No magic food to provide all you need

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By Joan Martin

A question was raised in the diabetes education class about which beans are healthier choices.
Specifically the class member wanted to know if beans were all about the same in the total amount of carbohydrates.
Several class members are starting to use carb counting as a method to improve their diet.
I didn’t know the answer. I thought they would be about the same. I was wrong. There was enough difference in carbohydrate content to equal more than one carb serving. The low was 33 g carbohydrates per 1 cup cooked black eyed peas to a high of 57 g carbohydrates per one cup of white beans. That’s a difference of 24 g carbohydrates or a little less than 2 carb servings. A carb serving is considered 15 g of carbohydrates.
I found the answer in the nutrition standard called the Nutritive Value of Foods, Home and Garden Bulletin Number 72. It was first published in 1960 and has been revised several times with the latest revision in 2002. It will probably be revised in the next couple of years. If you ever wondered where companies get information on the nutritive value of their foods, it comes from the same place unless a very large company has their own nutrient data lab. Probably the U.S. Department of Agriculture has contracts with companies to provide the nutrient data analysis. The lab is located in Beltsville, Md.
After discussing the question on beans and carbohydrates, we discussed the difference in nutritive value of white potatoes and sweet potatoes. Some people believe that all white foods are bad for you. I am not a proponent of that idea. The Nutritive Value of Foods supports the idea of eating a variety of foods. There isn’t one magic food anywhere that can provide everything you need.
A standard size baked potato (2 1/3 “ by 4 3/4 “) has 220 calories, 5 g protein, 51 carbs, 4.8 g total dietary fiber, 844 mg potassium and vitamin A. The standard size sweet potato (2” diameter by 5” long) has 150 calories, 3 g protein, 35 carbs, 4.4 g total dietary fiber, 508 mg potassium and 31,860 IU vitamin A. So the sweet potato looks great unless you want more protein and potassium. A sweet potato would be a better choice for someone who has diabetes. However, that doesn’t mean the white potato is a bad choice.  
Another interesting section of the Nutritive Value of Foods is Table 5. Food Sources of Additional Nutrients lists six vitamins and four minerals not found in the standard tables. These are Vitamins B-6, B-12, D, E, Folate and Vitamin K. The minerals are iodine, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. Foods shown in Table 5 are high in the nutrient compared to other foods.  For example, Vitamin E is found in margarine, nuts and seeds, peanuts and peanut butter, vegetable oil, wheat germ and whole-grain and fortified cereals.  Vitamin K is in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, leafy green vegetables, mayonnaise, and soybean, canola and olive oils.
Table 7 provides information on the amount of total fat that provides 30 percent of calories and saturated fat that provides 10 percent.  Someone who has 1,600 calories per day can have 53 g total fat calories with 18 g from saturated fat.
If you are interested in what’s in your drink then you can find out from the Nutritive Value of Foods. It includes dairy, juice, soft drinks and alcohol. Cocoa from a powdered mix has 4 – 6 mg caffeine but sugar-free has 15 mg. Coffee brewed has 103 mg caffeine while instant coffee has 57 mg.
So if you have wondered just what’s in the food you eat, not only can you read the food label but you can check out unlabeled food like produce and meat from the Nutritive Value of Foods. Look for Home and Garden Bulletin Number 72 online. If you decide to print it, be aware that it’s 103 pages. Be careful about two-sided printing until you are certain that it will print correctly. The table for each food goes across two pages.

Joan Martin is a family and consumer sciences agent with the Anderson County Extension.