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Food search site NutritionRank aims to quantify healthy eating

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The folks over at are no longer just proffering up cooking videos and recipes. They have decided to tackle the huge and crowded market for online nutritional data. founders Alok Ranjan and Vikrant Mathur have launched a nutritional search engine and database called NutritionRank with the rather ambitious goal of making it the web’s top repository of dietary health information.

The web is brimming over with nutritional resources and databases that let you parse any nutritional measurement. Dieting and fitness apps are crowding one another in mobile app stores. Food search engine Yummly has already built up a big online following by allowing home cooks to search out recipes by cholesterol, fat and carb content. Even Google(s goog) has gotten into the game with a calorie-counting recipe search feature.

But according to Ranjan, all of those numerous and varied services are all regurgitating the same U.S. Department of Agriculture data. NutritionRank will distinguish itself by adding a layer of valuable context on top of that data. As its name implies, the search engine is going to rank all the foods we eat.

NutritionRank has worked with three nutritional scientists to create an algorithm that assigns a value from 0 (being the worst) to 100 for any individual food ingredient, recipe, packaged food item or restaurant dish. As long as there is raw nutritional or ingredient info available about an item, the algorithm can tackle it, crunching the ingredient list of an online recipe or the government-mandated nutrition info on the back of a box of pasta.

“We’ve created a good comparator of different foods,” said Atul Kumar, a gastroenterologist and Stony Brook University Hospital professor who helped NutritionRank develop its methodology. allows you to compare foods side by side. For instance, you can compare a Burger King cheeseburger(s bkc) to McDonald’s(s mcd) Big Mac or either to an apple. Or you can look up the healthiness of your favorite foods. That blue box of mac and cheese we loved so much as kids and many of us still love now? The NutritionRank of its cheese topping is 0, though to be fair to Kraft(s kft) some of its specialty mac and cheese brands have much better rankings. A bundle of fresh basil has a rank of 100.

Right now NutritionRank’s database is focused on packaged foods and big chain restaurant dishes for which dietary information is readily available. But the company plans to expand the breadth of food items it covers as it expands its business model. Ranjan said while the search engine is a valuable resource, the true value of its rankings will be realized once they proliferate beyond the portal.

It wants Google and Yummly to search by its ranking system. It wants recipe sites and food brands to invite NutritionRank to parse their dishes and display their ranks on their web pages. It wants popular food destinations on the web like the Food Network to embed its nutrition search bar in their sites. Ranjan and Mathur are getting the ball rolling by ranking many of the recipes within their own culinary site,

NutritionRank is making its API available to anyone for free. So how will it make money? Ranjan said he plans to implement a kind of AdWords for healthy eating. Just as Google displays sponsored search results at the top of every query page, NutritionRank will deliver paid results at the top of all search pages.

That may seem counterproductive to the company’s core mission of recommending the healthiest food. But Ranjan doesn’t see a conflict. He pointed out that even sponsored results will always include rankings, so any advertiser trying to promote unhealthy food would look a bit foolish. On the other hand a company like Kraft might use sponsored results of a “mac and cheese” search to promote its healthier alternatives to the famous blue box.

Featured image courtesy of Flickr user lilivanili

33 Responses to “Food search site NutritionRank aims to quantify healthy eating”

  1. Sreeja

    Getting facts and values of common foods in an easily understandable and user-friendly manner is really the need of the hour..Great work guys!!

  2. Smriti V Parikh

    Thank you for your valuable suggestions and comments. At NutritionRank we would work towards taking these suggestions and evolving the site into a more authentic, user friendly, dynamic site. NutritionRank is a “Work In Progress” and we strive to make the site “go to place” for nutrition information

  3. This is exactly something I was waiting for. I can get nutrition facts for all those street foods and compare them with my other favorite foods and decide what to eat. Another nice feature I found is, Diet Restrictions, As I always try to check which food has artificial sweeteners and color addictives. So here I got my solution with Its just amazing…

  4. Uday Singh

    Personally, I find the ability to compare similar dishes from different fast food chains to be pretty useful, as it helps me plan out my diet better (when I am on the road and do not always have access to healthy diet). Welcome addition

  5. I love the diet suitability fact, this is one section which is missing in most websites. I cannot stick to diet plans..its easier for me to pick up a food ( like I checked smoothies here) and check its diet suitability. It clear and lesser confusing and most importantly..easy to understand.

