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Determining the Healthiness of Foods

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Hi all!


Until very recently I have been using nutritiondata.com to figure out which foods are the healthiest to eat, since they have a massive database and a massively detailed database, but I am starting to question some of their math. For example, their system rates the healthiness of raw blueberries at a 3.1 out of 5, but it rates fortified orange juice as a 4 out of 5. It also rates apricots (canned in light syrup) at a 4.2 out of 5. Now what kind of math results in orange juice and canned fruit being healthier than fresh blueberries?? I think that their calculator does not take into account antioxidant capacity, or phytochemicals, but even without those I still don't really get it. The problem is that I don't know of a better system than theirs! Does anyone here use a different site or book?


I know some people will just say to follow your gut, but I am a stats person, and sometimes I just want to know if a banana is healthier than an apple (for example)!

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Yeah the USDA links are good but they also don't spit out a single number that will compare a banana to an apple (for example). What is healthier, a banana or an apple? We can't be 100% certain, but we can use all that we know about food science to come up with a mathematical formula for the healthiness of a food. Until recently I used NutritionData's, but now I am looking for another one.

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Thanks for the input 2097. I will get to work on a formula after I get home from class today. This sounds like a project worthy of a nutrition journal publication, but I doubt I will have enough desire to put that much into it haha. If anyone else has any other input that would be great!

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Fallen_Horse, I have very great ideas about this, however I am not going to state them. From your reply, it seems you'll only do something to get a trophy(nutrition journal publication).


I've been skimming through food documentaries like Food Inc, etc... and have come to notice that the majority of people are always trying to PROVE themselves. How great they are; just makes people look empty on the inside. Please take this as a positive way to grow.

Perhaps this is a language barrier issue, otherwise I am at a loss for words.

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  • 3 weeks later...

So I have been working on my healthiness index and it is in it's infancy but I am coming along. I am currently frustrated because I am trying to find PDCAAS information about different foods, but I can only find very short (and not terribly useful) lists of foods. Does anyone know where a good list might be?

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Good luck! The only scores I've seen are for soy, wheat gluten, chickpeas, black beans, hemp and a few others. If you search pubmed.gov for a specific food that might have been assessed nutritionally (like quinoa) it's likely that there's a study out there that tested the amino acids.

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Ok guys here is the setup so far. I do want to mention at the beginning that at this point this calculator is geared towards a typical vegan bodybuilder, i.e. someone who wants to maximize the amount of protein they intake while also maximizing the amount of nutrients they get. See more details at the bottom of the post for what I will be adding later, and how this formula will eventually cater to all groups of vegans. So here we go!


My formulas currently only take four inputs, total protein, protein score, total calories, and nutrient score. These values are taken from the NutritionData website and I have chosen them because I think they are the most accurately calculated scores available and I know exactly how they are formulated. All of my calculations are done using the numbers for 100g of each food.


I have one equation for determining overall protein quality, and that is to take the total protein, multiply by the percentage that is complete protein, and add to that the amount of incomplete protein times 1/2. This is assuming that if a protein is 50% complete, the other 50% is about half complete, which seems to be a good rule of thumb for the foods I have seen. The first formula for this is then:


Amount of Complete Protein = Total Protein * Protein Score / 100


It is divided by 100 because the protein score is in % and I want it unitless so I divide by 100 to get grams = grams * percent / percent.


The second equation for this section is:


Average Useful Protein = Amount of Complete Protein + (Total Protein - Amount of Complete Protein) / 2


So I take the total protein and subtract the complete part, then divide by 2 because of the '50% complete' concept. I then add this to the amount of complete protein to get an average amount of useful protein.


For the last formula (in the protein section) I then take the Average Useful Protein and divide by Calories / 100, or otherwise stated I take the Average Useful Protein * 100 then divide by Calories. This looks like:


Protein Per 100 Calories = Average Useful Protein / Total Calories / 100 = 100 * Average Useful Protein / Total Calories


I added this formula into the equation because I noticed that very high calorie foods were getting overly high scores in my final ranking, and since I want this to be a calculator of getting the most protein and nutrients per calorie, having high calorie foods is contrary to the scoring.


Now for the second part of my formula, I am currently only taking into account two variables, the average useful protein and the healthiness per calorie of a food. The healthiness of a food is determined by the nutrient score over the total calories (nutrients per calorie), and the average useful protein is what I just calculated above. This equation is then:


Formula Score = 10 * Average Useful Protein + Nutrient Score / Total Calories


Now, you might be asking. Why multiply the Average Useful Protein by 10? That's a good question, and I don't have a scientific answer. Essentially it is because I wanted the amount of protein in a food to have a powerful effect on it's Formula Score, because my lifestyle is more geared towards getting a higher protein diet while maximizing the nutrients per calorie I get. The bad thing about this is that it is essentially an arbitrary number that you can change based on what your preferences are (so it's not standardized) but that is also a benefit, because someone that values carbs more, or fiber more, or whatever, could then edit the final formula (once I have all the variables put in) and be able to find healthy foods that are high in protein, or high in fiber, or low in fat, or whatever someone wants.


