Frequently Asked Questions

Diet and Disease

When you have high cholesterol, your healthcare provider may recommend that you follow a diet that helps lower your cholesterol. FNIC cannot provide individualized medical nutrition advice, but has general resources devoted to cholesterol at Diet and Disease > Heart Health.

These resources provide general information and do not take the place of consultation with your healthcare providers, including an RD. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics can help you locate an RD with Find a Registered Dietitian.

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When taking Coumadin (Warfarin), your healthcare providers may recommend that you closely monitor the amount of Vitamin K that you consume. FNIC cannot provide individualized medical nutrition advice, but has general resources devoted to Vitamin K at Food Composition > Vitamins and Minerals > Vitamin K. In particular, you may want to look at Vitamin K: Interactions with Coumadin (PDF | 39 KB).

Also, find a report for foods containing Vitamin K from the USDA NDL at Food Compostion > USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory > Reports by Single Nutrients. The single nutrient reports are provided in two formats:

  1. Sorted alphabetically by Food Description (select A)
  2. Sorted (high to low) by Content Per Common Measure (select W)

These resources provide general information and do not take the place of consultation with your healthcare providers, including an RD. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics can help you locate an RD with Find a Registered Dietitian.

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With kidney disease, you may need to closely monitor the amounts of protein, sodium, phosphorus, calcium, potassium and fluid that you consume. FNIC cannot provide individualized medical nutrition advice, but has general resources devoted to kidney health at Diet and Disease > Digestive Diseases and Disorders > Kidney.

It is important to speak with your healthcare provider or an RD to find out the best approach for you, as diet recommendations may vary from person to person with kidney disease. RDs are health professionals who are trained to provide counseling on nutrition and eating habits. They can provide personalized dietary advice, taking into consideration your health status, lifestyle and food preferences. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics can help you locate an RD who specializes in your health condition with Find a Registered Dietitian.

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Foods high in purines include anchovies, mackerel, mussels, sardines, scallops and broth. Foods moderate in purines include meat, poultry, fish and shellfish (except specific high-purine foods), asparagus, dried beans, lentils, mushrooms, dried peas and spinach. High-purine foods contain 100 to 1,000 mg of purine nitrogen per 100 g of food, and moderate-purine foods contain 9 to 100 mg of purine nitrogen per 100 g of food.

Foods with negligible purine content include white bread, butter or margarine, cake and cookies, cheese, coffee, eggs, puddings, popcorn, pickles, olives, rice, chocolate and carbonated beverages, according to Krause’s Food, Nutrition & Diet Therapy.

These resources provide more information about gout and purine content:

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Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become fragile and can break easily. Even though it is most often associated with women, men can also develop osteoporosis. In fact, estimates based on data from the CDC indicate that by 2020, 3.3 million men will have osteoporosis. For osteoporosis resources from FNIC, go to Diet and Disease > Osteoporosis.

NIH provides more information on osteoporosis and its prevention:

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You can find information about a diabetic diet on FNIC's General Diabetes Information and Resources and Carbohydrate Counting and Exchange Lists. Also, the NIH offers many resources from the NDEP.

In particular, you may want to look at the bilingual Tasty Recipes for People with Diabetes and Their Families, which provides meal planning tips, recipes and other practical information. These resources provide general information and do not take the place of consultation with your healthcare providers, including an RD.

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We cannot provide individualized medical nutrition advice. However, FNIC provides a variety of general information about Diet and Disease and an extensive list of resources for professionals and consumers at Topics A-Z.

We recommend you talk with your healthcare provider about referring you to an RD. An RD can provide personalized dietary advice, taking into consideration your health status, medical conditions, lifestyle and food preferences. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics can help you locate an RD who specializes in your health condition with Find a Registered Dietitian.

Also, check with your local health department, hospitals, clinics and Cooperative Extension for informational classes on weight loss and other nutrition topics.

You may find some useful nutrition information on the web. However, websites do not take the place of personalized advice from a qualified healthcare provider, and may have inaccurate or misleading information.

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Dietary Guidance

FNIC has a variety of information regarding sugar and sweeteners at Food Composition > Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners.

A table from What We Eat in America (PDF | 62KB) by NHANES shows the mean daily intake per individual of total sugars, including all sugars in foods and beverages, reported from 2009-2010.

In addition, Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook (PDF | 1.30MB) from the USDA's ERS shows useful pie charts and graphs that illustrate the average daily per capita calories from sugar and sweeteners from 1985 until 2010. In particular, see pages 11-12. For example, Figure E shows that the average daily intake of added sugar and sweeteners in the U.S. in 2010 was 379 calories, or 15% of the daily calories consumed.

