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 just input the name of the food:

usda dropdown

In the result page, we can select the database: we can choose the Standard Reference compiled by the USDA, but if we are interested in a branded product sold on the US market we should select the Branded Food Products Database.

usda results

Once we click on the desired food we are presented with the nutrient content of the food we are interested in,

usda composition

as well as other information, such as the weight of common measures of volume and/or the scientific name of the plant, if applicable.

The data report contains the most common information (macronutrients, main micronutrients, saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), but scrolling down the page additional data can be found - for instance, the content of specific amino acids and fats, as well as flavonoids and isoflavonoids.

While the complete 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 focusing on the initial rows and on the nutrients that are more familiar to you, and to carry out the activity suggested in this week’s 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.

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This article is from the free online course:

Superfoods: Myths and Truths

EIT Food