Dariush Mozaffarian, the lead author and Dean of the Friedman School, said the goal of the research was to educate consumers and others about the food selections they can make.

The public is confused about how to identify healthier choices in the grocery store, cafeteria and restaurant once you get beyond Eat your veggies, avoid soda, he said. Consumers, policy makers and even industry are looking for simple tools to guide people towards healthier choices.