Rate Your Food

Does nutrition score big at the supermarket?

The latest rating system to hit supermarkets awards points to foods based on how nutritious they are. It makes sense that broccoli and raspberries score a "perfect" 100 and soda a measly 1. But why do steel-cut oats score 60 and instant flavored oatmeal only 28? "The NuVal™ algorithm is a complicated mathematical formula that evaluates over 30 nutrients in a food and their impact on health. We’ve created an easy-to-use tool for people to compare foods sitting side-by-side on the grocery shelf," says David Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, whose team developed the NuVal rating system that is rolling out in U.S. supermarkets. Complex as it may be, the formula’s premise is simple: NuVal weighs favorable nutrients (e.g., folate, fiber, calcium) against unfavorable ones (saturated fat, trans fat, salt) and also takes into account, gram for gram, how many calories each food contains. See how some common items in your grocery cart stack up.

Orange (100)
Apple (96)

An orange’s high vitamin C, folate and potassium content give it a perfect score. Apples, high in fiber yet relatively lower in other nutrients, score slightly lower.

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti (91)
Spaghetti (49)

Whole-wheat spaghetti has twice as much fiber as white. It also contains magnesium and zinc, two nutrients found naturally in whole grains.

Steel-cut oats (60)
Honey Nut Instant Oatmeal (28)

The added sugar and salt in honey nut–flavored instant oatmeal brought its score down by more than half.

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