The DRIs are set by the IOM's FNB and can be accessed from FNIC's DRI Reports. The DRIs are a common set of reference values for a healthy population based on the relationships between nutrient intakes and health or the prevention of disease. DRI is a generic term for a set of nutrient reference values that include the EAR, the RDA, the AI and the UL.

  • The EAR is the average daily nutrient intake level estimated to meet the requirement of half the healthy individuals in a particular life stage and gender group. In the case of energy, an EER is provided. The EER is the average dietary energy intake that is predicted to maintain energy balance in a healthy adult of a defined age, gender, weight, height and level of physical activity consistent with good health.
  • The RDA is the average daily dietary nutrient intake level sufficient to meet the nutrient requirement of nearly all (97 to 98 percent) healthy individuals in a particular life stage and gender group. The process for setting the RDA depends on being able to set an EAR and estimating the variance of the requirement itself. Note that if an EAR cannot be set due to limitations of the data available, no RDA will be set.
  • The AI is used when an RDA cannot be determined. The AI amount is a recommended average daily intake level based on observed or experimentally determined estimates of nutrient intake by apparently healthy people. There is much less certainty about an AI value than about an RDA value.
  • The UL is the highest level of daily nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse effects for almost all people. As intake increases above the UL, the potential risk of adverse effects may increase.
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The IOM has established an AI for omega-3 and omega-6, but has not established a recommendation for omega-9 fatty acids because they are made in the body and not required in the diet. Go to Food Composition > Macronutrients > Fats and Cholesterol for the DRI tables and more information about fats and fatty acids.

These resources provide more information about omega-3 and omega-6 fats:

See also "Where can I find how much omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are in different foods?" under the Food Composition section of the Frequently Asked Questions.

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Individual water requirements vary from person to person, and can depend on many factors such as activity level and environment. Most healthy people need to make sure they are drinking enough water, but drinking too much water is usually not an issue.

The IOM has not established a UL for water. The UL is the maximum amount of a nutrient one can likely consume without adverse effects. Each day water losses are balanced with water intake, and a healthy body has a sophisticated system that works to maintain water balance, so excess water is removed from the body through one’s urine.

See Resources for > Consumers > Eating for Health > Water and Fluid Needs for more information. The FNIC also provides a link to DRI Tables, where you can read more about the function, and sources of water, as well as adverse effects of excessive consumption and special considerations for water intake. Go to Dietary Guidance > Dietary Reference Intakes > DRI Tables. Scroll down to see Dietary Reference Intakes: Electrolytes and Water, and then find water under the Nutrient column.

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Tofu is a plant-based source of protein that is cholesterol-free, low in saturated fat and high in polyunsaturated fats. Tofu, which is also known as soybean curds, is highly versatile, and can have many uses in home cooking. Tofu is especially useful if you cannot eat dairy, or avoid animal products like meat or chicken. With proper meal planning, tofu can be part of a healthful diet for most children and adults.

To read more, go to Food Composition > Food FYI > Soy. In addition, the USDA’s NDL provides the nutrient information for a variety of tofu products.

Meat is one of several food sources of protein and is a good source of vitamins and minerals, such as B12 and iron. Meat can be part of a healthy diet, but it is not necessary for everyone. Other sources of protein include eggs, dairy, nuts, beans and fish. Proteins function as building blocks for body tissues, and adequate intake of protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass.

FNIC’s Dietary Guidance includes more information about the components of a healthy diet. Here you can find links to general nutrition and health information, as well as the USDA’s MyPlate resources. In particular, the MyPlate Food Groups illustrates the five food groups that make up a healthy diet.

In addition, if you would like to learn about meats and the environment, check out FNIC’s Eating Green. In particular, Sustainable Table discusses a variety of issues related to sustainable agriculture, including how farms can raise healthy animals using practices that benefit the environment and help local economies.

There is insufficient evidence to recommend or not recommend the use of multivitamin/mineral supplements for the prevention of chronic diseases for healthy Americans. Aim to get all the vitamins and minerals you need by eating nutrient-dense forms of foods, while balancing calorie intake with energy expenditure. Nutrient-dense foods contain essential vitamins and minerals, fiber and other naturally occurring substances that may have health benefits.

For more information, see FNIC's Dietary Guidance and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Nutrition experts have developed the:

  • Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide advice for healthy Americans ages two years and older about food choices that promote health and prevent chronic diseases.
  • ChooseMyPlate, which helps you choose the foods and amounts that are right for you.
  • MyPlate For Kids, which provides health and nutrition information for children over age five.
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Digestion begins in the mouth, when we chew and swallow, and is completed in the small intestine. Digestion involves the mixing of food, its movement through the digestive tract, and the breakdown of food into smaller molecules. The digestive process varies for different kinds of food. Go to FNIC's Diet and Disease > Digestive Diseases and Disorders for more information about the process of digestion.

