The Importance of Nutrient Density in Helping Consumers Make Healthier Food Choices

Understanding nutritional information on food labels can empower people to make smarter eating decisions.

In the ever growing and evolving nutrition industry, there is a question we ask ourselves every day at Herbalife Nutrition: How can we make the world healthier and happier with good nutrition?

Part of the solution is providing customers with affordable nutritious alternatives, but another part has to do with meeting increasingly educated consumers’ demands. With more and more people taking an interest in consuming healthy food, the nutrition industry and government have been challenged to make changes in how to educate consumers about nutrition science.

For example, in 2016 the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revised its labeling regulations to provide updated nutrition information on the Daily Reference Values and Reference Daily Intake values. The main purpose of this change was to help consumers maintain healthy dietary practices. Some of the most significant changes were:

“Added sugars,” in grams and as percent Daily Value, will be included on the label.

While continuing to require “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” on the label, “Calories from Fat” is being removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.

Daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D are being updated based on newer scientific evidence.

Simon Sum Recently, I had the opportunity to present at the American Society for Nutrition Conference a study developed by Herbalife Nutrition to examine the impact of FDA’s updated Nutrient Daily Values on the Nutrition Rich Food (NRF) Index.

The NRF is a validated, science-based, consumer-driven metric tool that measures the nutrient density of individual foods as well as meals. Nutrient density, a measure of how much nutrition you get per serving or per calorie eaten, is important to achieve a healthy diet. When choosing between two food items with the same calorie amount, one food choice can provide the body with the protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals we need every day, while another choice may provide empty calories from sugar and saturated fat with no other significant nutrients.

Our research determined that the recent changes to the Nutrient Daily Values have a significant impact on the NRF scores for many food items in the major USDA food groups, other than vegetables. Our two main findings were the following:

Nutrition Rich Food Index scores were found to be statistically lower with the new daily values than the old daily values among the most frequently consumed food items in six groups, including milk and milk products; meat, fish, poultry and mixtures; legumes, nuts and seeds; grain products; fruits; and sugar, sweets and beverages.

Using new daily values resulted in a significant increase in calculated Nutrition Rich Food Index scores relative to those using old daily values in the food items in the groups of eggs and fat, oils and salad dressings.

This study is a further validation of the importance of nutrient density in maximizing nutrition, while limiting excessive calories. While the impact on the NRF index of each food item may not affect the NRF index of the food group as a whole, such nutrient density scores should be routinely updated to reflect current regulations and the nutrients of current food trends.

Ultimately, understanding the nutritional information available on food labels can empower people to make smarter eating decisions, choosing from a variety of foods and beverages that are higher in nutrient density throughout the day. And the way to ensure healthy choices—and to make the world healthier and happier—is to continue to educate consumers about the ever-evolving landscape of nutrition science.

Source: Nutraceuticals World

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