I shop at Whole Foods from time to time and keep seeing signs around the store indicating the ANDI score of certain food items. Although I have ignored it for months, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to take a deeper look.
ANDI stands for “Aggregate Nutrient Density Index.” What this score tells us is the nutrient density of a food on a scale of 1-1000 based on the nutritional content. An ANDI score is calculated by evaluating an extensive series of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidant capacities, and phytochemicals.
This index was developed by Eat Right America and Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of Eat To Live as a way for us to better evaluate the foods in the produce and bulk aisles, since they don't come with a nutrition label on the back.
Dr. Joel Fuhrman firmly believes that a nutrient dense diet can prevent or even reverse diseases and also sustainably reverse obesity. He feels that if consumers know how nutrient dense certain foods items are, they are more likely to make healthy choices at the grocery store.
Take a look at Dr. Fuhrman's nutrient dense top 30 ANDI food rating. The higher the score, the more nutrient dense the food is.
- Collard greens, mustard greens, & turnip greens – 1000
- Kale – 1000
- Watercress – 1000
- Bok Choy – 824
- Spinach – 739
- Brussels Sprouts – 672
- Swiss Chard – 670
- Arugula – 559
- Radish – 554
- Cabbage – 481
- Bean Sprouts – 444
- Red Peppers – 420
- Romaine Lettuce – 389
- Broccoli – 376
- Carrot Juice – 344
- Tomatoes & Tomato Products – 190-300
- Cauliflower – 295
- Strawberries – 212
- Pomegranate Juice – 193
- Blackberries – 178
- Plums – 157
- Raspberries – 145
- Blueberries – 130
- Papaya – 118
- Brazil Nuts – 116
- Oranges – 109
- Tofu – 86
- Beans (all varieties) – 55-70
- Seeds: Flaxseed, Sunflower, Sesame – 45
- Walnuts – 29
While choosing foods based on their ANDI score has its place, I fear that this index has a couple of rather huge flaws.
First, the ANDI system measures a whole host of vitamins and antioxidants, Calcium, Caretinoids, Folate, Iron, B Vitamins, Vitamins C and E, among several others. But it does not differentiate among the vitamins in the scoring process, nor does it offer the consumer a way to easily diversify their nutrient intake. One could say that this is because the system does not want to favor any vitamin over any other. The problem is, while collard greens might be higher in their nutrient content per calorie than any other food, they not contain all the nutrients one needs in a day. A perfect score for one food that doesn't have all your RDAs for all nutrients is a rather misleading guide.
Second, many known superfoods score very low on this index. Walnuts, flax seeds, and avocados are so incredibly nourishing but due to their high (good) fat content they have low scores. We have enough problems with people not eating enough good fat. Following this index could lead to other nutritional deficits.
Third, the ANDI system calculates nutrient density per calorie, not per serving. That is a major issue! Who is going to stand in the produce aisle at the grocery store and calculate calories per serving and how that all factors into the ANDI score? Not me. Heck no.
I do think that the ANDI system has a place. If I am in the mood for some fresh pressed juice, I would be more inclined to include produce with a higher ANDI score than something towards the bottom. In addition, if I am looking for a quick snack, I might grab a radish or two over an orange. But beyond that, I'm not wasting my time selecting food based on and ANDI score.
How about you? Any interest in the ANDI system?