In their quest to dominate everything in our lives, Google is trying their hand at healthy living. The search giant recently announced a new initiative that will give searchers easier access to nutrition information for more than 1,000 foods. In a press release announcing the nutrition info project, product manager Ilya Mezheritsky said:
“Figuring out how to make smart choices about some of our favorite foods can often be a cumbersome and daunting process. So we’re hoping we can make those choices a little bit easier: starting today you will be able to quickly and easily find extensive nutrition information for over 1,000 fruits, vegetables, meats and meals in search.”
Want to know how much sugar is in prune juice? How many calories in a serving of wheat crackers? Just ask a full question in Google Search and you’ll get a fast answer. It’s a lot easier than a simple Google search that usually returns thousands of answers. Google put together this program using data from the USDA. They will list calorie counts and nutrional breakdowns of simple ingredients like oranges, sweet potatoes and turkey — and also more complex, complete meals like tacos, pizza or macaroni and cheese, and even some alcoholic drinks, according to the announcement. Brand name foods are not included, but Google is committed to adding new foods every day. The nutritional breakdown will appear above a traditional list of search results.
As Greatist reports, the nutrition info is part of their Knowledge Graph — the carousel at the top of the results page that displays simple, commonly requested information. It is considered by many Google engineers to be “the future of search”.
This isn’t Google’s first foray into public health. This new nutrional information feature is similar to Google’s 2010 lauch of the Body Browser (a WebGL application that lets users explore a high resolution, interactive 3D model of the human anatomy–from the skin down to the nervous system). The company also currently has a feature that directs suicide-related searches to suicide prevention searches.
People like to complain that Google is trying to have a monopoly on web-based information sources and applications, but I think anything that makes nutrition information easier to access is a wonderful tool.
The nutrition information project launched on May 30th and became available in the United States in early June. If you want to learn more, you can read the full announcement here.