Also, see NDDIC's Your Digestive System and How It Works, which explains how food is digested and why digestion is important. This resource is also available in Spanish.

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The fiber in foods is generally broken down into two broad types—soluble (also called viscous) and insoluble. Both types have important health effects. For more information about dietary fibers, go to Consumers > Eating for Health > Fiber.

According to the DRIs, the recommended intake for total fiber for adults up to 50 years of age is 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. For those over 50, the recommended intake is 21 grams per day for women and 30 grams per day for men. See the DRI Macronutrient Table.

These resources provide more information about the types of fiber, their functions in the body and food sources:

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The FNB defines the UL as the highest level of daily nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects to almost all individuals in the general population. This level is different for each nutrient. To view the UL for Vitamins and Elements (also referred to as minerals or electrolytes), please visit the tables from the FNB.

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From 1941 to 1989, the IOM's FNB released the RDAs. The RDAs are a single set of nutrient-specific values. During deliberations in the mid-1990s, the FNB decided to replace this single set of values with multiple sets of values, including the EAR, RDA, AI and UL for designated age groups, physiologic states (for example, pregnancy), and by sex. These values are collectively referred to as the DRIs. To view the DRI tables, click the appropriate link below:

    Macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fat, cholesterol and energy) (PDF | 107KB)

Visit FNIC to access the DRI reports.

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The number of servings you need each day from each food group depends on your calorie needs. To determine your calorie needs and find the number of servings that is right for you, visit the MyPlate Daily Food Plan.

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RDs are health professionals who are trained to provide counseling on nutrition and eating habits. An RD can provide personalized dietary advice, taking into consideration your health status, lifestyle and food preferences. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics can help you locate an RD with Find a Registered Dietitian.

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The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans will serve as the current dietary guidance through 2015. See FNIC's Dietary Guidance resources or read the complete Policy Document (PDF | 2.90MB). In addition, see the Selected Messages for Consumers (PDF | 165KB), Executive Summary (PDF | 227KB) and more from the CNPP.

For more information, see Questions and Answers (PDF | 357KB) about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

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A healthy eating pattern is one that provides enough of each essential nutrient from nutrient-dense foods, contains a variety of foods from all of the basic food groups, and focuses on balancing calories consumed with calories expended to help you achieve and sustain a healthy weight. This eating pattern limits intake of solid fats, sugar, salt (sodium) and alcohol.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans consumer pamphlet, Let's Eat For the Health of It (PDF | 968KB), provides guidance for creating a healthy eating pattern to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis. Go to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for more information.

Yes. The MyPlate food guidance system replaced MyPyramid. MyPlate focuses on portion control and using the food groups to create a balanced diet.

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Dietary Supplements

The USDA does not “certify” or approve supplements or medical foods. The FDA has primary responsibility for claims on product labeling, including packaging, inserts and other promotional materials distributed at the point of sale. For more information, go to FNIC’s Dietary Supplements.

These resources provide more information about dietary supplements:

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There is insufficient evidence to recommend or not recommend the use of multivitamin/mineral supplements for the prevention of chronic diseases for healthy Americans. Aim to get all the vitamins and minerals you need by eating nutrient-dense forms of foods, while balancing calorie intake with energy expenditure. Nutrient-dense foods contain essential vitamins and minerals, fiber and other naturally occurring substances that may have health benefits.

For more information, see FNIC's Dietary Guidance and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

These resources provide information about herbal supplements:

  • Herbal Medicine by MedlinePlus provides background information and links to recent news related to herbal supplements.
  • The PubMed Dietary Supplement Subset serves as a source of technical information on the vast array of dietary supplements and related topics.

These resources provide information about alternative medicine:

  • The NCCAM provides information on complementary and alternative medicine to healthcare providers and consumers.
  • The NCCAM Clearinghouse serves as an information service intended to enhance understanding about complementary and alternative medicine research.
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We advise that you discuss dietary supplements and alternative medicines with your healthcare provider. However, we recommend these resources for general information about dietary supplements.

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FNIC Services

We do not loan material from the NAL collection to individuals who are not USDA employees. We can loan items to your local public library, but the request for the loan has to come from them.

To obtain loans or copies of materials from the NAL collection, submit a request through the interlibrary loan service of your local library. NAL accepts interlibrary loan requests from all types of libraries including academic, corporate, government, public and school libraries. Information for libraries on NAL’s document delivery service and placing requests is available at Request Library Materials.

