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The Complete Guide to Recommended Daily Intakes and Daily Values

Written by Daisy Whitbread, MScN
The Complete Guide to Recommended Daily Intakes and Daily Values

When trying to consume the healthiest diet, it helps to have an understanding of how much of each nutrient you should try to consume. Several targets have been created so that you eat the right amount of each nutrient.

The most popular and common of these in the U.S. is the Daily Value or (%DV) this is the percentage that you see on all nutrition facts labels. In addition to this, there is the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI), and Tolerable Upper Limit (UL) that any person should consume.

If you are confused, don't worry, this article will clarify it for you, and give you a table with all the numbers.

What is the main difference between the Daily Value, Recommended Daily Intake, and Upper Limit?

In short, the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) tries to define how much of a nutrient each person should have based on their age and gender. The Daily Value (DV) builds on the RDI but is a number that should work for everyone, regardless of age, etc... As such, the DV tends to be higher than the RDI. The Upper Limit (UL) is simply the highest amount of any nutrient you should consume. So while the RDI sets the target, the UL sets the limit.
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How wide is the range between too much (toxicity) or too little (deficiency) for any nutrient?

In the "Bathtub" curve graph below, we see that the RDI is set to cover 98% of all people, and is considerably higher than the "average amount" most people need. After that, there is generally a wide gap where you can consume more of a nutrient, before hitting the Upper Limit where problems from toxicity will appear.Bathtub Curve for How the RDI and UL is set

What does the average person look like for these recommended intakes?

Determining a Recommended Daily Intake depends on a variety of factors, and is the amount of any nutrient a person needs is different from person to person. That said, age, gender, height, and weight, are 4 of the main factors used. Below are the characteristics for males and females used in determining the RDIs reported in the table below:
For Males aged 19 to 30
BMI - 22.5
Height 177cm (70 inches)
Weight 70kg (154lbs)

For Females 19-30
Average BMI - 22.5
Height 177cm (70 inches)
Weight 70kg (154lbs)

What factors can require you to adjust the RDI for you?


Groups that need to consume more than the RDI suggestions
  • Being Taller than Average
  • Being Heavier than Average (Muscle or Fat)
  • Older people (over 30)
  • Pregnant and Lactacting Women need more of certain nutrients

Groups with a higher risk of deficiencies that should consume more
  • Smokers
  • Vegetarians and Vegans
  • Menstruating Women (For Iron)
  • Alcoholics
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Table of RDI, DV, and UL for Each Nutrient

This table is for an adult male, average weight of 154lbs (70kg) and height of 70inches (177cm).

Macronutrients
NutrientRDIDVUL
Calories20002000N/A
FatN/A65gN/A
Saturated FatN/A20gN/A
CholesterolN/A300mgN/A
Carbs130g300gN/A
Fiber38g25gN/A
SugarN/AN/AN/A
Protein56g50gN/A
Vitamins
NutrientRDIDVUL
Vitamin A900μg (RAE)3000IU3000μg (RAE)
Vitamin B11.2mg1.2mgN/A
Vitamin B21.3mg1.3mgN/A
Vitamin B316mg16mg35mg
Vitamin B5N/A5mgN/A
Vitamin B61.3mg1.7mg100mg
Vitamin B9400μg400μg1000μg
Vitamin B122.4μg2.4μgN/A
Vitamin C90mg90mg2000mg
Vitamin DN/A20μgN/A
Vitamin E15mg15mg1000mg
Vitamin KN/A120mgN/A
CholineN/A550mg3500mg
LycopeneN/AN/AN/A
Lutein+zeazanthinN/AN/AN/A
Minerals
NutrientRDIDVUL
CalciumN/A1300mg2500mg
Copper0.9mg0.9mg10mg
Iodine150μgN/A1100μg
Iron8mg18mg45mg
Magnesium400mg420mgN/A
ManganeseN/A2.3mg11mg
Phosphorus700mg1250mg4000mg
Potassium4700mg4700mgN/A
Selenium55μg55μg400μg
Sodium1500mg2400mgN/A
Zinc11mg11mg40mg
AshN/AN/AN/A
WaterN/AN/AN/A
Carbs and Sugars
NutrientRDIDVUL
StarchN/AN/AN/A
SucroseN/AN/AN/A
GlucoseN/AN/AN/A
FructoseN/AN/AN/A
LactoseN/AN/AN/A
MaltoseN/AN/AN/A
GalactoseN/AN/AN/A
Fatty Acids
NutrientRDIDVUL
Omega 3s1600mgN/AN/A
Omega 6sN/AN/AN/A
Amino Acids
NutrientRDIDVUL
Tryptophan280mgN/AN/A
Histidine700mgN/AN/A
Threonine1050mgN/AN/A
Isoleucine1400mgN/AN/A
Lysine2100mgN/AN/A
Leucine2730mgN/AN/A
Methionine728mgN/AN/A
Cystine287mgN/AN/A
Phenylalanine875mgN/AN/A
Tyrosine875mgN/AN/A
Valine1820mgN/AN/A
ArginineN/AN/AN/A
AlanineN/AN/AN/A
Aspartic AcidN/AN/AN/A
Glutamic AcidN/AN/AN/A
GlycineN/AN/AN/A
ProlineN/AN/AN/A
SerineN/AN/AN/A
HydroxyprolineN/AN/AN/A
*1.6g is the Adequate Intake (AI) for Omega 3s. Adequate Intake is assumed to ensure nutritional adequacy; and is established when evidence is insufficient to develop an RDA. (Source)
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Data Sources and References

  1. Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intakes
  2. FDA List of Daily Values
  3. World Health Organization Protein and Amino Acid Intake Recommendations
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