The USDA database for nutritional information is one of the most comprehensive tools online that evaluates the nutritional value of food. This is a helpful tool for anyone looking to find information about virtually any food out there.
Downloading USDA Database Nutritional Information Tool
The software tool can be downloaded from the USDA website for free and is available for use on Windows and PDAs. You simply download and install the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference software by following the download instructions on your computer.
Searching For Nutritional Information
When you open the software, there will be an introductory screen that will open into a search screen with three open fields. Here you can type up to five words, describing the food you are looking for in the “Enter Search Term” box. Click “Find” and you will be given all the results for the item you are searching for.
Depending on how broad of a term you searched for, you will be given many results. You can then use the “Select a Food Group to Limit Search” field to help narrow down your choices. Alternatively, you can not select a food group and have the tool show you all the foods available if you want to browse through the foods.
Once you find a particular food that you are looking for, you can highlight your selection in the “Select a Food Item Field.” Then click on the “Nutrients” button to view your final results.
From there the “Food Nutrient Report” will pop up in a separate window with all the nutritional information for the food you have selected. In the top field you can select a measure of the food item, with the default being in grams. You can also change the serving sizes available in the same “Select a Measure” field.
Once you have selected a measure, you can also change the exact size in the “Modify the Amount” field, making adjustments for partial or multiple servings.
Interpreting the Results
Once you select your serving size, the program will adjust the results in the large field at the bottom of the screen. There is a lot of information included, such as the amount of water, calories, carbohydrates, fat, protein, minerals, vitamins, essential fatty acids, amino acids, and phytonutrients.
Calories are listed under Energy and are written using the unit of kcal, which is equal to one calorie. Some other designations for additional items in food include:
- Omega-6 essential fatty acids are found in “Fatty acids – total polyunsaturated,” with “18:2 undifferentiated” being linoleic acid and “20:4 undifferentiated” being arachidonic acid.
- Omega-3 essential fatty acids are also in the “Fatty acids – total polyunsaturated” category and are designated “18:3 undifferentiated” to linoleic acid.
- Oleic acid found in olive oil is designated “18:1” under the monounsaturated category.
Using this tool is a very simple and effective way to really understand what you are eating (and all the components that make it up). Use it to evaluate your diet and help you eat healthily going forward.