For a person to receive the correct amount of daily nutrients, it can be important that he or she knows the correct dietary reference intakes (DRI) based on age, weight, and gender. The dietary reference intakes provide a prescribed amount of the six classes of nutrients essential for human life, namely carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water. Generally, the DRI is comprised of several different reference values by which one can determine his or her nutrient needs.
When many people hear the words dietary reference intakes, they may only think of vitamins and minerals, how much they need, whether they should take supplements, and how to avoid mineral or vitamin poisoning. The DRI, however, refers to all nutrients, from how much food and water a person should consume daily to the amounts of calcium, B-vitamins, and vitamin C he or she needs to stay active and healthy. Recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is a more common term that is often used by doctors and registered dieticians to determine vitamin and mineral needs for an individual. This is a value system set to satisfy the nutritional requirements of 97 to 98 percent of the population of a specific group based on age and gender.
The dietary reference intakes are set primarily to prevent undernourishment. These guidelines influence not only individual diets but the practices of certain types of food manufacturers. For example, white bread manufacturers were at one time completely removing vital nutrients from their bread products in order to improve texture. Thanks to increased attention on the dietary reference intakes, most modern bread is fortified with the vitamins and minerals that are removed during the bread-making process. This prevents the dangerous vitamin imbalances that were once quite prevalent.
Dietary reference intakes are not to be confused with the nutritional labeling values found on most packaged foods. These daily values (DV) are denoted by the characteristic phrase, "Based on a 2,000 Calorie Diet." The DV do not take into account the gender or age of the individual in its values and should, therefore, be used as a casual reference guide only.
People interested in learning the specific values of vitamins, minerals, water, and food, which are comprised of carbohydrates, lipids, and protein, should familiarize him- or herself with the dietary reference intakes. Since the DRI is made up of several different value systems, it may be necessary to consult a registered dietician or a nutritionist that is certified in nutritional counseling. These professionals typically can design an eating plan that will ensure that all necessary nutrients are covered in an individual's diet and determine if vitamin or mineral supplements are necessary.