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The Daily Tonic: Food Compass, Or Fool’s Compass?

The Daily Tonic is a two to five minute read sharing science backed health news and tips, all while getting you to crack a smile or even lol on occasion.

Ok, so maybe we can start with something we can all agree on today… like the fact that a processed cereal like Cheerios can’t be considered a healthier breakfast option than a nutritious, protein rich, whole-food breakfast of fresh eggs. Well, apparently even something as obvious as that is up for debate. 

According to researchers out of Boston, Cheerios are one of the healthiest foods you could have to start your day. That’s right… General Mills made, processed Cheerios. 

How could that be the case? Over the span of three years, researchers looked at over 8,000 foods and ranked them all to create a “Food Compass” that gave each food a score out of 100 (100 being the healthiest) based on different attributes. 

Attributes such as nutrients per gram and protein content gave foods more points, while things like saturated fat and added sugar deducted points from the food’s final score. The end result of such a point system raises some major red flags though, especially when it comes to advice around breakfast foods. 

Using the point system of this Food Compass, a ham and cheese omelet cooked in butter would score a measly 15 out of 100. That is the same score given to Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, the sugar covered cereal that is basically candy in a bowl. In order to give your omelet a score over 50, you would need for it to be an egg white omelet with veggies only. That would score a 59. 

I guess they didn’t get the memo that all the nutrients in an egg are in the yolk. 

The Food Compass may actually be helpful — it shows you the exact opposite of what to do

Even the coffee recommendations don’t make much sense. An espresso comes in at a score of 55. Make that a skimmed milk cappuccino though and you could bump up that score to a 73. 

A major flaw with the Food Compass is that it does not take into account the source of the micronutrients in the food it is ranking. Are the vitamins and minerals added to a processed food the way cereals are fortified with certain vitamins, or are those nutrients naturally occurring the way they would be in the yolk of an egg? 

This differentiation matters because it will dictate whether those nutrients are actually bioavailable and able to be absorbed by our bodies. 

Another flaw with the Food Compass is how much it penalizes food for its saturated fat content. There have been numerous studies now that show that the connection between saturated fat and poor health outcomes has been grossly overstated for years. Saturated fat is not the bad guy we once thought it was, but for some reason this new Food Compass doesn’t seem to take that into account. 

The key takeaway? Regardless of the score this silly Food Compass might give it, cereal for breakfast is not ideal. As with any other meal, the best breakfast is a meal that is balanced and made up primarily of whole foods. 

Here is our Daily Tonic breakfast compass: make sure to prioritize protein from whole food sources for breakfast to help keep you satiated throughout the day and ditch the boxed cereals full of fortified vitamins and minerals that your body won’t absorb anyway.

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What do you think?


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  1. Nearly all of whatever you say happens to be astonishingly legitimate and that makes me ponder the reason why I had not looked at this with this light previously. Your piece truly did switch the light on for me personally as far as this topic goes. Nonetheless there is actually just one point I am not too comfortable with and whilst I make an effort to reconcile that with the main theme of the position, permit me see just what the rest of the readers have to point out.Very well done.

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