Ice Cream Makes A More Nutritious Snack Than A Multigrain Bagel, Study Says

Ashley Hunte
Three people holding up ice cream cones of various flavours.
Unsplash | Mark Cruz

In a world that's increasingly becoming more and more health conscious, it can be pretty tough to figure out which food choices might be the best for your diet. The information we have on nutrition seems to be changing all the time, which doesn't help either.

But a new study shows that some options we may have assumed were healthier over others, are actually the other way around.

Tufts University in Massachusetts recently conducted research on food nutrition.

A pile of bagels next to a jar full of sesame and poppy seeds.
Unsplash | Diane Alkier

In a surprise twist, their findings showed that ice cream (which most consider to be junk food) may be a healthier option than multigrain bagels or saltine crackers, People reports.

The study was conducted by the university's Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

Several baskets of produce in the midst of being weighed.
Unsplash | Wayne Hollman

There, experts developed a Food Compass that uses algorithms to score the healthfulness of foods (which they call the Food Compass Score or FCS), from a scale of 1-100.

The higher the score, the healthier a food item is.

A salad bowl filled to the brim with various fruits and vegetables.
Unsplash | Nadine Primeau

With 100 being the highest score, anything that meets or reaches close to that number is considered the healthiest option available. Likewise, anything that is close to or meets 1 is considered incredibly unhealthy.

Tufts further expanded on this research by identifying three food categories.

The breakdown of the Tufts University Food Compass, showing various scores for healthy, moderate, and unhealthy food choices.
Tufts Now | Tufts University

The healthiest category is anything between 100 and 70, which the university researchers identify as the kinds of food we should be aiming to eat as often as possible. This includes fruits and vegetables, tuna salad, and even nonfat cappuccinos.

The second category is anything that falls between 69 and 31.

Two slices of bread with peanut butter and jelly on them.
Unsplash | Jonathan Pielmayer

These foods can be eaten in moderation, and include sweet potato chips and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Surprisingly, ice cream fits into this category as it scores in at 37.

The final category is foods that fall in between 30 and 1.

A person taking a slice of pepperoni pizza out of a pizza box.
Unsplash | The Nix Company

Experts say that these are the foods that should be minimized the most, and include things we traditionally see as unhealthy, including fast food pizza and cheeseburgers. Multigrain bagels with raisins and saltine crackers fit into this category, scoring 19 and 7, respectively.

The university hopes that this Food Compass will be a helpful tool for everyone.

A person selecting produce to by in a grocery store.
Unsplash | Tara Clark

Dean for policy for the Friedman School and lead of the study, Dariush Mozaffarian, said, "Consumers, policy makers, and even industry are looking for simple tools to guide everyone toward healthier choices."

The Compass identifies a large range of healthy, moderately healthy, and unhealthy options.

A bowl of cooked potato wedges.
Unsplash | Clark Douglas

Starchy vegetables ranked around 43.2 on average, while other vegetables and legumes placed much higher on the list. Fruit and vegetable drinks averaged 67, while sugary sodas averaged 27.6.

Also according to the list, seafood is the healthiest meat option.

A plate of cooked salmon and vegetables.
Unsplash | CA Creative

Seafood averaged around 67, while poultry weighed in at 42.67. Beef is the least healthy meat option in comparison, with an average score of 24.9.

All in all, this could very well change the landscape for food choices.

Vanilla ice cream scoops in a waffle bowl covered in rainbow sprinkles.
Unsplash | sheri silver

"With its publicly available scoring algorithm, Food Compass can provide a nuanced approach to promoting healthy food choices–helping guide consumer behavior, nutrition policy, scientific research, food industry practices, and socially based investment decisions," said Renata Micha, a researcher for the study who currently works for the University of Thessaly.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!