The cruelties of good nutrition – or the day the broccoli came home to roost

The internet is full of conspiracies. The food world is full of oft-misguided fears. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s my turn to contribute to the imaginative world of food conspiracies. I’m not talking about corn chips causing rubella or tofu causing homosexuality or crappy shiraz infused chocolate being unusually popular amongst bloggers… No! The military-industrial-vegetable complex is attempting a green coup.

I am disturbed, disturbed! An article in The Guardian late last year drew my attention to the existence of a list. A subversive, deeply disturbing list. A list with earth-shattering implications for my hitherto guilt-free diet of pastry and chocolate. As if we needed more proof that things haven’t been right in the United States in recent years, Yale University has developed an Overall Nutritional Quality Index. Suspiciously, it has been given a brand name… more evidence of commercial conspiracy!

The NuVal™ Nutritional Scoring System summarizes the overall nutritional value of food. It uses the Institute of Medicine’s Dietary Reference Intakes (quantitative reference values for recommended intakes of nutrients) and the Dietary Guidelines For Americans (advice from the Department of Health and Human Services, HHS, and the Department of Agriculture, USDA, about how good dietary habits can promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases) to quantify the presence of more than 30 nutrients – including vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants; sugar, salt, trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. The system also incorporates measures for the quality of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as calories and omega-3 fats. The NuVal™ System also takes into account how these nutrients influence health based on broadly accepted, published scientific literature. (Link)

Now, just look at their top items (top nutritional score is 100), as shown in The Guardian:

Broccoli 100
Blueberries 100
Okra 100
Orange 100
Green Beans 100

BROCCOLI?! Say what?! This is like a conspiracy with the parents of the world, forcing fuzzy green stuff down the throats of the innocents. My parents did it. My parents’ parents did it. Broccoli is an instrument of torture, not nutrition! I’m surprised cauliflower isn’t equal first. Oh look, it is… below is the more comprehensive list direct from NuVal. Brussels sprouts don’t get a mention, but I’ll bet they’re lurking in the background, ready to pounce.

Apricots 100
Asparagus 100
Beans (yellow and green) 100
Blueberries 100
Broccoli 100
Cabbage 100
Cauliflower 100
Kiwi 100
Lettuce (Green Leaf, Red Leaf & Romaine) 100
Mustard Greens 100
Okra 100
Orange 100
Spinach 100
Strawberries 100
Turnip 100

Just lucky I’m growing strawberries (100) to eat with my Rice Bubbles (23) and oats (88) with full fat milk (52) every morning!

Meanwhile, I thought asparagus was just a phallic joke of a higher being, causing smelly pee and crap supermarket produce disappointments in the process. But no! We should all be munching our way through green sticks, green leaves, green sticky things, green fruit, and TURNIPS. Sheesh.

Now a selection of the bottom-scorers (from The Guardian):

Dark chocolate 10
White bread 9
Salami 7
Hot dog 5
Cheese puffs 4
Milk chocolate 3
Apple pie 2
Crackers 2
Fizzy drinks 1
Popsicle 1

I am so offended. How dare these pseudo-scientists place chocolate, clearly the most important fully-rounded foodstuff (ok, it lacks a little in fibre), so thoroughly low down their list. Any nutritionist worth their salt (or miso) knows that chocolate has nothing in common with hot dogs or cheese puffs! Bah. Well, I’ve had enough of these sell-out scientists and their faddish enthusiasms for unspeakables. No doubt there’s some murky industry organisation in the background, funding their “research”. If I were a salami farmer or a chocolate breeder, I’d be talking to my lawyers (or funding better research).

11 thoughts on “The cruelties of good nutrition – or the day the broccoli came home to roost”

  1. I love both broccoli and cauliflower! (No joke.) Yes, I was a parent’s dream. 😉 I’m surprised that dark chocolate is so close to white bread though.

  2. Ahh but Duncan. Broccoli is just little trees. What kid doesn’t want to eat little trees?

    OK, my kids are weird they love broccoli and brussel sprouts. I actually bought an unplanned cauliflower this week at market because Son and Heir asked me too. How could I refuse that?

    As for the chocolate, just dip the strawberries in it and all is forgiven, right?

  3. But I love broccoli. In stir fry; Au gratin; steamed. It’s great.

    As for Tofu causing homosexuality – that’s ridiculous – what are people thinking? Everyone knows it’s fondue.

  4. I hated broccoli and cauliflower with a passion when I was a kid. Mum could trick me into eating the cauli by covering it with cheese sauce (that woman makes the BEST cheese sauce).

    Now though I don’t mind cauliflower, and absolutely LOVE broccoli. Go figure. Never got the hang of brussels sprouts though.

    And Dani is right – dipping strawberries in the chocolate cancels out any bad stuff in the chocolate.

  5. Mm-hmm? You don’t have to worry about funding pro-chocolate research, Hershey has it covered. I’m sure for every NuVal there is one paper documenting how this particular chocolate bar has more antioxidants than a kilo of broccoli. (No, Duncan, it doesn’t exist. Move on.)

    “Hitherto guilt-free diet?!” RIGHT! That is too funny. Tragic if it wasn’t a joke, lol.

    I love all the food you’ve named up there except the okra. Loved cauliflower since I was a kid!

  6. Okay, turnips I can sort of understand, but am surprised at how against broccoli, cauliflower and sprouts you are. 😉 Personally, I am more offended that popsicles only got a score of 1. Popsicles are a major part of my essential Summer food eats.

  7. I stand and wave the white flag for broccoli Duncan! It never tried to hurt you, just to deliver its grenny greeny goodness! Besides, the little branches suck up all the goodness in any stir-fry and just become flavour explosions… ka-pow!
    I’m sure that we all agree on the chocolate issue- the scientists simply don’t know what they are on about. As for the popsicle? I demand a recount, in this heat- you gotta give them more credit?

  8. You’re pissed, how about me? At least one of your favourite foods, chocolate, got a score. Where’s the score for beer, huh? It’s definitely a food…especially when the mercury hits 45c!!!

  9. Ah you make me smile! I’m in the same boat as Anna, above, my mom loved to smother all things nutritious things with cheese, an effective and successful trick!

    All of my low carb health conscious friends are making faux mashed potatoes, which is actually cauliflower mashed with sour cream in a pathetic attempt to mimic the real thing. And my sister has been following Jerry Seinfeld’s wife’s new cookbook, which is entirely based on SNEAKING pureed veggies into children’s food!

    Go you! Let’s fight the conspiracy!

  10. I haven’t been sneaky with my little ones *I swear* but they all like broccoli and broccolini. I especially love it with lots of butter, salty capers and mustard…..wonder if that would affect it’s rating?! Maybe the fact that it’s not cooked until it’s khaki these days helps to keep it in favour?

  11. They haven’t taken EMOTIONAL nutrition into account. This would significantly devalue broccoli and promote chocolate to the high nineties, thus restoring balance to the universe.

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