Note that NAL charges for interlibrary loan requests. See our User Fee Policy for complete fee information. Libraries may choose to pass these fees on to individual requesters at their discretion.

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E-mail us using our Ask a Question form or call 301-504-5414 to talk to a Nutrition Information Specialist (Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.). You can also send a fax to 301-504-6409, or mail comments to the following address:

Food and Nutrition Information Center
National Agricultural Library
10301 Baltimore Avenue, Room 108
Beltsville, MD 20705

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The FNIC is located at the NAL in Beltsville, MD near the intersection of U.S. Route 1 and Interstate Route 95/495 (Beltway Exit 25-North), 15 miles Northeast of Washington, DC. See a Google Map for our location.

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Check out our Topics A-Z or try our FNIC Custom Search Engine, which will search for information from other relevant and credible sources that have been specially selected.

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Food Allergies and Intolerances

A consumer resource from the FDA, Food Allergies: What You Need to Know, lists the foods that most commonly cause allergies as milk, eggs, fish, crab, lobster, shrimp, almonds and other tree nuts, and peanuts. Peanuts are one of the chief foods responsible for severe anaphylaxis.

Children will typically outgrow their allergies to milk, egg, soy and wheat, but will not typically outgrow their allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shrimp. In contrast, adults will not typically outgrow any of their allergies.

For more information, see the resources at FNIC's Allergies and Food Sensitivities.

The NIAID provides Food Allergy: An Overview (PDF | 5.6 MB), which discusses the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance. In addition, it explains that individuals who suspect they have food allergies should have them identified by a healthcare provider because unidentified food allergies can potentially cause serious reactions.

For more information, see the resources at FNIC's Allergies and Food Sensitivities.

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, which went into effect in January 2006, requires that food labels identify in plain English if the product contains any of the eight major food allergens: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and soybeans.

Food Composition

The USDA NDL has removed the USDA Database for the Added Sugars Content of Selected Foods from the NDL website. This is due to constant changes in formulations for commercial, multi-ingredient foods, the primary contributor of added sugars to the diet. NDL is not recalculating added and intrinsic sugars at this time, in part, because brand name market shares and ingredients are changed so rapidly that these estimates are more a temporary cross-section in time than fixed values. No method can analyze for added sugars so their amounts must be extrapolated or supplied by food companies, many of which are not willing to make public such proprietary information. The Agricultural Research Service provides additional information about this decision.

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Fatty acids are listed in the Nutrient Data Laboratory (NDL) database by their molecular name, such as 18:4 or 16:0. The most common omega-3 fatty acids are linolenic (18:3), EPA (20:5), DHA (22:6). The most common omega-6 fatty acids are linoleic (18:2) and arachidonic (20:4). In order to see the content of omega- 3 and omega- 6 fatty acids:

    • Click on “Full Report (All Nutrients)” at the top of the screen, underneath the name of the food.
    • Scroll down to the next to last header on the page and click on the green button with a white plus mark next to “Lipids”. A list of common fatty acids will appear. As noted above:
        • Common Omega-3 fatty acids are: linolenic (18:3), EPA (20:5), DHA (22:6)
        • Common Omega-6 fatty acids are: linoleic (18:2) and arachidonic (20:4)
    • A more detailed listing of the scientific, molecular names and common names is available online at the Fatty Acid Index page of the Lipomics Technologies Web site.
    • Add the amounts of all Omega 3 fatty acids to get a total amount for Omega 3s. Add up the amounts of all Omega 6 fatty acids to get a total amount for Omega 6s.

Please be aware and of the serving sizes listed for each food (i.e. 100 grams of coconut oil, 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil, etc.). You may need to adjust these values in order to accurately reflect how much of a certain fatty acid is in a particular portion of food.

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The FDA's Total Diet Study results include nickel content of a nationwide sampling of about 300 food items. FDA provides tab-delimited summary files on its website.

In addition, the Mayo Clinic has information on Nickel Allergy, which briefly mentions diet under the Causes section. Diet is also mentioned toward the bottom of the NSC's Nickel Allergy, from the government of Singapore.

You may also try searching PubMed for research on nickel allergy and the nickel content of foods.

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According to FDA regulations, labeling potassium content on the Nutrition Facts Panel of food products is voluntary for manufacturers. The USDA provides a list of the potassium content of selected foods per common measure. After clicking on the link, go to USDA Nutrient Lists - Reports by Single Nutrients, and then either the A or the W next to potassium to see the list sorted alphabetically or by nutrient content, respectively.

For more information on the nutrient content of a specific food or to find the potassium content of foods not listed in the chart, search the USDA food composition database.

