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This publication is the result of a cooperative project between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It provides basic information on the nutrient content of foods consumed in the Near East. These data may be used in conjunction with nutrition studies and related activities conducted in the Near East Region.


Data on the nutrient content of foods consumed in the Near East were collected through an extensive search of the scientific literature and through correspondence with several individuals, primarily university and government representatives, who supplied unpublished data. Information was sought for foods consumed in the following countries: Afghanistan, Bahrein, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Data were carefully screened to eliminate values that could not be judged as reliable. Only results of original analyses on locally produced foods were considered. However, for a few foods that are imported in large amounts to Near East countries, data were taken from the food composition tables or the nutrient data bank of the countries from which the products originate. These imported foods are identified in the tables.

Nutritive values of prepared foods containing more than one ingredient are the result of direct analyses and not of calculations based on the values of individual ingredients. Data on the other processed foods also were derived from analyses and were not calculated on the basis of the nutritive values of the corresponding raw foods. The nutrient values referring to a raw food item and those referring to the corresponding processed food item may originate from different laboratories. Therefore, the diversity between the nutrient content of a food in its raw and processed states, as shown in the tables, is caused not only by the effect of processing, but also may be influenced by other factors such as analytical techniques, ecological conditions under which the samples were grown, and varietal types of the samples.

The coverage of the nutrients included in this publication reflects the availability of information on foods produced in this region. It is not as wide as the present knowledge of the essential role of nutrients in human nutrition. Lack of data, or of data that could be judged as reliable, also has resulted in gaps appearing in the tables. The lack of available nutrient data in this region emphasizes the need for further research, using reliable methods of analyses, on the nutrient content of foods consumed in the Near East.


The nutrient values are presented in three tables. Table I presents data for energy, proximate composition, six minerals and five vitamins expressed per 100 grams of both the edible portion of food and the food as purchased including refuse. It includes 848 food items.

Table II presents the amino acid content of 128 foods. Data are reported as milligrams per 1 gram of nitrogen and per 100 grams of the edible portion of the food. Essential, semi-essential and non-essential amino acids are included. The table also reports the nitrogen content of foods. Moisture and protein values for foods included in this table are reported from Table I.

Table III includes saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acid values reported in milligrams per 1 gram of total lipid and in grams per 100 grams of edible portion of foods. Total saturated, total monounsaturated, and total polyunsaturated fatty acids are also expressed as percentages of total fatty acids. Moisture and total lipid values for foods included in Table III are repeated from Table I. Data are reported for 106 food items in Table III.

The nutrient data in these tables represent mean values when data for more than one sample were collected for a nutrient in a particular food. Data were entered into the computer in the number of decimal places reported in the source documents, and calculations were made in the computer using three decimal places. In the tables data have been rounded for each nutrient to the number of decimal places in which data for the nutrient were most often reported in the literature.

In the three tables the mean values are accompanied by the number of samples analyzed. When the number of samples is greater than three, the coefficient of variation is also presented. However, average values are occasionally reported in the literature without a measure of variability. When these average values were used in the derivation of values for these tables, a coefficient of variation could not be calculated.

Foods are classified according to the following groups:

  1. Cereals and grain products
  2. Starchy roots and tubers
  3. Dry grain legumes and legume products
  4. Nuts and seeds
  5. Vegetables
  6. Fruits
  7. Sugars, syrups and sweets
  8. Meat and poultry
  9. Eggs
  10. Fish and shellfish
  11. Milk and milk products
  12. Oils and fats
  13. Beverages
  14. Miscellaneous

Appendix 1 is an index to the items in the three tables. Foods are listed alphabetically by common name. Scientific names are presented for plants and fish. Appendix 2 is also an index for plant and fish items, containing the same information for these items as Appendix 1, but sequenced alphabetically by scientific name. Appendix 3 contains descriptions of selected processed foods included in the tables. Some descriptions include specific amounts of ingredients. When the amounts are included, the descriptions represent the formulations of the samples analyzed. When amounts of ingredients are not included, the descriptions are considered general because specific formulations of the analyzed samples are unknown. Appendix 4 includes the specific conversion factors used for calculating energy, protein and fatty acid values. Appendix 5 presents a table on estimated distribution of sources of vitamin A activity (as IU) in various foods.

