The way your mobile tells you if your food is healthy or not

The way your mobile tells you if your food is healthy or not


The «NOVA» system is one of the most used by specialists to classify and recognize the level of food processing

The way your mobile tells you if your food is healthy or not

Although there are several mobile applications that help you to know the composition of foods, and also classify them on a scale of more or less healthy, not all of them use the same cataloging criteria.

Sometimes the criteria of the nutritionists themselves of these applications or the amount of additives that a product contains comes into play. Other times what is taken into account is the “Nutriscore” scale, a system that classifies food from a nutritional point of view: it considers positive that it contains fiber, or proteins while it punishes foods with large amounts of calories, simple sugars or saturated fatty acids.

This system is criticized by some experts, since there are processed foods, which because they have low amounts of sugar are classified as healthy. And these ultra-processed products they are the foods most “feared” by most nutritionists.

The classification that detects these foods is extended by the «NOVA» system, which categorizes foods by their degree of processing, ignoring the nutrients they contain and only valuing them for their industrialization.

This system was born in 2010 and was developed by scientists from the University of Sao Paulo. It is currently a method supported by the FAO (United Nations Food Organization) and by the WHO (World Health Organization).

How does the “NOVA” rating work?

The classification orders foods into four large groups:

1. First are the natural food, such as vegetables, meat, fish, milk or eggs. This group also includes foods with a minimal level of processing, that is, that have been ground, roasted, chopped, pasteurized, refrigerated, frozen or ground.

2. In this second we find the so-called “Culinary ingredients”, which serve us to cook and season. Among these, for example, we can find salt, sugar, honey or butter. There are also cases in which foods that result from the mixture of two products would enter, such as vinegar, the result of grape fermentation.

3. In the third group, the «NOVA» scale already considers that a food is processed. Those who have undergone a simple transformation and who have a number of ingredients less than five would enter it. It could be said that they are the products that result from adding oil, salt or sugar to the foods of the first group.

4. The last group gathers the foods that we already considered. ultra-processed. These are the ones that in the manufacturing process go through a grinding, extrusion or pre-grinding process. They are also high in salt, sugar, fat, stabilizers, additives, flavor enhancers, etc. Soft drinks, industrial pastries, deep-frozen pizzas, sausages or prepared soups would enter this group.

What apps use the “NOVA” rating?

Two of the most famous apps of the moment use this classification as one of the methods for food categorization. One of them is «MyRealFooding», the app of the nutritionist Carlos Ríos and which, as they explain, uses an algorithm based on «NOVA», and which they combine with Ríos’s experience as a dietician and nutritionist.

On the other hand there is the app «El CoCo», which follows a process in which it combines «NOVA» and «Nutriscore». As explained from the application, they use both since “the first allows them to measure the degree of processing of a food”, while “the second classification serves to know the nutritional note of a product.”

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