From the search page:

  1. Enter the food as a keyword (e.g., "strawberries") and click submit.
  2. On the resulting page, click the button next to the description of the food you want information on or that is most similar to your food (e.g., "strawberries, raw") and click submit.
  3. On the resulting page, select the serving size(s) (e.g., "1 cup, halves") and click submit. Note: 100 grams is usually automatically selected, but you can un-check it to select only the serving sizes you are interested in.
  4. Once you click submit, the nutrient content quantities in the food you’ve chosen will be listed.

Finally, food labeling regulations are governed by the FDA. The FDA is evaluating the Nutrition Facts Panel to determine ways to help consumers make smart choices about their diet. Consumers may submit comments regarding labeling directly to the FDA. A general contact phone number for the FDA is 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332). You can also contact the FDA via e-mail at ConsumerInfo@fda.hhs.gov or via mail at:

Consumer Health Information Staff
HFI-40
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857

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Information about nutrients can be found at Vitamins and Minerals. Also, find reports on foods containing common nutrients from the USDA NDL at Food Composition > USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory > Reports by Single Nutrients.

The single nutrient reports are provided in 2 formats:

  1. Sorted alphabetically by Food Description (select A)
  2. Sorted (high to low) by Content Per Common Measure (select W)

For more information on select nutrients, including many vitamins and minerals, see Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets provided by the NIH ODS. In addition, the Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center provides vitamin and mineral fact sheets.

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The USDA's NDL offers the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, which is an online, searchable database of food composition where anyone with internet access can look up the calorie and nutrient content of foods. If you want to look up food composition without being connected to the internet, you can download a version to your Windows PC.

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The trans fat content of a food item can be found by searching for the food item in the USDA's National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference and viewing the Full Report. Please note that the trans fat content is provided only if the food item contains trans fat.

  • To view the Full Report, you will follow the steps required to access the Basic Report, which is displayed when you search for a food item.
  • To search for a food item, enter the food item, click Go, and select the specific food item of interest.
  • On the page that is displayed, you will see Basic Report at the top, then Nutrient data for … (the food item for which you searched), then a line that offers 3 options:
    1. Return to Search Results
    2. Full Report
    3. Statistics Report
  • Click Full Report. On the page that is displayed, scroll down the the Lipids section. The trans fat content of the food item can be found in the row titled Fatty acids, total trans.

A resource from the FDA, Trans Fat Now Listed with Saturated Fat and Cholesterol on the Nutrition Facts Label, discusses trans fats and explains how you can identify which foods contain them. This resource is also available in Spanish.

Additionally, fatty acid totals are discussed on page 23 of the USDA National Nutrient Database for SR25 Documentation (PDF | 420KB).

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For an extensive list of foods along with their calcium content, see Calcium Content of Selected Foods (PDF | 133KB). If you would like to look up the calcium content of a specific food, you can also use USDA's online searchable database of food composition, the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, which has the nutrient content (including calcium, other minerals, vitamins, protein, fat and carbohydrate) of nearly 8,000 foods.

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The "calorie" we refer to in food is actually kilocalorie. One (1) kilocalorie is the same as one (1) Calorie (uppercase C). A kilocalorie is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water one degree Celsius. Visit USDA's NDL for additional information.

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Visit Food Composition for more information. Also, the USDA's NDL has an online searchable database of food composition, the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, which has the nutrient content of nearly 8,000 foods.

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Food Labeling

See FNIC's Food Labeling > Organic Foods for a variety of resources on organic food labeling.

The NOP also provides information for consumers on organic labeling and explains the difference between organic and non-organic food products.

The FSIS is the agency responsible for ensuring the truthfulness and accuracy in labeling of meat and poultry products. Visit the FSIS to find the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, where you can get information on preparation and product labeling. The number for the Meat and Poultry Hotline is 1-888-MPHotline.

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The Federal government provides regulations for food product and nutrition labeling which you, as the producer or manufacturer, are responsible for adhering to. The FDA of the DHHS is the Federal agency responsible for the majority of food products and their labeling. The USDA is responsible for fresh meat, poultry and eggs.

Neither department provides nutrient analysis or creates the Nutrition Facts label for a product. As the producer or manufacturer, you may select any company or entity to do your analysis and create your Nutrition Facts label, provided they follow the Federal regulations.

You may also first want to check the Small Business Nutrition Labeling Exemption. The FDA provides food labeling guidance for food producers and manufacturers, including the Food Labeling Guide. Also available is Guidance for Industry: Nutrition Labeling Manual - A Guide for Developing and Using Data Bases.

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Go to the USDA's AMS National Organic Program Office, where you will find links to information on locating certifiers, labeling organic products, allowed and prohibited substances, and more.

