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Nutritional content databases

In this video we continue the topic of superfood substitutions and describe how to find the nutritional content of foods and superfoods alike.
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-Hello and welcome to the lecture on food composition. How can I know how much magnesium a specific food contains? How can I learn if superfoods are really superior to other foods in that respect? Nutritional labels do carry such information as they carry information about the daily requirements. Many foods and many superfoods are sold as fresh produce. To discover their characteristics we should use another strategy. Agency in most countries keep databases of food composition. In the UK, for instance, we can find that Composition of Foods Integrated Dataset, CoFID. In the USA, there are the USDA food composition databases. In Italy, we’ve got the food composition tables by the Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca per gli Alimenti e la Nutrizione.
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Other countries might have their own. It could be useful to use local databases if available as they reflect the specific characteristics of the food produced in that country. If I try to search for magnesium rich nutrients in the INRAN database I will quickly found almonds, cashews and peanuts. Should I try another database such as the USDA one I would still find cashews and almonds but also other foods richer in magnesium and not very common in Italy such as soy flower. What about labels and nutrition data computed by the food producers? The regulation and the allowed margin of error can vary from country to country.
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For simplicity, we will refer to national data sets but this does not imply that other sources are automatically incorrect. Does this mean that we need to check the nutrient content lists every time we shop or cook? That risks taking away very important aspects of food and eating such as joy conviviality and creativity. We could wonder what’s the average nutritional content in some asparaguses bought at the market or in some liver or some superfood that we’re trying for the first time. In all these cases, official sources can provide us the answer we seek often adding an explanation about how these measures were taken. We didn’t mention commercial websites or software. Many of them use official databases as sources.
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A trusted website could be as good as a research done from scratch. I hope this lecture was interesting and that we have given you a list of resources you can use to independently evaluate the nutritional content of foods and of superfood. In the next step, we will ask you to find some super characteristics in traditional foods from your region. We will also ask you to discuss with us the way they’re used. It is an interesting opportunity for all of us to discover new foods and why not super recipes. We hope to see you there.

How can we find new alternatives to superfoods?

In the last video we mentioned a few alternatives to superfoods, but these are by no means the only possible substitutions. To prepare for this week’s discussion and proposed exercise, this video discusses some sources of nutritional information (you will be able to find the link to the databases under the “see also” section). While in the next step we will use the USDA database as an example, we encourage you to try data coming from your own country, as they could be both easier to use and more representative of the foods grown locally.

The data collected in these databases can help us not only in finding alternatives to superfoods, but is also proof of the fact that “superfood” is just a label.

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Superfoods: Myths and Truths

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