Currently I am doing this in Excel (ugh) because it has been easy to import and list foods, but the equation editor is a hassle. I can't currently think of anything better though.


I am still playing around with it, and I plan on adding carbs, fiber, and types of fats to the spreadsheet and into the Formula Score. I would love to hear feedback and input into the process. Perhaps someone else out there has some ideas I could try to implement! And if anyone knows a better way to post spreadsheet information that would be great!


So I will leave you with a list of foods I have already added to the spreadsheet and their respective scores. Keep in mind that the current Formula Score is for those people looking to add high protein foods to their diet while also adding healthy calories. Thanks to everyone for reading and for contributing!



185 Tofu, silken extra firm lite, fresh

134 Spinach, cooked

134 Spinach, raw

127.7 Tofu, silken extra firm, fresh

112.5 Mushrooms, white, raw

110.6 Tofu, extra firm, fresh

98.4 Beans, soy, boiled

91.3 Morningstar, grillers

90.2 Cauliflower, boiled

87.6 Edamame, boiled

84.7 Broccoli, raw

83.2 Cauliflower, raw

83.2 Cocoa, powder

82.2 Tempeh, cooked

73.2 Clif, Builder Bar

72.5 Lentils, boiled

72.4 Beans, white, boiled

71.4 Beans, kidney, boiled

71.1 Kale, boiled

68.4 Peas, split, boiled

68.4 Beans, black, boiled

63.1 Seeds, pumpkin, dry roasted

61.6 Lettuce, red leaf, raw

59.7 Kale, raw

59.6 Broccoli, boiled

58.3 Cucumber, with peel, raw

58.2 Lettuce, romaine, raw

56.2 Clif, Luna Bar

56 Peas, green, boiled

55.8 Lettuce, iceberg, raw

55.3 Beans, chickpeas, boiled

55.1 Celery, raw

52.1 Soymilk, Silk DHA, fresh

49.1 Pepper, green, raw

48.4 Tomatoes, raw

43.2 Garlic, powder

39.1 Buckwheat, flour

38.7 Pepper, green, cooked

37.4 Garlic, raw

35.1 Peanuts, dry roasted

33.4 Quinoa, cooked

33.3 Pepper, black

33.1 Nuts, cashews, raw

32.6 Potato, with skin, baked

32.2 Bread, wheat, fresh

32.1 Flax, seeds, raw

31.1 Carrots, boiled

30.2 Lemons, raw

29.3 Spaghetti, wheat, boiled

29.2 Bread, wheat, pita

28.7 Melon, watermelon, raw

28.1 Nuts, almonds, rawish

26.9 Strawberries, raw

26.5 Corn, yellow, boiled

26.1 Nuts, cashews, dry roasted

23.8 Carrots, raw

23.3 Melon, honeydew, raw

23.2 Cereal, Grape Nuts

23.1 Seeds, sesame, tahini

22.8 Melon, cantaloupe, raw

20 Nuts, almond, butter

19.2 Onions, boiled

18 Nuts, walnuts, raw

16.9 Kiwi, raw

16.3 Rice, brown, cooked

16.3 Onions, raw

16.2 Orange, raw

14.9 Juice, orange, commercial

13.3 Avocado, raw

12.7 Blueberries, raw

12.5 Grapes, red or green, raw

11.8 Mango, raw

10.1 Coconut, milk, canned

9.5 Banana, raw

8.1 Raisins, fresh

0.6 Apples, raw

0 Sugar, maple

0 Oil, olive

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Ok I have edited it already! I added a fiber category, and now the Formula Score takes into account Fiber / Calories / 100, AKA 100 * Fiber / Calories. So the new formulas are:


Fiber Score = 100 * Total Fiber / Total Calories


Formula Score = 10 * Average Useful Protein + Nutrient Score / Total Calories + Fiber Score


And the new rankings are below.