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Current Federal regulations do not require restaurants to provide nutrition information unless they are making health or nutrient-content claims about food or menu items (e.g., “low fat” or “low sodium”) on menus, signs or placards. When such claims are made, nutrient information must be available upon request. Many restaurants provide nutrition information voluntarily for all items, but not all of them do.

For more information, visit FDA's Questions and Answers on the New Menu and Vending Machines Nutrition Labeling Requirements. If you have additional questions, you may want to contact the CFSAN, the division of the FDA that regulates labeling.

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The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, which went into effect in January 2006, requires that food labels identify in plain English if the product contains any of the eight major food allergens: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and soybeans.

Food Safety

Discard any food left out at room temperature for more than two hours. If any food is left out at a temperature above 90 degrees F, discard after one hour.

Make sure to place food in shallow containers that you put immediately in the refrigerator or freezer for rapid cooling. Use most cooked leftovers within three to four days, but see the Cold Storage Chart of Keep Food Safe! Food Safety Basics (PDF | 449 KB) for more information.

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Remember four important points:

  1. Wash your hands frequently.
  2. Cook to proper temperatures.
  3. Refrigerate foods promptly.
  4. Avoid cross contamination.

These resources provide more information about food safety:

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Government Programs

Our Grant Information provides links to agencies and organizations providing grants, as well as resources for grant writing. Scroll down to view various grants by title, or search using the Filter option. For example, next to Emphasis Area, you can select Food, Nutrition & Health from the drop-down box. Specifically, NIFA Funding Opportunities provides information about available or anticipated grants.

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USDA Child Nutrition Programs, such as the National School Lunch Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program, are administered by the USDA's FNS. Although Federal guidelines are in place, the programs are administered at the State level and therefore regulations vary from state to state.

Contact your State FNS Agency for more information.

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Health and Wellness Events

For reliable, vetted nutrition information, start your research at FNIC. As a leader in online global nutrition information, FNIC provides a wealth of credible information and resources pertaining to food and nutrition.

However, we are unable to provide speakers for events or grant interviews for student assignments, including research papers. Instead, we recommend that you contact a health professional in your area, such as an RD. RDs are health professionals who are trained to provide counseling on nutrition and eating habits, and may also be available to speak about food and nutrition-related issues. These are some suggestions for locating a local RD or nutrition and health professional to speak at your event or to participate in an interview:

  • Check with your local dietetic association for RDs in your area. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics can help you find your local dietetic association.
  • Local colleges or universities with nutrition programs may have professors, students or interns willing to speak to your group. A local hospital may also be of help, as they employ clinical, outpatient and community health educator RDs.
  • Another possible source is a local Cooperative Extension service. The Cooperative Extension System can help you locate an office near you.
  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers the Find a Registered Dietitian website, which allows you to search for RDs by zip code. Generally these are for paid consultations, but it might be worth a try to ask individuals on the list.

Check out our Resource List, Sources of Free and Low Cost Nutrition Education Materials. Certain MyPlate materials are available for free download on the ChooseMyPlate website, or from the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) website. For schools and child care centers that participate in the Federal Child Nutrition Programs, free materials can be ordered through the Team Nutrition website. Other materials, which are not free, can be ordered in bulk by visiting the Government Printing Office or The Education Store from Purdue University's Cooperative Extension.

Meal Planning, Shopping and Cooking

See FNIC's Food Labeling > Organic Foods for a variety of resources on organic food labeling.

The NOP also provides information for consumers on organic labeling and explains the difference between organic and non-organic food products.

The hydrogenation process that results in the formation of trans fatty acids is a drastic procedure involving the use of hydrogen, high pressure, a catalyst and sometimes high temperatures. These conditions are more extreme than the heating that takes place in normal cooking. Therefore, it is not likely that the fatty acids in olive oil are converted to trans fatty acids upon heating.

Tofu is a plant-based source of protein that is cholesterol-free, low in saturated fat and high in polyunsaturated fats. Tofu, which is also known as soybean curds, is highly versatile, and can have many uses in home cooking. Tofu is especially useful if you cannot eat dairy, or avoid animal products like meat or chicken. With proper meal planning, tofu can be part of a healthful diet for most children and adults.

To read more, go to Food Composition > Food FYI > Soy. In addition, the USDA’s NDL provides the nutrient information for a variety of tofu products.

Meat is one of several food sources of protein and is a good source of vitamins and minerals, such as B12 and iron. Meat can be part of a healthy diet, but it is not necessary for everyone. Other sources of protein include eggs, dairy, nuts, beans and fish. Proteins function as building blocks for body tissues, and adequate intake of protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass.

