Monday, July 28, 2014

Comparing Nutrient Density using the USDA Nutrient Database

In an earlier blog post I compared food groups using the NUTTAB nutrient database.  This time I’m going to do the same using the USDA nutrient database.  As usual, the group medians for micronutrients and LCO3 is the amount of a given nutrient in 2000 calories of food divided by the RDI.  This table is arranged by nutrient density (left = most, right = least).  I omitted things like restaurant foods, fast food, snack food and fats and oils as this is a comparison between whole foods

One of the problems of comparing food groups this way is that NUTTAB and the USDA ND group many types of food in the same category.  This is quite evident in the USDA ND as many of their groups are groups of food products.  So the worse whole food groups may simply have their nutrients more diluted by additives.  Finally, I did the same thing, this time using my old nutrient database which only includes some whole (and raw) foods from the USDA ND

While none of these are perfect measures, the rankings are pretty consistent between all three measures (see below) (also see the NUTTAB comparison).  My main internal debate is whether to make a new tier for nuts and put fruit, whole grains and seeds in tier 5 

Tier 1
Offal, shellfish, non-starchy vegetables, immature legumes
Tier 2
Tier 3
Meats and fish, mature legumes
Tier 4
Dairy, fruit, whole grains, seeds
Tier 5

* In NUTTAB and the USDA ND, the dairy, fruit and grains groups are most likely to be an underestimate as these groups seem to have more processed items (for example: butter, cream, yoghurt and milk with added sugar, refined grains, grain products, fruit juice)

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