Top picks for reliable nutrient information

nutrientsEmphasis on reliable

I write about nutrition all the time, but that doesn’t mean I’ve memorized everything there is to know about all the vitamins and minerals.  Plus that information changes with new research data.  So where do I got for the latest reliable information?  Emphasis on reliable.  Here’s what I don’t do: a random internet search on the nutrient name.  That’s a recipe for information disaster.  You’ll get pages of links to internet sites promoting some nutrient as a cure-all, trying to sell you supplements or special food products, or just spouting sciency-sounding nonsense.

If you need to get more detailed information about a specific nutrient, try some of my favorite sources:

Linus Pauling Institute

The Linus Pauling Institute (LPI) at Oregon State University offers a wealth of free information on nutrients, macro nutrients and other health topics.  I like the thorough and comprehensive treatment of all aspects of individual nutrients, from food sources to known biological functions to effects on disease processes, recommended daily intakes and deficiency and toxicity signs.  Another nice feature: the LPI concludes with advice on suggested intake, which sometimes may be a bit higher than official recommendations, depending on health an age circumstances.

Consumer Lab

Consumer Lab is a subscription website that compiles information on dozens of nutrients, herbs, food ingredients and supplements. CL regularly tests supplements to verify ingredients and availability, important information for people who purchase supplements.  CL doesn’t provide lengthy discussions of a nutrient’s known biological functions, but does include updates when research warrants (you can get these update notices by email).  So while this might not be the best source of information about the basics of, say, vitamin B1, you can find information on any recent research, as well as reviews of B1 supplements.

National Institute of Health

The NIH has Fact Sheets on known nutrients (either consumer or health professional versions), which are free.  They are briefer and less comprehensive than the LPI information, and also more conservative, sticking to official intake recommendations.

National Agricultural Library (USDA)

The NAL provides fact sheets on nutrients, as well as outside links to information on recommended intakes and supplements.  Again, the information and recommendations will be conservative and official.

NAL Interactive RDI calculator

This is a nifty tool you can customize to calculate the recommended daily intake for known nutrients.  The catch is, you can only get values for nutrients that have RDIs.  For example, there is no recommended daily intake for omega-3 fatty acids, so those aren’t included in the list.

USDA Nutrient Database

This database is the starting basis for all calorie and nutrient trackers.  While you can look up individual foods, I think the more fun part is the nutrient sorter.  Pick a nutrient or food component (such as lactose or cholesterol) and then sort foods by nutrient content and household name.  For example, sorting on Riboflavin (B2), you find that a 4 oz serving of raw New Zealand lamb liver has the highest B2 content. Hmm, nice to know, although not too practical.  But you can pick and choose the food categories you want to sort, so if raw lamb liver isn’t your thing, you can stick to grain foods, vegetables or fruit.

These aren’t the only sources of nutrient information, but they are my go-to sources.  You can find very similar nutrient information on websites like WebMD, Mayo Clinic and websites associated with academic nutrition research centers from accredited universities.  Remember, when looking for information, your emphasis should be on reliable.

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