FNIC’s Dietary Guidance includes more information about the components of a healthy diet. Here you can find links to general nutrition and health information, as well as the USDA’s MyPlate resources. In particular, the MyPlate Food Groups illustrates the five food groups that make up a healthy diet.

In addition, if you would like to learn about meats and the environment, check out FNIC’s Eating Green. In particular, Sustainable Table discusses a variety of issues related to sustainable agriculture, including how farms can raise healthy animals using practices that benefit the environment and help local economies.

There is insufficient evidence to recommend or not recommend the use of multivitamin/mineral supplements for the prevention of chronic diseases for healthy Americans. Aim to get all the vitamins and minerals you need by eating nutrient-dense forms of foods, while balancing calorie intake with energy expenditure. Nutrient-dense foods contain essential vitamins and minerals, fiber and other naturally occurring substances that may have health benefits.

For more information, see FNIC's Dietary Guidance and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Yes, menus and recipes for people on a budget can be found in Recipes and Tips for Healthy, Thrifty Meals (PDF | 258 KB).

The USDA National Farmers Market Directory offers a Farmers Markets Search tool that can help.

Research

See Nutrition Assistance Programs and Reports and Studies for reports and studies related to Federal nutrition assistance programs conducted by the USDA’s ORA and the ERS.

In particular, check out FNS's Research and Analysis. Here you can read more about the latest report releases, announcements and other postings under What’s New.

In addition, the USDA’s HMRS has a variety of research information regarding child nutrition programs, and adolescent and school health at School Health Reports and Studies.

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Visit FNIC's Evaluating Information Online for tips. Additionally, the NLM's MedlinePlus Guide to Healthy Web Surfing offers suggestions for evaluating the quality of health information on websites.

Finally, the NLM's MedlinePlus Evaluating Internet Health Information Tutorial is a 16-minute presentation that will teach you how to evaluate health information on the internet.

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We cannot help with homework questions, but we can assist with your research. If you have a research question, visit Ask-A-Question.

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Check out our Topics A-Z or try our FNIC Custom Search Engine, which will search for information from other relevant and credible sources that have been specially selected.

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Webmaster

The FNIC staff, including an IT programmer, developed the Interactive DRI for Healthcare Professionals, and secured permission to use the data from the IOM before starting work on this project. FNIC’s credit statement to the IOM is given on the results page.

Because the data is from the IOM and is copyrighted, you will need their permission if you want to use the database for any reason other than personal use. See their Legal Information for more details. You can also contact the IOM.

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Visit our Web Policies and Important Links for a list of NAL's Copyright Statements and Disclaimers. If you have any comments or questions about this information, forward them to Contact Us.

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Potential website links are considered through a review process, and only websites that meet our evaluation criteria are used. They are evaluated for appropriateness by trained nutrition professionals, most of whom are RDs.

We also allow people and organizations to link to the FNIC website, as it is in the public domain. You may link to the FNIC website without prior permission. For more information, see our Web Policies and Important Links.

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Please contact us with any suggestions you have for improvements, as well as descriptions of any other problems (typos, formatting errors and broken links).

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Weight Management

Losing, gaining or staying at the same weight all depend on how many calories you eat and how many calories your body uses over time. If you eat more calories than you use, you will gain weight; conversely, if you eat fewer calories than you use, you will lose weight. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Healthy Weight Gain webpage provides some information and advice on how to gain weight and remain healthy.

Because many Americans are overweight, there are many resources geared toward losing weight. Some of these resources explain the principles of weight balance and can provide guidance for you to gain weight in a healthy manner; you will just need to focus on portion sizes for weight gain, rather than weight loss. One such resource is Aim for a Healthy Weight from the National Institute of Health’s National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. There are many other weight control resources on the Practical, Healthy Weight Control page of the Weight and Obesity section of FNIC.

If you would like personalized advice, or you want to know how many calories or what types of foods are best for you, Registered Dietitians (RD) are health professionals who can physically assess you and your needs. In the United States, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a referral service to registered dietitians. You can find a dietitian in your area by using the Find a Registered Dietitian referral service on their website.

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FNIC has a variety of information regarding sugar and sweeteners at Food Composition > Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners.

A table from What We Eat in America (PDF | 62KB) by NHANES shows the mean daily intake per individual of total sugars, including all sugars in foods and beverages, reported from 2009-2010.

In addition, Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook (PDF | 1.30MB) from the USDA's ERS shows useful pie charts and graphs that illustrate the average daily per capita calories from sugar and sweeteners from 1985 until 2010. In particular, see pages 11-12. For example, Figure E shows that the average daily intake of added sugar and sweeteners in the U.S. in 2010 was 379 calories, or 15% of the daily calories consumed.