185 Tofu, silken extra firm lite, fresh

144.5 Spinach, cooked

143.5 Spinach, raw

127.9 Tofu, silken extra firm, fresh

117 Mushrooms, white, raw

112 Tofu, extra firm, fresh

101.8 Beans, soy, boiled

100.2 Cauliflower, boiled

97.8 Cocoa, powder

95.2 Morningstar, grillers

93.2 Cauliflower, raw

92.4 Broccoli, raw

91.8 Edamame, boiled

83.8 Tempeh, cooked

79.3 Lentils, boiled

78.3 Kale, boiled

77.3 Beans, kidney, boiled

76.9 Beans, white, boiled

75.4 Peas, split, boiled

75 Beans, black, boiled

74.7 Clif, Builder Bar

69.1 Broccoli, boiled

67.2 Lettuce, red leaf, raw

65.2 Lettuce, romaine, raw

65.1 Celery, raw

64.4 Lettuce, iceberg, raw

63.8 Seeds, pumpkin, dry roasted

63.7 Kale, raw

62.5 Peas, green, boiled

61.6 Cucumber, with peel, raw

60 Beans, chickpeas, boiled

57.9 Clif, Luna Bar

57.6 Pepper, green, raw

55.1 Tomatoes, raw

53 Soymilk, Silk DHA, fresh

52.3 Tomatoes, cooked

46.1 Garlic, powder

43.7 Pepper, black

43 Pepper, green, cooked

42.1 Buckwheat, flour

39.9 Lemons, raw

39.7 Carrots, boiled

38.8 Garlic, raw

37.2 Flax, seeds, raw

36.4 Peanuts, dry roasted

35.7 Quinoa, cooked

35 Bread, wheat, fresh

34.9 Potato, with skin, baked

33.7 Nuts, cashews, raw

33.1 Strawberries, raw

32.9 Spaghetti, wheat, boiled

31.9 Bread, wheat, pita

30.6 Carrots, raw

30.2 Nuts, almonds, rawish

30.1 Melon, watermelon, raw

29.1 Corn, yellow, boiled

26.6 Nuts, cashews, dry roasted

25.6 Cereal, Grape Nuts

25.6 Melon, honeydew, raw

25.5 Melon, cantaloupe, raw

24.6 Seeds, sesame, tahini

22.4 Onions, boiled

21.8 Kiwi, raw

21.3 Orange, raw

20.6 Nuts, almond, butter

20.6 Onions, raw

19.1 Nuts, walnuts, raw

17.9 Rice, brown, cooked

17.5 Avocado, raw

16.9 Blueberries, raw

15.3 Juice, orange, commercial

14.5 Mango, raw

13.8 Grapes, red or green, raw

12.4 Banana, raw

10.6 Coconut, milk, canned

9.3 Raisins, fresh

5.2 Apples, raw

0 Oil, olive

0 Sugar, maple

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It currently does not. The difficulty comes in determining which sugars are healthy. For example, a Clif Luna Bar has 9 grams or so of sugar, but some of that sugar can come from fruit in the food, while other sugar is added, and I have no way of telling how much of each sugar is in the food. I was thinking of adding a section simply for sugar like a Sugar Score = 100 * Sugar / Calorie, which would subtract from the Formula Score. So this would reduce the score of foods with more sugar in them, but it would be unable to determine where the sugar is coming from, which is why I was hesitant to add it.


Also a Builder Bar is not as healthy as broccoli, but it does have a good balance of added vitamins and is definitely better for building muscle (20g/serving compared to just a few) so you are seeing the results of the 'protein emphasis' of the Formula Score.


Anyway, I will try implementing the Sugar Score and seeing how it comes out....

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EDIT: I am in the process of adding the ORAC score to the equation. For those that don't know, ORAC is a measurement of the antioxidant capacity of different foods. It has it's flaws, but it currently is the only method for determining antioxidant capacity that has useful data from the USDA. A new tweak with the update will be along shortly...



Ok I added in the sugar score, which does NOT distinguish between where the sugar comes from, only that it is sugar (mono or disaccharide). I'm not sure that I like it better than before...



