The recommended nutrient intake is the amount of carbohydrates, protein, fat and micronutrients required each day by people who are in good health. The guidelines show how much of each nutrient should be ingested by men and women of each age group to ensure proper growth and overall well-being. These guidelines also are meant to help a person determine a healthy serving size during food consumption.
Nutrient requirements are different for people as they go through the various stages of life. For instance, fat should not be restricted in an infant's food, and women of childbearing age should take in more folic acid than older women should. Men should take in more calories than women should. People with a history of colon cancer in their family need to follow the recommended nutrient intake for fiber.
By simply looking at the label on any packaged product sold in a grocery store, consumers can see which nutrients are in each food and can make sure that they are getting the recommended nutrient intake in their diet. The most commonly used measurement on these labels is the calories per serving section. This information is at the top of the label so that people are sure to see it.
When the recommended nutrient intake is followed, certain diseases can be avoided. Some diseases, such as protein-calorie malnutrition, can be completely avoided and even reversed once the patient begins eating the proper amount of nutrients. Protein-calorie malnutrition is often seen in people with anorexia-nervosa, people who have had weight loss surgery and some cancer patients.
The food and nutrients that are recommended to be consumed each day have changed over time. For many years, people were advised to eat certain amounts of food from the "four food groups," which are milk, cheese and other dairy products; fruits and vegetables; breads, grains and other starches; and meats, nuts and other proteins. A fifth group was later added to include fats, oils and sugars. More recently, these groups have been rearranged into the food pyramid, which displays the foods that should be consumed more at the bottom, where the pyramid is wider, and those that should be consumed less at the narrow top of the pyramid.