The BMI uses height and weight to screen for obesity, overweight, healthy weight or underweight. Measuring BMI is a little different for children and teens than it is for adults because you may or may not still be growing.

If you have specific questions regarding your weight, we recommend contacting a healthcare provider who can help you decide what is healthy for you. For more information, see Lifecycle Nutrition > Adolescence.

Also, check out What’s the Right Weight for my Height?, from MedlinePlus: Teen Health. This site allows to you to read more about BMI, and offers the Child and Teen BMI Calculator specifically for people between the ages of 2 and 20.

After you enter your personal information (gender, birthday, height and weight) into the calculator, you can see your BMI. You can enter your height and weight as either inches and pounds, or centimeters and kilograms, so just make sure you select the method you prefer before calculating. It’s a good idea to discuss the results with your healthcare provider.

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When you are on a diet to reach a healthier weight, physical activity may support your weight loss efforts by helping you achieve an appropriate calorie balance. The CDC's Balancing Calories page can help you find your own calorie balance. In addition, individuals who exercise regularly may be less likely to regain the weight they lost.

These resources provide more information about physical activity:

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You need to burn 3,500 calories more than you take in to lose one pound of weight. This translates into a reduction of 500 calories per day to lose one pound in a week, or a reduction of 1,000 calories per day to lose two pounds in a week. A calorie reduction can be achieved by either eating fewer calories or burning more calories through physical activity. A combination of both is best. See CDC's Balancing Calories to learn more.

Note: It is generally considered safe to lose weight at a rate of one to two pounds per week, but you should check with your healthcare provider or an RD before starting any weight loss program. RDs are health professionals who are trained to provide counseling on nutrition and eating habits. They can provide personalized dietary advice, taking into consideration your health status, lifestyle and food preferences. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics can help you locate an RD who specializes in your health condition with Find a Registered Dietitian .

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The best strategy for losing excess weight and stored body fat combines a plan for behavior change with calorie reduction and increased physical activity. See Interested in Losing Weight? from Nutrition.gov and Weight and Obesity > Practical, Healthy Weight Control for more information.

We all need some body fat, but if stored fat is excessive it may increase risk of diet-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. This is particularly true if excess fat is in the abdominal area. According to the CDC, a BMI of 25 or higher indicates that your weight may be unhealthy. If BMI is 25 or higher, a waist circumference of more than 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women indicates excess abdominal fat. CDC's Assessing Your Weight can help you calculate your BMI and measure your waist circumference.

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Consuming extra calories results in an accumulation of stored body fat and weight gain. This is true whether the excess calories come from protein, fat, carbohydrate or alcohol. See CDC's Balancing Calories for more information about the calorie balance equation.

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The Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourages you to choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages to help achieve recommended nutrient intakes. Foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean proteins can help you get the nutrients you need without excess calories.

You can avoid excess calories by limiting your consumption of foods high in added sugars and solid fats, and alcoholic beverages; these provide calories but are poor sources of essential nutrients. See USDA's MyPlate to learn more about choosing nutrient-dense foods.

Finally, because calorie intake must be balanced with physical activity to control weight, stay active. If you are thinking about being more active, the WIN's Climb These Steps to a Healthier You! offers four steps to help you make healthy habits a part of your daily routine.

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For reliable information, see What You Should Know About Popular Diets. Weight-loss diets have been popular for many years. In fact, many people have followed a weight-loss diet at one time or another. Unfortunately, most results are not permanent and some pose serious health risks. The popular low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet is an example of a strict weight-loss program that may carry potentially serious health risks.

Before you begin any weight-loss program, it is wise to speak to a qualified healthcare provider such as an RD for advice on a program that is right for you. RDs are health professionals who are trained to provide counseling on nutrition and eating habits. They can provide personalized dietary advice, taking into consideration your health status, lifestyle and food preferences. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics can help you locate an RD who specializes in weight management with Find a Registered Dietitian.

You may find some useful information on the web about weight loss and healthy eating. This is only for educational purposes and does not take the place of personalized advice from a qualified healthcare provider who is familiar with your particular situation. Although the web can provide useful information, some of the information can be inaccurate or misleading. Many sites devoted to weight loss are marketing special products.

These resources provide more information about weight-loss programs:

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A healthy eating pattern is one that provides enough of each essential nutrient from nutrient-dense foods, contains a variety of foods from all of the basic food groups, and focuses on balancing calories consumed with calories expended to help you achieve and sustain a healthy weight. This eating pattern limits intake of solid fats, sugar, salt (sodium) and alcohol.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans consumer pamphlet, Let's Eat For the Health of It (PDF | 968KB), provides guidance for creating a healthy eating pattern to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis. Go to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for more information.