Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Food Ranking Systems

Yesterday I introduced Andrew Weil's food pyramid and the anti-inflammatory diet and today it's the ANDI food ranking system.

ANDI is short for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index.

Simplified, the index ranks foods according to the ratio of nutrients to calories. Its raison d'etre is to help consumers easily identify foods with the highest nutritional value.

Created by Joel Fuhrman, M.D., who "specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional and natural methods," the ANDI system has been adopted by Whole Foods as part of their Health Starts Here program.

To give you an idea of the way the index ranks foods, here is a sample chart. And here is Whole Foods sample index which ranks the Top 30 Super Foods.

As you can see from both samples leafy greens feature at the top of the charts or in other words, they have the highest nutrient value per calorie count.

As we head into spring tender young greens will become more available at the grocery store. A few weeks ago I posted a list of produce best purchased organic and conventional produce safe to consume.

Print the list out and keep it on hand -- especially if you're considering making purchases from the ANDI list since most greens, because they grow low to the ground and are thus likely to contain high pesticide residue levels, are best bought organic.

If you're beginning to feel baffled by pyramids, indexes and lists, when grocery shopping try the following tips -- hopefully you won't find these too baffling:

1) Stick to the periphery of the store.
2) Buy 80% of your groceries as whole, unprocessed food i.e. fresh produce (pics to left), humanely-farmed meats, poultry, dairy and eggs, sustainably-fished seafood, bulk grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
3) Buy 20% (some weeks less) of your groceries from the middle aisles i.e. whole grain breads, pasta, tinned fish, olive and or canola oil, and so on. (Andrew Weil allows for "healthy sweets," found in the middle aisles, such as quality dark-chocolate. We like that!)

Chances are, if you do manage to purchase the bulk of your groceries as fresh produce, followed by grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, with animal-based protein items as supplemental to the aforementioned, you will check out with mostly whole, unprocessed foods most of which rank "healthy" on pyramids, indexes and lists.

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