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New Study Finds That Ice Cream Ranks Higher Than Granola in Nutritional Value


New research from Tufts University in Boston has developed a nutritional profiling system called “Food Compass,” which ranks healthy foods based on their nutritional value.

The system flips some preconceived notions about health by comparing a granola bar with a chocolate ice cream cone topped with nuts.

Over 8,000 different types of food and drink were studied for three years, and 54 different attributes were looked at and ranked using “cutting edge science,” with 100 being the healthiest.

Fruits and vegetables were among the top-ranking foods – with spinach scoring a perfect 100 – while processed foods and fast foods, such as hamburgers, ranked lower.

Even though the scoring system appears straightforward, the surprises came when comparing ‘healthy’ foods with those considered ‘unhealthy.’

According to the results, chocolate ice cream with nuts received 35 points, while granola bars with coconut and chocolate were awarded just 15 points. However, frozen yogurt, a healthy alternative to ice cream, received only 23 points.

According to Professor Dariush Mozaffarian, the granola bar is inferior to ice cream since it primarily consists of refined starch and sugar, whereas its dairy rival includes protein and nutrients.

Choosing eggs for breakfast might seem logical, but according to the Food Compass, eggs omelets rank 51, while Cheerios are ranked 95.

Compass found eggs were high in protein and contained several micronutrients, but most studies showed they had a neutral effect on major diseases.

Despite being less healthy than highly processed cereals like cornflakes (16), eggs are nevertheless a better breakfast option than plain instant oatmeal (75), which contains whole grains and fiber that have been shown to improve heart health.

The “Food Compass” also suggests switching out your morning espresso (55) for a skimmed milk cappuccino (73) to liven up your morning routine.

It is recommended that food and drinks scoring over 70 should be added to the diet regularly, while those scoring 31 to 69 should be consumed in moderation only. Options below 30 should be avoided, according to the study’s authors.

The average Food Compass score across major food categories was 43.2, as published in Tufts Now and the journal Nature.

  • The lowest scoring category was snacks and sweet desserts (average score of 16.4).
  • The highest scoring categories were vegetables (average score 69.1), fruits (average score 73.9, with nearly all raw fruits receiving a score of 100), and legumes, nuts, and seeds (average score 78.6).
  • Among beverages, the average score ranged from 27.6 for sugar-sweetened sodas and energy drinks to 67 for 100% fruit or vegetable juices.
  • Starchy vegetables scored an average of 43.2.
  • The average score for beef was 24.9; for poultry, 42.7; and for seafood, 67.

The team said it’s the “most comprehensive and science-based to date” and hopes to “clear up confusion to benefit consumer [and] policymakers.”

The study claims that the characteristics and domains were chosen based on nutritional features associated with the risk of undernutrition, particularly for mothers, young children, and the elderly, as well as major chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and cancer.

“Once you get beyond ‘eat your veggies, avoid soda,’ the public is pretty confused about how to identify healthier choices in the grocery store, cafeteria, and restaurant,” said Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School.

“Consumers, policymakers, and even industry are looking for simple tools to guide everyone toward healthier choices.”


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