The bibliography includes three parts. The first part lists the bibliographic references of the published and unpublished sources of data and food composition tables that were consulted. The second part shows the publications consulted for the preparation of the scientific nomenclature. The third part refers to the sources for the descriptions in Appendix 3 of selected processed foods.


Energy. Food energy values are expressed in terms of both kilocalories and kilojoules which are the units commonly used for measuring the human energy requirements. The kilocalorie is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water from 15 to 16 degrees Celsius. The kilojoule is the energy expended when 1 kilogram is moved 1 meter by 1 newton. The kilocalories presented in Table I were calculated from the protein, fat and carbohydrate values using the specific factors listed in Appendix 4. These factors are based on the Atwater system for determining energy values. Details of their derivation are outlined in USDA Agriculture Handbook No. 74 (1). Energy values calculated by the Atwater system represent the energy available after deductions have been made for losses in digestion and metabolism. Kilojoules were converted from kilocalories using the formula 1 kilojoule = 0.239 kilocalorie.

Protein. Protein values were calculated from Kjeldahl nitrogen values using conversion factors recommended by Jones (2). These factors are shown in Appendix 4.

Carbohydrate. Carbohydrate values include fibre and were calculated by difference, using the formula: carbohydrate = 100 - (moisture + protein + fat + ash). Carbohydrate values are therefore affected by variations that may occur in the analyses of the other proximate components. For some foods in the meat and fish groups, carbohydrate was not calculated, but was estimated to be zero. In these cases, the sum of proximate components may not equal 100.

Vitamin A. Vitamin A is expressed in terms of retinol, or preformed vitamin A, and in beta-carotene equivalent which includes the amount of betacarotene plus one-half the amount of the other carotenoids that have vitamin A activity. The total vitamin A activity, expressed in terms of retinol equivalent, can be calculated using the following formula:

The factor of one-sixth to express the potential vitamin A activity of betacarotene equivalent in comparison to the activity of preformed vitamin A is based on experimental studies and was recommended by a Joint FAO/WHO Advisory Group on vitamin requirements (3). Table I shows separate values for retinol and beta-carotene equivalent to allow for a recalculation, should this factor be revised in the future.

Values expressed in the original data source documents as international units (IU) were recalculated using the table “Estimated distribution of sources of vitamin A activity (as IU) in various foods,” shown in Appendix 5, and the following formulas:

1 IU = 0.3 mcg retinol
1 IU = 0.6 mcg beta-carotene
1 IU = 1.2 mcg other carotenoids

Details of this procedure are found in the FAO/WHO report on vitamin requirements (3).

Niacin. Data refer to performed niacin. The potential contribution to niacin activity by tryptophan was estimated by the Joint FAO/WHO Advisory Group on vitamin requirements (3) to be approximately one-sixtieth the weight of tryptophan for the same amount of preformed niacin. The niacin equivalent in mixed diets can therefore be calculated using the following formula:

niacin equivalent = niacin (mg) + 1/60 tryptophan (mg)

Ascorbic acid. Data generally refer to total ascorbic acid. Values for reduced ascorbic acid were used for foods considered to contain only the reduced form of the vitamin and, in a few cases, where reliable total ascorbic acid values were not available.

