2023 3M Truth in Science Award, Large Newsroom finalist

Science-based nutrition and personal health coverage

About the Project

Answering the simple question of what to eat every day is one of the most important health decisions consumers make. Yet the nutrition field is rife with misinformation, industry-sponsored research and conflicting advice. Meanwhile, the food industry continues to manipulate the food supply, making foods sweeter, more palatable, more processed — and more detrimental to our health — than ever before.

Reporter Anahad O’Connor has dedicated his career to explaining nutrition science in a way that helps consumers make informed, science-based decisions. His reporting is focused on the health effects of ultra-processed foods and how to help readers sort through various health claims.

The story “What are ultra-processed foods? What should I eat instead?” remains one of the most-read nutrition stories at The Washington Post. Every year, food companies introduce thousands of ultra-processed foods that deliver potent combinations of fat, sweeteners and artificial flavors. These hyper-palatable foods are irresistible, and they hijack the brain’s reward system, provoking powerful cravings. To emphasize the disconnect between ultra-processed foods and more natural foods, our photo editors juxtaposed highly processed foods and beverages with natural settings, and our recipes team offered home-made versions of popular processed foods.

Next, O’Connor teamed up with visual journalists Aaron Steckelberg and Garland Potts to address popular myths around the world’s two most popular beverages: coffee and tea. The result both surprised and delighted readers, as O’Connor’s detailed science reporting on the purported and actual risks and benefits of each beverage paired with Steckelberg’s whimsical representation of a tea leaf and coffee bean in battle. The result was an easy-to-read and informative article that was widely shared and discussed.

As consumers become increasingly aware of the perils of eating too much sugar, the food industry is responding by sneaking artificial sweeteners into virtually every type of processed food we eat. O’Connor, Steckelberg and business writer Laura Reiley partnered to tell the story of how fake sweeteners are showing up in more and more foods and to highlight the growing evidence that these sweeteners are not inert, harmless substances but widely used ingredients associated with many health concerns.