Aggregate Nutrient Density Index*
A.N.D.I. or Aggregate Nutrient Density Index is a system that ranks a food based on the amounts of nutrients per calorie. The higher the nutrients per calorie the more beneficial the diet is at slowing down the aging process and improving the quality of life.
Nutrient density is a critical concept in devising and recommending dietary and nutritional advice.
Dr. Joel Fuhrman has the following formula H = N/C, where H = health, N = nutrient density and C =calories.
The importance of adequate intake of vitamins and minerals and trace elements is well known. But adequate consumption of phytochemicals is also essential for proper functioning of the immune system and to facilitate our body’s detoxification and cellular repair mechanisms that protect us from chronic diseases.
Over the last 20 years or so, science has demonstrated that colourful plant foods contain a huge assortment of protective compounds. These are termed ‘phytochemicals’ or plant chemicals. For a detailed discussion of these, see my January 2010 newsletter Phytochemicals. Only by eating an assortment of nutrient-rich natural plant-based foods can we access these protective compounds and help prevent the common diseases that affect so many in the Western world.
Although much is known about phytochemicals, many are still unnamed and unmeasured. For example carrots contain the named phytochemicals alpha and beta-carotene, carotenoids and cryptoxanthin. ‘Carotenoids’ is a general term, there being some 200 or more in carrots, all unnamed. It is the complete mix of phytochemicals that nature puts into the fruit or vegetable that gives the full health benefit. Supplementing a specific one, such as beta-carotene, fails to give the same benefit as when it is in the whole food with the multiple other ones, all of which act synergistically together. In fact, in one well-known study of beta-carotene supplement in the prevention of lung cancer, there was a better outcome with the placebo (those taking the active beta-carotene appeared to develop more lung cancers than those on placebo), and the trial was aborted!
The Nutrient Density Line
Dr. Fuhrman, in order to guide people to the most nutrient dense foods, initially developed a 0-100 scale of micronutrient scores called the Nutrient Density Line, which ranks categories of foods based on their ratio of nutrients to calories.
The Nutrient Density Line is described in detail in Dr Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live (2011 edition), pages 118 - 122. The following is a listing of foods on the nutrient density line (www.drfuhrman.com) (copyright 2004-2011) on the scale 0 - 100:
|Raw leafy green vegetables||100|
|Solid green vegetables||97|
|Non-green, non-starchy vegetables||50|
|Raw nuts & seeds||20|
|Wild meats & fowl||11|
The Nutrient Density Line is similar to and a precursor to ANDI scores.
Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) scores the nutrient density of a food.
ANDI was created by Eat Right America in cooperation with Dr Joel Fuhrman.
A of ANDI stands for ‘aggregate‘, which means that all the measurable nutrients are added up. The ANDI scores are calculated by evaluating a wide range of food factors, including vitamins, minerals, trace elements, phytochemicals, and antioxidant capacities, based on an equal number of calories for each food. After completing the calculations, foods are ranked on a numerical scale of 1 to 1000, with the highest nutrient foods given the score of 1000. All other foods are then scored relative to them.
Full details of the vitamins and minerals and the list of the other ingredients included in the evaluation, as well as the methods of calculation, can be found at www.eatrightamerica.com.
www.eatrightamerica.com notes “Because phytochemicals are largely unnamed and unmeasured, these rankings underestimate the healthful properties of colourful natural plant foods compared to processed foods and animal products. One thing we do know is that the foods that contain the highest amount of known nutrients are the same foods that contain the most unknown nutrients too. So even though these rankings may not consider the phytochemical number sufficiently, they are still a reasonable measure of their content.”
A Sample of Eat Right America’s ANDI Scores **
|Bok choy||824||Sunflower Seeds||78||White Potato||31|
|Brussel sprouts||672||Apple||72||Chicken Breast||27|
|Romaine||389||Flax Seeds||65||Whole Wheat Bread||25|
|Broccoli||376||Sesame Seeds||65||Low Fat Yogurt||24|
|Green Pepper||258||Edamame||58||Whole Milk||20|
|Strawberry||212||Pistachio Nuts||48||Apple Juice||16|
|Pomeg. Juice||193||Corn||44||Swiss Cheese||15|
|Iceberg||110||Shrimp||38||Vanilla Ice Cream||9|
In order to not confuse the meaning of ANDI scores, it is essential to remember that their calculation is “based on an equal number of calories for each food”. Thus the ANDI scores are only comparable for foods of equal calories. This is best explained by example:
100g of spinach (ANDI = 739) has the same number of calories as ¼ of a medium apple (ANDI = 72) [i.e. 26 calories each]. It is easy to eat a whole apple (= 4x the ANDI score, i.e. 288) but much more difficult to eat 100g of raw spinach. Indeed, 2 big apples have the same nutrient benefit as 100g of spinach.
Nutrient density scoring is not the only factor that determines good health. For example, if only foods with a high nutrient density score were eaten, the diet would be too low in fat. So some foods with a lower nutrient density scores (but preferably the ones with the healthier fats) would need to be included in the high nutrient diet.
The ANDI scores are guidelines.
My March 2009 newsletter Foods for Health groups foods into four categories based on nutrient density. Those with the highest nutrient density to calorie ratio are unlimited (eat as much of them as you want daily). The second group should be limited daily, the third group is limited to once a week and the final group should be consumed rarely, considered off-limits. For details access the newsletter.
*Copyright 2012: The Huntly Centre.
Disclaimer: All material in the huntlycentre.com.au website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.
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