An example: USDA Food composition databases
How to use the USDA Food Composition Database
In the previous step, we described the opportunity of using web databases to look for the nutrient content of specific foods, and superfoods, and therefore being able to compare different foods.
The USDA Food Composition Database - Standard Reference contains almost 8000 foods, including raw, processed and prepared items, while the Branded Food Product Database contains almost 240000 branded foods, whose nutritional data has been submitted by the manufacturers.
The database can be accessed here, and its use is intuitive - the main distinction to make is between the two databases that the site offers.
If we are interested in knowing the nutritional content of, for instance, 100 grams of walnuts, we should select the Standard Reference Database from the drop-down menu:
Vice versa, if we are interested in a branded product sold on the US market we should select the Branded Food Products database.
Once we click on the desired food
we are presented with the nutrient content of the food we are interested in. The data can be consulted on screen or saved in PDF format - however, it must be noticed that there are two options for the nutrient report.
The basic report (the first page we obtain when we click on a food), contains the data relative to the most common information (macronutrients, main micronutrients, saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), while the full report contains, where available, additional data.
This data can include the content of specific amino acids and sugar, as well as flavonoids and isoflavonoids.
While the full report is undeniably one of the most complete sources of nutrient composition, comparing foods on the basis of tens of parameters can be a daunting task.
We, therefore, suggest using the basic report at first, and to carry out the activity suggested in this week discussion. Should you prefer to use another database, you can look at the resources suggested in the previous step, under the “see also” section, or suggest to us and to your fellow learners other resources.