  6. Kornika Ganguly

    Hey! This is fantastic! I found a number suggestions for vegetarian Tacos. Now my friends can relish this Mexican snack without having to worry about the filling. Plus I also found out how to seek out the low cal and sugar free options for a number of other dishes that we love to eat. Thanks NutritionRank!

  7. Mad about food

    I used to add fresh & dry herbs to salads and food just for the sake of flavor… Thanks to NutritionRank I now know how abundantly nutritious they are… Cant wait to learn more

  8. When you enter the supermarket, you are surrounded with so many brands of the product you need, all displaying the nutrition facts, but frankly speaking I don’t have the time to go through them and decide which is the best for me and my family. I just pick up the first product I see and get out!
    With NutritonRank at my aid, i can pinpoint the exact product and brand I want with its nutrition facts. Not only that I cn compare 2 brands with a click of a button… IT sure would make my job easy

  9. Bright Raj

    I’m a total foodie and it is really fantastic that I get the recipes as well as the nutritional information about the recipes from the same place. Good job,

  10. Reshma_sathe

    this is the next best thing to happen after weight watcher’s score! After achieving my weight goals after a well regimented diet, i was finding it really difficult to plan a proper diet. The unique score system seems to be the perfect answer to my woes… just choose the foods with proper score and I must be good for the day :)

  11. Sukhjinder Singh

    The nicest part of the apart from ranking system (which I have not seen on other site till now) is its comparing multiple food items at one place.

    I was searching for, which is best, Canola Oil or Rice Bran Vegetable Oil (used by Saffola brand On I am not able to find the comparison, but when I went to site, with few click I was able identify the difference between these two oils.

    I would say only “Job Well Done”. It makes my life easier to find and compare the food items with there nutrition facts at one place.

    • Neha Foodie

      Oh, that is great. I have been infact wanting to see something like this online which gives the nutritional value of foods along with their comparison. Cheers to Alok and Vikrant for coming up with such versatile website.

    • All those oils are unhealthy and Canola especially, which is a GMO. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t tell you that. Anyway, I guess all the employees were told to come here and give positive comments, which is totally lame.

  12. I am a nutritionist. As you would know my job profile involved advising people about correct dietary practices. But there is a huge limitation.. we tell that what is good for them make them understand the concepts of good fats Vs bad fats, importance of fibre in diet, why one needs to curb salt intake.
    But, knowledge retention of such information and translation into practical life is difficult. I cant be around them 24/7 telling them this is good, this is bad…Nutrition Rank would act as a medium of resolving this issue.
    Anyone can access this site, the rank would tell them which food is good for them (as it looks at the composite nutritional profile), and also give an idea about frequency of consumption of such foods…
    Another issue is when my clients go out to eat at popular joints, they cannot say, i am on a diet so I just want a salad… sometimes the salad is just not available! you do need a tool to choose a healthier options between the foods available… I think Nutrition Rank is a positive step towards that!
    I feel this site would have a lot to offer to people in terms of learning about healthy eating…

  13. Samina

    It is easy to get the nutritional value of packaged and processed foods (most of the time those are unhealthy anyways) but getting the nutritional value of foods that are prepared at home according to a recipe is just wonderful, especially for those who are on a restricted diet. I love the fact that you can compare nutritive value of similar types of foods too, so that you can choose the healthier alternative.

  14. Colorsand Spices – an amazing experience…particularly for us, who are more informed about the variety of junk foods and less informed about their respective nutrition-quotient. Would definitely love to do more research, with my favorite food and favorite ingredients using this site.

  15. – an amazing experience…particularly for us, who are more informed about the variety of junk foods and less informed about their respective nutrition-quotient. Would definitely love to do more research, with my favorite food and favorite ingredients using this site.

