Diet and Nutrition

Your understanding of nutrition can be your key to optimal health. This article covers the essential nutrition information that you need for health:

  • dietary guidelines,
  • dietary reference intakes,
  • food guide pyramid,
  • calories,
  • carbohydrates,
  • protein,
  • fats,
  • vitamins,
  • minerals, and
  • phytochemicals.

The Council on Food and Nutrition of the American Medical Association defines nutrition as “the science of food; the nutrients and the substances therein; their action, interaction, and balance in relation to health and disease; and the process by which the organism (i.e. body) ingests, digest, absorbs, transports, utilizes, and excretes food substances.” The purpose of our diet is to consume foods that provide the six essential nutrients:

  • carbohydrates,
  • protein,
  • fat,
  • vitamins,
  • minerals, and
  • water.
  • Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs): These tend to be the most well-known guidelines. They were set for the nutrient intake that is sufficient to meet the needs of nearly all individuals (about 97%) in a given gender and age group. Many people often incorrectly refer to these as the recommended “daily” allowances and believe that it is their goal to reach the RDA each day. It was not meant to be used as a guide for an individual’s daily needs. The RDAs were established to be used in setting standards for food-assistance programs, for interpreting food record consumption of populations, and for establishing guidelines for nutrition labels.
  • Adequate Intakes (AIs): the nutrients for which there is not enough information to establish an EAR
  • Tolerable Upper Limits (Upper Levels or ULs): a nutrient’s maximum level of daily intake that is unlikely to cause adverse health effects in nearly all individuals (97% to 98%) of the population

Due to the complexity of analyzing diets, the DRIs have been primarily used by researchers and registered dietitians. The programs used to analyze diets have now become available to the public. You can keep track of everything that you eat and drink on one of the internet sites that offer one of these programs, and you will get detailed information about your intake in comparison to the DRIs. When keeping track of your diet, you want to use a Web site that uses the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference as their source of nutrition information.

You do not need to reach the guidelines for every nutrient, every day of the week, so do not be alarmed when you fall short or go over in nutrients every now and then. But when you are consistently having a problem reaching your recommendations, it’s best to work with a health-care professional.