The NOVA Nutrition Classification System

The NOVA food classification system classifies foods into four groups according to the nature, extent and purpose of industrial processing they undergo. It recognises that not all food processing is bad and that some processed foods are good for us, but it aims to identify those that are unhealthy, or ‘ultra-processed’. It has been adopted by the WHO and other organisations around the world.

However, it has been criticized for its over-simplified approach to food processing. Some argue that it does not address the issue of the overall nutrient composition of a diet. Others are concerned that it will misguide consumers. For example, plant-based products that contain unauthorized additives could be wrongly classified as being ‘ultra-processed’. This could cause a consumer to avoid these foods without necessarily reducing the amount of other healthy foods that they consume.

Nonetheless, the NOVA classification system has been shown to be effective at describing dietary patterns and their impact on health. It has been used for a range of purposes, including: identifying the socio-economic distribution of dietary patterns; tracking changes in dietary patterns over time; and evaluating the influence of ultra-processed foods on the nutritional quality of diets.

It has also been used to describe dietary patterns and their association with obesity and other chronic diseases in populations worldwide. Research has shown that high consumption of NOVA 4 foods is associated with overweight and obesity, as well as cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, dyslipidaemias and some cancers.

A number of initiatives have been developed to help people reduce their consumption of NOVA 4 foods, such as the Whole Foods Market Eat Well Guide and the Canadian food pyramid. Several apps have been developed that allow users to track their eating habits and calculate the proportion of NOVA 4 foods in their diet.

A study led by researchers from the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center has found that it is possible to construct a nutritious and sustainable diet with 91 percent of calories coming from unprocessed or minimally processed foods, as defined by the NOVA classification system. This diet complies with Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommendations and includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats and grains. The NOVA app from BitsaboutMe automatically tracks the NOVA score of the products in your shopping cart, showing you which items to replace with less processed foods. It is available in the App Store and Google Play. Nova ernährung