Many grocery stores are now displaying the NuVal nutrition score for the products they sell. The score gives a simple number, between 1 and 100, that is intended to give you an idea of how nutritious a particular product is. The big question is, are the scores any good?
As with any rating system, the scores are as good as the criteria used to create them. In this case, the US dietary guidelines are the primary bench mark. For example, saturated fat lowers the score and high salt lowers the score. Unfortunately, the single score cannot capture how a particular food might benefit different people’s diets. For example, children need some saturated fat in their diets because it is used for growth (my kids get whole milk, btw). Similarly, I have very low blood pressure, so I’ve been told by my Dr. to use a bit more salt in my diet if I don’t want to be light headed when I stand up. Still, the scores might be useful as a guideline, when considered in the context of the needs of a particular individual.
I’m not sure what effect the various “unpronounceable” ingredients have on a score (”Unpronounceables” are what I call ingredients in processed foods that sound more like they should be in the chemistry lab rather than our bodies)
Still, I’m delighted that at long last, it’s beginning to be good business for supermarkets and food manufacturers to help us be healthy. When we vote with our pocket books, they listen.
So what’s the net-net on NuVal? Whatever the score, the advice is the same as always. Eat a colorful variety of minimally processed foods (foods with no score - those in the produce aisle are best!) - as Michael Pollan says, foods your grandmother or great grandmother probably ate.
And most of all, eat the foods that make your body feel great over time.