by Beth Heller, M.S., R.Y.T.
You may have noticed signs at your local Whole Foods Market promoting the ANDI score of different foods. ANDI, in case you missed it, stands the for Average Nutrient Density Index, a rating scale that compares the amount of nutrients per calorie in particular foods. The ANDI is the creation of Eat Right for America founder Dr. Joel Fuhrman M.D.
The ANDI score rates foods on the inclusion of many different nutrients including:
Calcium, Carotenoids: Beta Carotene, Alpha Carotene, Lutein & Zeaxanthin, Lycopene, Fiber, Folate, Glucosinolates, Iron, Magnesium, Niacin, Selenium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Zinc. It also factors in the ORAC score X2 (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) which is a method of measuring the antioxidant or radical scavenging capacity of food.
The upshot of this is that a food like kale has a score of 1000 on the ANDI and a food like cola has a score of 0.6. In other words, kale provides far more nutrients per calorie than soda. At first blush, the ANDI seems like it could be the Rosetta Stone of nutrition. It makes quantitatively clear what most of us already intuitively know – and might tip the balance in our decision between, say, and orange (ANDI = 109) and a banana (ANDI = 30).
But there are places where this scale gets murky.
- Take foods that contain healthy fats, for instance. Olive oil scores a 9 on the ANDI, walnuts score a 14 and avocado, one of the most perfect fertility foods, scores a measly 30. In fact, if we stuck to high ANDI foods we would most definitely consume a diet that is too low in healthy fats like the monounsaturated fats in olive oil and avocado and the omega-3 polyunsaturated fats in walnuts and fatty fish like salmon.
- Low fat dairy products, which have been shown to be associated with ovulatory infertility and may contain high amounts of hormone-like substances like IGF-1 that are suspected to be related to reproductive cancers, have a higher ANDI than the full-fat dairy that at least one study has shown to be protective for fertility.
- Beans and lentils also score relatively low on the ANDI (~100) despite the fact that they provide protein and special forms of fiber that promote friendly GI bacteria and support our body’s ability to eliminate waste.
So what’s the bottom line on the ANDI and fertility? In our opinion, the best way to use the ANDI is to fine-tune your choices within individual food groups. For instance, oats and barley top the ANDI for whole grains while white rice and white flour don’t even make the top 10. The ANDI might make our trips through the produce department easier too, helping us to choose romaine (389) over iceberg (110) for salad. In terms of overall diet, however, this scale is only one piece of knowledge in a bigger picture of fertility friendly eating that includes lean sources of protein (like organically raised meats, beans and lentils) and healthy fats.