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Google Your Food: Nutritional Information Now in Search

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We know from experience finding accurate nutritional information is tougher than it seems — largely because there’s no central source of information. Thankfully, tech behemoth Google is working to put an end to the nutritional guessing game. Earlier today, Google revealed its new nutritional information search function, which makes it simple to look up the calories, protein, carbs, and other nutrients in nearly any food or dish.Photo: Google

What’s the Deal?

Didn’t anyone ever tell those engineers not to play with their food? Maybe not, but we won’t complain when the results are so awesome. Google tech wizards have added nutritional data to the Knowledge Graph, a feature of Google Search that enables users to get information instantly. It’s simple: You enter a question about the nutritional content of a food or drink (for example: “How many calories are in a banana?” or “How much sugar is in a cupcake?”) and hit search. The answer will show up in a box at the top of the results, with the option to change the serving size for even more accurate information. Below Google’s result, the standard search results page appears with links to other sources and websites if you’d like a second opinion. The Knowledge Graph data includes full nutritional information: Calories, carbohydrates, protein, and fat, as well as vitamins and minerals like sodium and potassium.   

Why It Matters

Anything that makes healthy choices even easier gets a gold star in our book. The Google search function works via desktop and in the Google Search app for iOs and Android, so nutritional information is always at the user’s fingertips. It also works with Voice Search, another feature that makes the Google app even more user-friendly. Plus, it’s possible to customize units of measurement for individual habits — some people measure certain foods or drinks by volume, while others count number of slices or glasses.

Is it Legit?

Yep. Google gets the nutritional information from the United States Department of Agriculture, so it’s pretty legit. Right now, there are approximately 1,000 foods and drinks in the database, including some alcoholic beverages. Google is committed to adding new foods every day (although they’re not sure exactly how many they'll be able to add in the near future), but right now the database does have some legitimate limitations: It doesn’t list specific brand-name foods like a Big Mac or a KIND bar, and 1,000 items is pretty minimal.

It’s worth pointing out that other nutritional information sites like MyFitnessPal and Self provide users with nutritional data for hundreds of thousands of items. Google does include some distinctions, like Chardonnay versus Pinot Grigio and California avocados versus the Floridian variety, but not nearly as many as popular food-tracking websites. But therein lies the distinction: Google’s growing array of nutritional information is not supposed to replace fitness trackers. It’s meant to be a tool to help people make healthier choices via speedy data so they can compare food items (and pick the smartest option) quickly.

Do you think Google’s nutritional information search function will make it easier to plan healthy meals? Share your opinion in the comments below or tweet the author @SophBreene.

After spending eight years as a high school and college athlete, I'm learning how to maintain a healthy lifestyle on my own (aka without a coach... Read More »