Nutrition and Diet (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
Dietary Reference Intakes
One thing that we all have in common is that we all eat. What, when, why, and how much we eat varies from person to person. We often choose our foods based on taste, familiarity, cost, and/or availability. What we choose to eat is not necessarily what our bodies need us to eat. A diet that is deficient in nutrients is one that can lead to health and weight problems. Fortunately, guidelines have been established to assist us with providing our body with the nutrients that it needs.
Research to determine the appropriate amount of nutrients for health began in the 1940s. This need arose after men were being rejected from the military during World War II due to the effects of poor nutrition on their health. The first Food and Nutrition Board was formed to evaluate the nutrition intakes of large populations. Since then, the Food and Nutrition Board has undergone many changes and published comprehensive guidelines on nutrition for disease prevention.
The latest and most comprehensive nutrition recommendations are contained in the so-called Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs). DRIs were created in 1997 and have changed the way that diets are evaluated. The primary goal of these guidelines was to not only prevent nutrient deficiencies but also reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis. DRIs have been set for macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), electrolytes and water, the role of alcohol in health and disease, and bioactive compounds such as phytoestrogens and phytochemicals.
There are four types of DRI reference values:
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.