  16. This is a wonderful application which is literally giving me nutrition info about my favorite foods in a jiffy. Being a model, it is important for me to know foods that are healthy and help me enhance my beauty and earlier I used to spend so much on pricey dietitians. Now I don’t need to invest so much money or time. Thanks to this feature! I just need to type the name of my favorite food in the search engine and get guided on what I eat.

  17. This is just amazing…knowing about nutritional value of the foods we eat is definitely a step towards healthy living…great job!

  18. Bronzegoddess

    I’m a total foodie and it is really fantastic that I get the recipes as well as the nutritional information about the recipes from the same place. Good job,


    this is pretty hard to follow or even be accurate. remember that food nutritional value changes also on the quality of the product, life time on shelf, and so many other factors

    • Alok Ranjan

      Thanks for the feedback. This is a step in the right direction and more is coming in future. We do rate different brand separately. Same food item with higher nutrition quality will rank higher than lower nutrition quality item. In some cases we also factor in estimated impact of cooking/processing method. Do you have some suggestion regarding how impact of life time on shelf can be quantified or is it better put as a descriptive note?

  20. None of these apps and services get to the heart of the matter. He is right, they all regurgitate USDA info, which is dominated by processed, prepared and fast food. But NutritionRank does not look like a game changer if all people do is compare two fast food items, in an “eat this, not that” moment.

    What is needed is a site or app that can answer questions like:

    “If I changed all my meat choices to gluten meat how would that change my overall diet”

    “I have a corn muffin recipe, and I would like to alter it to squeeze out carbs and up the protein.”

    “If a single strip of bacon is a treat, and I have an overall weekly diet goal, how often can I schedule this treat without blowing up the calories and what foods could I reduce a bit to make up for it.”

    The problem is that there are no intelligent tools to answer questions like these. What we need are interactive sliders that can be assigned and manipulated to change ingredient or meal parameters to see overall effects on the recipe or weekly meal plan.

    Again, comparing one junk food to another to pick the better of the two, WILL NEVER BE HEALTHY EATING!

    • Alok Ranjan

      Yacko, Great ideas and suggestions. Yes we are working on something similar which will be released on v2 of the site where we suggest healthy substitutions for ingredients in a recipe or meals. Quantification of difference will help individual in making the right choices.
      As far as comparing two junk foods is considered, any progress in the right direction is good. Even the long journeys start with small steps. We all know that Spinach is healthier than burger, but very few are willing to eat spinach in place of burger all the time. But many may be willing to trade up to a healthier burger with similar taste. We are trying to make the nutrition science easier and provide right information to people, we motivate people to eat healthier, but ultimately the quantum of change will depend on the individual.

  21. Vivekanand

    I hear you! but did you notice California Avocados have been given a rank of 92… extremely good rank! isn’t it. And according to them higher the rank better the food. It is as simple as that…

  22. Oh, I missed the best part (at the end of the write-up) about California Raw Avocados: “Given the overall nutritive quality of California Raw Avocados, it can be considered an an undesirable presence in your kitchen, that can be avoided.”

  23. How can you trust a site, which says the following for Raw California Avocados: “The high fat content of this product makes it unsuitable to be eaten when trying to lose weight.” The only macroelements increasing the weight (i.e. the fat as weight can be increased by adding lean mass) is the carbohydrates.

    • Reshma_sathe

      Hey Nikolay Kolev
      Even i had a similar concept before getting proper Nutritional advice from my trusted Dietitian… I had avoided all high fat and high carb foods for long but always struggled with my weight, but my dietitian told me that several of these high fat foods (avocados included) had some special types of fat which was actually good for your health and even helped lose weight. She in fact insisted on me including it my diet. And LO! i have reached my weight goals finally…
      the reason y i thot of trusting this site is becoz the higher rank to avocado proves that the makers know what they are doing and not just copy pasting some other site’s data!

      • Ranking individual foods in general is flawed. If you only eat highly ranked foods, you will still have deficiency. Also, too much of the good stuff could be bad, too. A meal plan can be ranked, not individual foods and nutrients.

  24. Radzie

    Incredible! Especially for the fact that the site, apart from giving the nutritional info of our favorite dishes, will also let us compare information of various foods.