If you want to eat a healthy breakfast then replace your poached eggs with avocado or raw salmon, a study suggests.
And traditional favourites such as jam on white toast or the cereals Frosties and corn flakes should be avoided at the start of the day.
However, Cheerios were found to be a surprisingly healthy breakfast, scoring 95 out of 100 on a new food rating scale.
Scientists at Tufts University created a “Food Compass” that rates more than 8,000 foods from one to 100 based on healthiness. The higher the number, the healthier it is.
‘Nutritional attributes’ grouped into nine categories
The system reviews 54 “nutritional attributes” for each food which are grouped into nine categories linked to diet-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and cancer.
The nine categories included are: nutrient ratios, vitamins, minerals, food-based ingredients, additives, processing, specific lipids, fibre and protein, and phytochemicals.
Anything above 70 is a good food to be eating, under 30 should really be avoided and those in the middle should be consumed only in moderation.
Poached or boiled eggs, often demonised for their high cholesterol, scored only 51, whereas Cheerios got a 95.
Avocado and raw salmon were part of the handful of foods which scored a perfect 100, alongside raw broccoli, celery juice, watercress, cherries and red kidney beans.
Fudge, frankfurters and fizzy drinks were part of the maligned “one in 100” group, as was jam on white toast.
But while Cheerios scored in the top fifth percentile, corn flakes (19), Special K (18) and Frosties (15) sat at the far end of the spectrum.
A simple tool to assist with healthier choices
“Once you get beyond ‘eat your veggies, avoid soda’, the public is pretty confused about how to identify healthier choices in the grocery store, cafeteria, and restaurant,” said Dr Dariush Mozaffarian, the study’s lead author.
“Consumers, policy makers, and even industry are looking for simple tools to guide everyone toward healthier choices.”
The average score across the more than 8,000 foods was 43, with snacks and desserts unsurprisingly the worst-graded food category.
Legumes (78), fruit (74) and vegetables (69) were the top-scoring groups. Meat, often derided for its health and environmental issues, scored poorly with beef (25) scoring worse than poultry (43) and seafood (67).
“With its publicly available scoring algorithm, Food Compass can provide a nuanced approach to promoting healthy food choices - helping guide consumer behaviour, nutrition policy, scientific research, food industry practices, and socially based investment decisions,” said co-author Dr Renata Micha.
Food Compass is available online and the research behind it is published in the journal Nature Food.