Disease Proof

Not All "Health Food" Deserves Star Treatment

One of Dr. Fuhrman’s points that I find most compelling is the concept that food isn’t just calories, but also nutrients. And not just macronutrients, but a whole host of important micronutrients... Sure, a piece of steak has calories, but compare it to an equal amount of green vegetables, and you’ll see greens are a superior source of essential nutrients. Not sure what I mean? Check out this previous post: Nutrient Density of Green Vegetables.

Hannaford Brothers, a supermarket chain with 158 stores in five states, may have stumbled upon this concept with its nutrition program “Guiding Stars.” Hannaford Brothers hired nutritionists to evaluate all products sold at their stores and rate their nutritional quality from 0 to 3 stars. Some of the low-rankers may surprise you, especially since many of them are advertised as “health” foods. Andrew Martin of The New York Times explains:
Of the 27,000 products that were plugged into Hannaford’s formula, 77 percent received no stars, including many, if not most, of the processed foods that advertise themselves as good for you.

These included V8 vegetable juice (too much sodium), Campbell’s Healthy Request Tomato soup (ditto), most Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice frozen dinners (ditto) and nearly all yogurt with fruit (too much sugar). Whole milk? Too much fat — no stars. Predictably, most fruits and vegetables did earn three stars, as did things like salmon and Post Grape-Nuts cereal.
I’m guessing most people probably have an inkling—even though they choose to ignore it—that a lot of standard American fare isn’t exactly health promoting, but what about foods marketers position as healthy? Martin’s article calls into question an important larger issue—lots of these foods aren’t all they’re cracked up to be and many people don’t know it. How many people do you know who constantly shovel yogurt into their mouths like its food from the heavens?

Certainly we could argue all day about which items deserve this or that many stars. But I love the idea of at least somewhat objective nutrition experts giving some perspective to some of the most important health decisions we make--the decision of what to buy in the grocery store. If you have read this blog much at all, or any of Dr. Fuhrman's work, then you know that there is a lot of evidence that the decisions you make in the grocery store can have profound effects on long-term health.
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