Digging into the RDA

Well it’s time for me to actually start getting into the meat and potatoes of the RDA (yup that was a food funny if you missed it).  I’m not going to lie, when I started this little project I didn’t know much about the RDA. I knew it existed.  I knew that the government had created it.  I knew it dealt with eating food… As you can see, I was kind of an RDA novice if you will.  When I looked at the chart for the first time, I was overwhelmed.  There is A LOT going on and it looks fairly daunting.  If you haven’t ever taken a peek at the chart, look at it now.  Lot’s of numbers right? Like I said it appears really daunting and science-y (yes it’s a word!).  Most people would probably not take a second glance and just move about their day.  Which I found myself wanting to do while researching this.

My original plan before I even started looking into the RDA was to analyze it section by section.  Vitamins, minerals, elements etc.  But once I really started digging in I realized that wasn’t really the best way to go about it and it wouldn’t make for very interesting or informative blog posts for you guys.  You don’t want to look at charts and graphs and numbers and try to figure out your proper intake of elements (I sure don’t).  You want someone to be straight forward and tell you exactly what to eat.  Unfortunately I can not do that.  But what I CAN do is give you some guidance and help.

Here is what I want to do about the RDA.  I want to take a look at what I consider some of the issues with the RDA as the average American eater.  I am not a scientist or statistician or nutritionist.  I am a regular person just like most of you reading this blog.  I want to be able to know what to eat for my health and I don’t want to have to work super hard at it (hey, I said I was an average American, we like easy!).  Now, I want to say that I am not going to sit here and bash the RDA.  It is actually a very helpful tool and when you really look into it, has a lot of valuable information when it comes to nutrition.  Because this is a rather big topic, I will be breaking this down into two posts.  Starting with my two bigger issues and then finishing with the last few problems I see.

My first issue with the RDA should be pretty clear: the RDA is not very user friendly.  Something as important as nutrition needs to be able to be easily used by the reader.  When you are shown a six page chart with tiny columns of numbers, your eyes start to glaze over.  Ok, maybe that is just me but still, this is important stuff and should be easily accessible.  On the plus side, the RDA is very thorough.  It DOES have a lot of information and when you do take the time to read it, it is helpful information.  But this leads me to my second issue…

The RDA is just a broad spectrum.  The government is just giving each age group the estimated average intake of each possible nutrient.  I know that it is impossible for them to be able to give each person an individual intake chart, but that is kind of what each person needs.  I have talked before about how each body is different and has different needs, therefore we all have different dietary needs.  That still holds true and the RDA can’t possibly account for that.  BUT it does provide a good baseline to start with.  Say you are a 32 year old pregnant woman, take a look at your designated row and START your nutrition with that.  But don’t think that this is your say all end all when it comes to food intake.  Adjust each category to your body’s needs.  This may require you to sit down with a doctor or nutritionist and figure out exactly what your body does need.  Or perhaps you are really in tune with your own bodies needs and are able to know that you need more calcium then listed or less iron than they suggest.  The main point is that you can make it work for you and the RDA will provide you with a great baseline.

I hope that this post is helping you and not confusing you even more than before.  My intent is to try and give you an easier path to healthy eating, not boggle or frustrate you.  Next time I will finish up with a few more issues (and my suggestions on how to fix them) and also start to introduce my next topic: mindful eating.  I think that this concept goes along well with the RDA and it is something that has really helped improve my health and eating.  Until next time!


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  1. Pingback: Finishing the RDA « The Real Hunger Games

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