Just when we thought we had covered all the nutrition rating systems out there, here’s a new system being implemented at Whole Foods Market stores nationwide. ANDI, short for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, is the brainchild of author, MD, and founder of Eat Right America, Dr. Joel Fuhrman.
The ANDI system is a part of a bigger initiative by Whole Foods, entitled Health Starts Here, which encompasses not just making healthy food available, but also providing education on what to do what with that food (culinary lessons, 28 day programs to jump start healthy eating habits…).
The healthy eating principles WFM is promoting are:
- plant based diet
- whole foods (less processed flours, for example)
- low fat – or the right fats (unsaturated, more from plants and less from animals)
- nutrient dense (that’s where ANDI comes in)
The ANDI score, based on a Dr. Fuhrman’s Nutrient Density Scoring System analyzes many nutrients in a food product
Calcium, Carotenoids: Beta Carotene, Alpha Carotene, Lutein & Zeaxanthin, Lycopene, Fiber, Folate, Glucosinolates, Iron, Magnesium, Niacin, Selenium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc, plus ORAC score X 2 (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity is a method of measuring the antioxidant or radical scavenging capacity of foods).
The data for whole foods such as produce, grains, and legumes is relatively easy to analyze based on USDA databases. It is much more complicated to get accurate info for packaged or processed foods, especially because the ingredients in a processed food interact with each other and change the nutrition profile of a product.
Here is a table with some sample scores. The highest score is 1000, the lowest is close to zero.
This is a very interesting table, especially if one compares it to NuVal ranking which goes from 1-100. Take a look at these 4 healthy products and their scores:
- Kale – 1000
- Orange – 109
- Whole wheat bread – 25
- Olive oil – 9
A naive shopper may be led to believe that kale is the only product worth consuming. But all 4 of the aforementioned are healthy and needed by our bodies. Dr. Fuhrman addresses this:
Keep in mind that nutrient density scoring is not the only factor that determines good health. For example, if we only ate foods with a high nutrient density score our diet would be too low in fat. So we have to pick some foods with lower nutrient density scores (but preferably the ones with the healthier fats) to include in our high nutrient diet.
So wouldn’t it be more practical to create a scoring system that doesn’t require people to analyze a score , the product type, the required nutrients and then decide? The entire point is to simplify life for consumers, not complicate it!
Whole Foods is perceived as a healthier, albeit expensive, grocery retailer. But recently John Mackey, WFM CEO and founder, openly admitted that his chain sells lots of junk food. The Health Starts Here program may be a signal that Mackey is retuning to the roots of what WFM stood for in the seventies when just starting out.
The ANDI scores are an interesting first step in trying to help consumers better choose healthier foods, and it will be very interesting to see consumer response. We expect Whole Foods will continue to introduce and test additional tools to help their customers.
What to do at the supermarket:
Don’t let the Whole Foods health halo confuse you, as organic junk food is still junk food. Stick to the less processed products, of which Whole Foods has copious amounts, including in bulk (cheaper).
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