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What is the Recommended Daily Intake?

By T. Alaine
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Recommended Daily Intake suggests how much of a given nutrient a person should consume in one day. There are Recommended Daily Intake figures for macro and micronutrients as well as for the total number of calories a person should consume. Figures are calculated to suit the needs of the majority of the population, and they are used to determine the Percent Daily Values that appear on the nutrition labels of packaged foods.

Slightly different wording is sometimes used for Recommended Daily Intake. Reference Daily Intake and Recommended Daily Value both refer to the same calculations as Recommended Daily Intake. All of these terms refer to a number that is specifically calculated for every nutrient and represents how much of that nutrient an average body needs per day to function at its best. The Recommended Daily Intake is a benchmark that helps people know if they are consuming too much or too little of a nutrient each day.

There are Recommended Daily Intakes for macronutrients, such as carbohydrates, fiber, fats and proteins as well as for micronutrients, which are vitamins and minerals. When it comes to calorie consumption, the key values are the Recommended Daily Intakes for macronutrients, because they are the nutrients that provide energy, or calories. Most people, except perhaps those with an illness or deficiency of some kind, find that eating a generally healthy and diverse diet will provide all of the micronutrients they need without careful monitoring of the Recommended Daily Intake values.

Perhaps the most important adaptations of the Recommended Daily Intake figures are the Percent Daily Values (%DV). The Percent Daily Values are found on nutrition labels and help consumers assess how many nutrients a food item contributes to the total amount of nutrients that should be consumed in a day. Each of these values is based on a presumed daily intake of 2,000 calories, which might be more or less than a particular individual consumes in a day. Even though there are variants in these values, the Percent Daily Value gives a general idea of how nutrient rich a food is. For example, if a food has a Percent Daily Value of 75% for vitamin C, then one can assume that food makes a substantial contribution to his or her personal Daily Recommended Intake for vitamin C.

When it comes to Recommended Daily Intake, there is no absolute answer for everyone. Understanding the figures will one help generally determine whether his or her diet is meeting the nutritional needs of the body. It is not necessary for one to strive to exactly meet the Recommended Daily Intake for every single nutrient; it is much more helpful to use these figures exactly how they are described — as recommendations.

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Discussion Comments
By Ana1234 — On Dec 07, 2014

@MrsPramm - The same thing could be applied to water and calories I suppose. If you're expending a lot of water in a hot climate, or a lot of calories in a cold climate, or either through exercise, you're going to have to take in more to make up for it.

It's a simple formula but people sometimes get caught up with the idea of a mandatory limit on calorie intake and don't eat enough to keep up with what they're doing.

By MrsPramm — On Dec 07, 2014

@browncoat - The ability to lose vitamins and minerals or other nutrients is actually one of the main factors in a recommended daily intake for most things.

B vitamins, and vitamin C, for example, are not stored in the tissues like iron and are lost every time a person sweats or urinates, so you have to replenish them daily. Incidentally, because they are water soluble they often get boiled out of vegetables and poured down the sink as well.

So people are relatively safe having mega doses of vitamin C, because the body just processes and flushes anything it doesn't use. I don't think that huge amounts of vitamin C are necessarily better for you than a balanced amount, but they won't do the harm that overdosing on other kinds of vitamins or minerals will. Which is why you have to be careful when taking vitamins to check what is actually contained in the supplement. Often there will be more than one thing in there and one might be safer than the other to take in bigger quantities.

By browncoat — On Dec 06, 2014

Something to remember here is that it's definitely possible to have too much of a good thing. Iron, for example, can poison you if you have too much of it in your system. Even in mild concentrations it has been associated with heart attacks in men.

On the other hand a lot of women are iron deficient because they menstruate every month and lose iron much more rapidly that way. So obviously it's not just a matter of avoiding iron supplements or iron-rich foods, especially if you are female. But sticking to the daily recommended intake and not going too far over or under for your body-weight and gender is definitely a good idea.

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