New index the first tool to evaluate affordable nutrition
As concern is raised about the availability of affordable, healthy food, a new food rating system has been introduced to analyse both the nutrition and cost value of food.
The Affordable Nutrition Index (ANI), unveiled this week at the American Dietetic Association’s Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo by leading nutrition expert Adam Drewnowski, PhD, professor at the University of Washington, is the first and only tool that assesses food’s nutritional profile and cost value to create a nutrition-value-per-dollar score.
The ANI is guided by recommendations in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans and calculates a food score based on nine essential nutrients to encourage (protein, fibre, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C and E) and three nutrients to limit: saturated fat, added sugars and sodium.
Nearly 300 commonly eaten foods including fresh vegetables, fruits, grains from an independent food intake frequency questionnaire, and various convenience foods, including a variety of soups (supplied by Campbell’s), were assessed in the study. Results showed that dark coloured vegetables, certain fruits and vegetable soups were among the most affordable, nutritious foods.
“In today’s economy, more people are making food choices based solely on cost, so it’s important to guide them on ways to get nutritious options without hurting their wallets,” said Drewnowski. “It is important to identify a wide range of affordable, nutritious choices that can help people build a balanced diet that fits their lifestyle and budget.”
Among the specific findings:
* Carrots, sweet potatoes and broccoli were at the top of the ANI scale; oranges and bananas were the top-scoring fruits in the index.
* Twenty-five Campbell’s soups followed closely on the ANI scale, particularly condensed vegetable soup varieties that are lower in sodium.
* Other fresh or cooked vegetables (peas, string beans, squash, lettuce) and fresh fruits (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, grapes, nectarines, apples) were also highly ranked.
Drewnowski’s research indicates that food, nutrition and price are typically viewed independently by experts. He believes a more inclusive concept of nutrition-per-dollar must be embraced broadly by health experts and the government, as it more accurately reflects the way people actually make food decisions.
“The obesity epidemic in this country has the potential to get even worse if people are unable to find nutritious choices they can afford and that also fit with their lifestyle,” he advised. “I’m hoping the Dietary Guidelines set to be released in 2010 will include the importance of affordable nutrition in its recommendations.”