Daily values are the amounts of nutrients such as fat, fiber, and calcium that should be consumed each day for maximal dietary health, based on the recommendations of nutrition experts. In the US, every food label states the percentages of one’s daily values that a serving of that particular product contributes. Understanding this labeling can help consumers meet their recommended intake of each nutrient and thus eat healthfully.
The recommended daily intake of each nutrient is based upon a diet of 2,000 calories, a measure deemed optimal for most adults. It is expressed in a number of different values, such as grams, milligrams, or international units, depending on the constitution of the nutrient in question. Nutrition experts have established daily values for a wide range of nutrients, from familiar dietary entities like fat and sodium to less recognizable ones like biotin and phosphorus. Most food labeling, however, lists only the recommendations for those nutrients of concern to the average consumer.
In the US, food labels are designed to indicate the proportion of the recommended intake of each important nutrient that a serving of that food provides. This measure is known as Percent Daily Value (%DV). In the column of nutrition facts that appears on every label, the %DV for a particular nutrient is listed to the right of the amount of that nutrient contained in one serving of the product.
Say, for instance, a 1 cup serving of granola cereal contains 12 grams of fat. According to the established recommendations, the total daily value of fat for a 2,000 calorie diet should be 65 grams or less. The 12 grams of fat contained in a serving of the granola equal 18% of those 65 grams of fat; thus the %DV for one serving of this product is 18%.
Though meeting daily values can at first seem a confusing process, food labeling regulators have taken steps to make understanding the nutritional contents of each product relatively easy for consumers. For instance, many labels contain a footnote beneath the nutrition facts column that lists the total daily values for key nutrients such as fat, carbohydrates, and cholesterol. With these figures at hand, the consumer need not worry about memorizing recommended intakes, and he can easily see the way the %DV contained in a product relates to the overall daily value for each nutrient. This labeling can also help him compare products and choose the ones that best allow him to consume his recommended daily values.