RDAs Guidelines for Good Nutrition

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The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) were created in 1941 by the Food and Nutrition Board, a subsidiary of the National Research Council, which is part of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

RDAs originally were designed to make planning several days' meals in advance easy for you. The D in RDA stands for dietary, not daily, because the RDAs are an average. You may get more of a nutrient one day and less the next, but the idea is to hit an average over several days.

For example, the current RDA for vitamin C is 75 mg for a woman and 90 mg for a man (age 18 and older). One 8-ounce glass of fresh orange juice has 120 mg vitamin C, so a woman can have an 8-ounce glass of orange juice on Monday and Tuesday, skip Wednesday, and still meet the RDA for the three days. A man may have to toss in something else — maybe a stalk of broccoli — to be able to do the same thing. No big deal.

The amounts recommended by the RDAs provide a margin of safety for healthy people, but they're not therapeutic. In other words, RDA servings won't cure a nutrient deficiency, but they can prevent one from occurring.

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