We all have those fond memories of our parents not letting us down from the dinner table until we had eaten all of our broccoli. So we know the importance of eating our vegetables if we want to stay healthy. But can diet alone provide optimum levels of all the vitamins and minerals you need to be healthy? And is what we’ve been told as the recommended daily amount really the best option?
The official term for the ‘recommended daily amount’ is actually referred to as the ‘reference nutrient intake’ or “RNI” by medical professionals. So, let’s dig a little deeper into what these terms actually mean and whether we should be following them…
What Is Reference Nutrient Intake, or RNI?
According to the British Nutrition Foundation…
RNIs are used for protein, vitamins and minerals, and are an estimate of the amount that should meet the needs of most of the group to which they apply.
In easy terms, this essentially means….
RNIs are intake levels of essential nutrients (usually represented as a %) which have been set for disease prevention, based on the general population. You may have noticed these “RNIs” on labels on the back of food packaging. It is important to remember they are set as recommendations only, and not the be all and end all.
What Are the Recommendations Based on?
These recommendations were set some years ago by governments with the aim to prevent deficiency diseases such as scurvy or rickets. They were not set to promote optimal health in the modern demanding world we live in today. I am not sure about you, but personally, I wish to optimise my health, energy levels, and wellness, not just survive and avoid disease.
Is RNIs Enough for Optimum Nutrition and Health?
Optimum nutrition suggests abundant nutrition, where we can maximise our wellness capability, giving our bodies optimum amounts of nutrients in order to not just function but to fuel our health, and our lives.
We all know that nutrients are found in many fruits and vegetables, however, a report from the NDNS highlighted that the proportion of adults meeting the 5-A-Day recommendation was just 27%.
Let’s consider Vitamin D….. While 5mcg a day promotes protection from rickets, 30mcg a day, more than you can eat, confers optimal protection from a number of common cancers. The NHS says that as adults during the summer we should get enough vit d from our sunlight exposure, but it also mentions in the same article that people that don’t get enough sunlight such as people that spend a lot of time in doors are classed as at risk and should supplement their diet. So where does that leave me?? I am an adult, but I also work full-time in a “not so sunny” office. This goes to highlight polarity when concerning – lack of disease versus the presence of wellness.
How easy is it to reach the RNI?
We are all living our hectic lives, long hours in the office, social packed weekends and early morning gym sessions which require optimum energy levels in order for us to maintain health. Most of us struggle to reach the minimum recommended 5 servings of fruit and veg a day – I mean, have you reached yours today?
If you are not having 5 or more portions of fruit and veg on a daily basis the odds are you are not getting the required nutrients to maintain health and energy levels.
But even when you do manage to eat your 5 a day, how can you ensure that you have reached the RNIs? Answer me this….Do you know what food has what nutrients? do you know how different cooking method affects the nutrients in that food? Not only that how can you guarantee that the veg hasn’t been sitting in the supermarkets for weeks before you take it home for your dinner? All these aspects can affect the nutrient content in the food and hinder you achieving your RNI. A lot of things to think about right?!
Scientific American reviews several studies all of which highlight that nutrients in fruit and vegetables are not what they used to be. Worryingly this is affecting a varied amount of foods we eat. Nutrient data from 1975 to 1997 revealed shocking reductions in foods nutrition content: calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables dropped 27 percent; iron levels 37 percent; vitamin A levels 21 percent, and vitamin C levels 30 percent. Similarly, data from 1930 to 1980, published in the British Food Journal, found that in 20 vegetables the average calcium content had declined 19 percent; iron 22 percent; and potassium 14 percent. One study highlighted this in real terms discussing that one would have to eat eight oranges today to derive the same amount of Vitamin A as our grandparents would have got from just one orange!