If you've ever typed "How many calories are in a cup of strawberries?" into Google only to be directed to an Ask Yahoo! page (which is almost always filled with comments and questions of a dubious nature), you know how frustrating it is to track down accurate and up-to-date nutrition information. Luckily Google is hoping to make your life a little bit easier with its newest search engine tool.
Starting today, you'll be able to use voice search on your laptop, phone, or tablet to ask Google almost any question related to nutrition or food—and Google will speak back to you! For example, if you're trying to figure out how many calories might be in your favorite afternoon snack, you can ask Google, "How many calories are in a banana?" "How about an orange?" Google will use a mixture of data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that's cross-referenced with other reputable sources around the web to come up with the most accurate answer. It will even provide information on the differences between foods. Now you'll be able to find out if there are more calories in an avocado from California than Mexico, for example.
"One of the reasons we wanted to do this was because we saw a huge increase in the number of queries related to basic nutrition and calories," says Google Consumer Media Manager Chrissy Persico. "This way you'll be able to see the most accurate information in a really clean, simple format. It's a fun, hands-free way to help you make healthy choices on the go."
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The tool won't be able to provide brand-specific answers, so while you can ask "How many calories are in three tablespoons of peanut butter?" and get an answer, it can't help you if you ask about specific brands (i.e. "How many calories in three tablespoons of Jif peanut butter?"). The tool will also default to the most common answer, Persico says. So if you ask "How many calories are in a glass of white wine?" the spoken answer will probably default to the amount of calories in a glass of chardonnay, but you'll be able to pull up a pop-up window on your screen that will provide a comparison of nutrition info among chardonnay, pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, and more.
You also need to use calories, carbs, or protein as your entry point when using the voice search to ask a question, but you will be able to access a full nutrition score per serving, including fat count, salt, cholesterol, sodium, and potassium, Persico says.
The tool will roll out slowly, so you may not be able to access it today, but keep checking back, Persico suggests, because it should be completely rolled out to the public soon.