Amino acids. Data are results of analyses made by both column chromatographic and microbiologic methods. For tryptophan, analyses made by chemical methods were also considered. Values expressed as milligrams per 100 grams of edible portion of food were calculated by multiplying the average values expressed in milligrams per 1 gram of nitrogen by the nitrogen content of foods shown in Table II. Amino acids are also reported as milligrams per 1 gram of nitrogen in order to allow a rapid calculation of the chemical score of the protein of a food. The chemical score is, according to the method of Mitchell and Block (4), the lowest ratio that occurs when essential amino acid values of a food protein are compared to the values of the corresponding amino acids in the reference protein. Details of the procedure to calculate the chemical score, as well as the amino acid pattern of the latest recommended reference protein, are reported in a FAO/WHO/UNU report on protein requirements (5).

Fatty acids. Only data obtained by gas liquid chromatography were considered for fatty acids. Values for these nutrients were frequently found in the literature expressed as weight percent of total methyl esters. The mean values of these percentages were converted to milligrams per 1 gram of total lipid, using the appropriate conversion factors for the various foods as suggested by Weihrauch et al. (6) and shown in Appendix 4. Fatty acids in grams per 100 grams of edible portion of food were then calculated using the total lipid values shown in Table III.

Total saturated, total monounsaturated, and total polyunsaturated fatty acid values presented in Table III may include values of fatty acids not reported in the table and may, therefore, exceed the sum of the individual fatty acids actually listed. In Table III fatty acids are identified by short-hand designation. The first number refers to the carbon atoms and the second number to the double bonds in the chain. Trivial or scientific names for the fatty acids have not been used because the values for unsaturated acids include positional and geometric isomers.

Refuse and data on “as purchased” basis. Data expressed per 100 grams of food as purchased (line AP in Table I) were calculated by multiplying the values given per 100 grams of edible portion of food (line EP in Table I) by:

The refuse is the portion of the food as purchased which is commonly not eaten. It may represent an inedible part of the food such as the shell of a nut, or an edible part which may or may not be consumed, such as the peel of an apple. The refuse value of a food item varies depending on the food habit of the country and on the choice of the consumer. Also natural variation in the amount of refuse occurs from sample to sample. The refuse values given in Table I represent an indication of the food item customarily treated as refuse by inhabitants of the region. In the analysis of food consumption studies, these refuse values can be replaced with values based on more detailed information on foods as consumed by local populations and the “as purchased” basis can be recalculated. The refuse and the values on “as purchased” basis of processed foods refer to foods as they are purchased in the processed state.

Miscellaneous. Nutrients for beef carcass at different fat levels were derived from values for separable lean and fat. Because data for separable beef fat were unavailable for animals reared in the Near East, values were estimated based on data for animals reared in the U.S. Nutrients for lamb carcass were calculated in a similar fashion. Values for proximate components of oils were not usually found in the literature because oils are generally assumed to be 100 percent fat. Therefore, where proximate components of oils were not reported, total lipid was estimated to be 100 percent, and other proximate components were set at zero. Number of samples and coefficient of variation are not shown for these values.


(1) Merrill, A.L. and Watt, B.K. 1955 Energy value of foods - basis and derivation. U.S. Dept. Agric. Handbk. No. 74 (Sl. rev. 1973). Washington, D.C.

(2) Jones, D.B. 1931Factors for converting percentages of nitrogen in foods and feeds into percentages of protein. U.S. Dept. Agric. Cir. 183, 22 pp. (Sl. rev. 1941.) Washington, D.C.

(3) FAO/WHO. 1967 Requirements of vitamin A thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. Report of a Joint FAO/WHO Expert Group. FAO Nutrition Meetings Report Series 41. FAO. Rome, Italy.

(4) Mitchell, H. H. and Block, R.J. 1946 Some relationships between the amino acid contents of proteins and their nutritive values for the rat. J. Biol. Chem. 163:599– 620.

(5) FAO/WHO/UNU. Energy and protein requirements. Report of a Joint FAO/WHO/UNU Expert Consultation. (In preparation.)

(6) Weihrauch, J.L., Posati, L.P., Anderson, B.A., and Exler. J. 1977 Lipid conversion factors for calculating fatty acid content of foods. J. Amer. Oil Chem. Soc. 54:36–40.

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