184.2 Tofu, silken extra firm lite, fresh

143.1 Spinach, cooked

142.2 Spinach, raw

126.4 Tofu, silken extra firm, fresh

111.5 Tofu, extra firm, fresh

106.7 Mushrooms, white, raw

100.4 Beans, soy, boiled

97.3 Cocoa, powder

94.8 Morningstar, grillers

91.1 Cauliflower, boiled

90.0 Edamame, boiled

86.3 Broccoli, raw

83.6 Cauliflower, raw

83.5 Tempeh, cooked

78.0 Lentils, boiled

76.9 Beans, kidney, boiled

76.6 Beans, white, boiled

74.4 Beans, black, boiled

73.8 Kale, boiled

70.2 Peas, split, boiled

67.3 Clif, Builder Bar

65.2 Broccoli, boiled

63.8 Seeds, pumpkin, dry roasted

61.3 Kale, raw

60.0 Lettuce, red leaf, raw

58.9 Peas, green, boiled

56.9 Beans, chickpeas, boiled

54.6 Lettuce, romaine, raw

51.5 Lettuce, iceberg, raw

51.3 Celery, raw

51.3 Cucumber, with peel, raw

50.1 Clif, Luna Bar

46.5 Soymilk, Silk DHA, fresh

45.7 Garlic, powder

42.8 Pepper, black

42.1 Pepper, green, raw

41.0 Buckwheat, flour

38.9 Tomatoes, raw

38.6 Tomatoes, cooked

38.1 Garlic, raw

37.3 Flax, seeds, raw

35.6 Peanuts, dry roasted

33.9 Potato, with skin, baked

33.5 Quinoa, cooked

32.8 Bread, wheat, fresh

32.2 Spaghetti, wheat, boiled

32.1 Nuts, cashews, raw

31.4 Bread, wheat, pita

29.6 Nuts, almonds, rawish

29.3 Carrots, boiled

29.1 Lemons, raw

29.1 Pepper, green, cooked

25.8 Nuts, cashews, dry roasted

25.6 Corn, yellow, boiled

24.9 Seeds, sesame, tahini

22.3 Cereal, Grape Nuts

19.7 Nuts, almond, butter

19.4 Carrots, raw

18.1 Nuts, walnuts, raw

16.6 Avocado, raw

16.5 Rice, brown, cooked

15.9 Strawberries, raw

12.3 Onions, boiled

10.4 Onions, raw

9.5 Coconut, milk, canned

7.7 Melon, watermelon, raw

7.5 Kiwi, raw

2.2 Melon, honeydew, raw

1.6 Orange, raw

0.9 Melon, cantaloupe, raw

0.0 Oil, olive

-0.8 Blueberries, raw

-1.2 Banana, raw

-1.6 Juice, orange, commercial

-9.0 Mango, raw

-9.3 Grapes, red or green, raw

-10.9 Raisins, fresh

-14.8 Apples, raw

-23.9 Sugar, maple

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Ok I added in the ORAC score but I don't have the ORAC for some foods so they are an estimate (based on the ORAC score of their 'relatives', etc.). Here is the new list:



185.5 Tofu, silken extra firm lite, fresh

149.7 Spinach, cooked

148.8 Spinach, raw

127.3 Tofu, silken extra firm, fresh

121.7 Tofu, extra firm, fresh

112.0 Mushrooms, white, raw

109.9 Beans, soy, boiled

101.0 Cocoa, powder

95.0 Morningstar, grillers

94.3 Cauliflower, boiled

90.8 Edamame, boiled

90.7 Broccoli, raw

87.1 Cauliflower, raw

84.2 Tempeh, cooked

83.7 Lentils, boiled

83.7 Beans, kidney, boiled

79.2 Beans, white, boiled

78.1 Beans, black, boiled

76.1 Kale, boiled

75.1 Peas, split, boiled

71.3 Clif, Builder Bar

70.7 Broccoli, boiled

67.4 Seeds, pumpkin, dry roasted

64.3 Kale, raw

63.9 Lettuce, red leaf, raw

60.6 Peas, green, boiled

59.6 Beans, chickpeas, boiled

57.4 Lettuce, romaine, raw

56.2 Lettuce, iceberg, raw

54.8 Celery, raw

54.6 Cucumber, with peel, raw

52.8 Clif, Luna Bar

50.2 Soymilk, Silk DHA, fresh

49.8 Garlic, powder

47.7 Pepper, black

46.7 Pepper, green, raw

42.0 Buckwheat, flour

41.4 Tomatoes, raw

41.0 Tomatoes, cooked

40.9 Garlic, raw

37.4 Flax, seeds, raw

36.1 Peanuts, dry roasted

35.7 Potato, with skin, baked

33.8 Quinoa, cooked

33.8 Bread, wheat, fresh

33.4 Spaghetti, wheat, boiled

33.4 Nuts, cashews, raw

32.4 Bread, wheat, pita

32.0 Nuts, almonds, rawish

31.3 Carrots, boiled

30.4 Lemons, raw

30.2 Pepper, green, cooked

29.4 Nuts, cashews, dry roasted

26.5 Corn, yellow, boiled

26.1 Seeds, sesame, tahini

26.1 Cereal, Grape Nuts

24.9 Nuts, almond, butter

21.1 Carrots, raw

20.4 Nuts, walnuts, raw

20.2 Avocado, raw

17.8 Rice, brown, cooked

16.7 Strawberries, raw

14.4 Onions, boiled

12.7 Onions, raw

9.6 Coconut, milk, canned

8.9 Melon, watermelon, raw

8.2 Kiwi, raw

7.4 Melon, honeydew, raw

6.1 Orange, raw

2.9 Melon, cantaloupe, raw

1.9 Oil, olive

0.0 Blueberries, raw

0.0 Banana, raw

-0.3 Juice, orange, commercial

-6.7 Mango, raw

-7.0 Grapes, red or green, raw

-8.9 Raisins, fresh

-9.7 Apples, raw

-23.8 Sugar, maple

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