Do you know what an ANDI score is? You might have seen signs advertising the concept at Whole Foods recently, as they have adopted this system of “scoring” food to help you make better choices. ANDI stands for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, and it is based on the research of Dr. Joel Fuhrman, founder of Eat Right America. I don’t know much about Dr. Fuhrman, and quite frankly, I think anyone who has a picture of themselves in a lab coat on the masthead of their website should immediately be viewed with skepticism, but ANDI scores make a lot of sense to me. The score, a number from 0-1000, is determined by the amount of vital nutrients in the food and the calorie content. Basically, it represents nutritional bang for caloric buck. Of course, we can’t JUST eat foods with super high ANDI scores, like kale (what a show-off!):
…because then we wouldn’t get enough of things like important fats that obviously have a lot of calories (olive oil’s score is only 9, for instance). However, you can use ANDI to see that some fats are going to give you more nutrients than others, like avocado versus eggs and cheese, making them a smarter way to spend your fat calories. Here’s a list, courtesy of Eat Right America, of several foods and their scores:
You’ll notice that meat, dairy, and processed foods like white bread go at the very end, which I think is the main take-away of the ANDI system. It’s so often recommended that we base our diet in plants for a very good reason; they’re dense in the nutrients that we need most. Dr. Fuhrman preaches a lot about weight loss, and I’m sure that following a nutrient-dense, plant-based program like his is the best way to lose weight if you really need to. But even if you’re blessed with the metabolism of a 16 year-old cross country runner, or let’s say you ARE a 16 year-old cross country runner, your body/mind/being/self will be better off with a diverse, plant-filled diet. Thin, fat, old, young- everyone needs what nature has grown to nourish us.
The inspiration for this recipe was two-fold: One, I saw in the bulk goods at Whole Foods that sunflower seeds are the winners of the nut/seed section:
Then, I was watching daytime television (#summervacation) and caught the end of Rachel’s Favorite Food at Home, which I believe is a British show syndicated on public access. Anyway, Rachel was baking up some chewy apricot bars that had sunflower seeds in them, so I thought, hey, let’s see if we can’t make an even more nutrient-dense version of these with whole-food ingredients! I used cherries instead of apricots, added some almonds, lessened the sweetener, used brown coconut sugar instead of refined, whole-wheat flour instead of white, and Earth Balance instead of real butter. I also kiinda over cooked them, so they’re especially chewy, but tasty nonetheless. Hopefully they will be enjoyed on my week-long camping expedition to Colorado for a bluegrass festival, starting early Tuesday a.m.!
Chewy Cherry Almond Oat Bars
- 1 1/3 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup dried, unsweetened coconut
- 1/4 cup spelt or whole wheat pastry flour
- 3/4 cup vegan margarine, like Earth Balance
- 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar or other brown/unrefined sugar
- 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
- 1/4 cup dry roasted almonds, chopped
- 1/2 cup almond butter
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Preheat oven to 325 F.
- Mix together oats, sunflower seeds, coconut, and flour. Set aside.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, syrup, and honey together. Remove from heat, then add almond butter, sugar, and vanilla.
- Combine the dry ingredients, butter-sugar-syrup mixture, cherries, and almonds. Mix well.
- Line a 9×11 pan with parchment paper, or do a grease/flour combo. (I did a really special mix of olive oil spray and flour- not recommended. Goopy mess.) Press mixture into pan evenly.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until edges start to brown. Don’t over-bake!
- Let cool for 10 minutes, then cut into squares.