The ABCs of RDAs Reading Between The Lines On The Labels For Foods And Supplements

Ever wonder what the letters really mean on the labels of your favorite supplements and foods?


Let’s start with the RDA – Recom-mended Dietary Allowance. This means an intake level of a certain nutrient that is sufficient to meet nutritional needs for practically all individuals in a certain group. This method of determining what these levels should be was formulated back in 1940, for soldiers in World War II.

Is that the group you belong to? I didn’t think so.

Then there are the RDIs. Reference Daily Intakes were set up in 1993, and were based on the 1973 USRDA (United States Recommended Daily Allowances) guidelines. RDIs were established for 19 vitamins and minerals and to serve as general information on food labels, and were the first nutrient guidelines for food labels based on standards set for the highest values for each nutrient for the non-pregnant, non-lactating population, age 4 and older.

DVs, or Daily Values, were also established for the new food labels. The DV standard is set by the government, and reflects current nutrition recommendations for a 2,000-calorie ‘reference’ diet, which refers to the percentage of nutrients in a certain product. For instance, might see that your favorite cracker has a ‘{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5}Daily Value’ of 4{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} Total Carbohydrate. This would mean that your serving of crackers would have 4{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of the total carbohydrates allotted to that reference 2,000 calorie a day diet.

So in the end, what does all this really mean? RDAs, RDIs, {06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5}DVs? I like to think those letters represent our government’s way of trying to teach us the alphabet, rather than nutrition. To boil all this down to one sentence — when you choose to purchase supplements, choose wisely. A whole food vitamin/mineral supplement is best. Two brands to watch for are New Chapter and Garden of Life. You won’t have to worry about too little, too much. You get just enough.

What about the food you eat? If you are not eating fresh organic produce, you probably will not have to worry about too many nutrients being present. If fresh is not available, frozen is the next best thing; canned vegetables would be my absolute last resort. Canned fruit with all that syrup would not even make the deserted island list. I’d go without.

Do the best for your body. Take whole-food supplements; eat fresh organic produce and fruit. If you choose to eat meat, choose hormone and antibiotic free organically fed meat sources. Still doin’ dairy? Again, organic is a must. Also, give goat’s milk a try. It digests much easier that cow’s milk.

Suellen Duga, owner of Choice Health in Westfield, recently added an organic section to her store.

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