Can We Trust Government Health Rating Systems?

Can We Trust Government Health Rating Systems?
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Many people who are only just starting to think about healthy eating want something simple, yet effective, to show them how to properly plan their diets. This is one reason why governments, such as the Australian government, issue guides like the Health Star Rating System (HSR). The HSR is claimed to be an official guide, rating foods from 1/2 to 5 stars, on how healthful a food is. But do systems like this truly offer the value intended?

The problem with government ratings is that food corporations can and do influence what the barely-aware are told to eat. For example, plain milk gets 4 stars, but a processed “liquid breakfast” product gets 4.5 stars. There are at least 4 sources of added sugar on its long list of ingredients, while an unprocessed breakfast you make yourself may have none. However, plain Greek yoghurt only gets 1.5 stars, and smoked salmon gets 3.5.

It gets worse. Some packets of chips (or crisps) have a 4-star rating, and so do beer-battered frozen “steakhouse” chips (fries). A chocolate-ish drinking powder, which is about half sugar, gets 4.5 stars, and so does a breakfast cereal that is around 1/3 sugar.

Commercial fruit juice will have anything between 4 and 5 stars, depending on the brand. On the other hand, even the middle-of-the-road World Health Organization (WHO) states that fruit juice contains free sugars which must be restricted. The HSR is based on an algorithm including a handful of nutrient-based criteria. It does not take into account added sugar, processing, nutrient quality, or potential toxic contaminants.

What Diet Should Really Look Like – Told by the Long-Living

A truly health-promoting, life-extending diet is not the same for everyone, and the HSR also completely ignores food intolerances by its nature. Additionally, another guide formed by over 150 surveys among the world’s longest-lived people paints an entirely different picture.

  • About 90-95% of your diet should be unprocessed plant foods: vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, beans and legumes, with a liberal amount of herbs and spices.
  • Beans and nuts should be eaten every day.
  • Fish consumption can be kept to 3 times weekly, and meat less often.
  • Dairy products from sheep and goat milk can be eaten in moderation, but cow’s milk should be avoided.
  • White (refined) grains and food more than minimally processed (5 or more ingredients) are also advised against.
  • As for drinks, keep it to water and unsweetened teas and coffee.

This advice doesn’t come from corporations; it comes from people who commonly live into their 90’s and beyond without the chronic illnesses and loss of independence and vitality that we have been taught are “normal.”

How about a new normal, where reaching triple digits is expected?

Additional Sources:

The Sydney Morning Herald