What is a recommended dietary intake (RDI)?

Food and drinks are made up of nutrients. Your body uses these nutrients for energy and to grow and keep healthy.

In Australia and New Zealand, experts have worked out the average daily amount of each nutrient that is enough to meet the needs of nearly all (97–98%) healthy people. This is amount is called the recommended daily intake (RDI).

Different RDIs are set for different age ranges, life stages and genders.

Where can I find the RDI for a nutrient?

You can find the RDI for a particular nutrient in the combined Australian and New Zealand RDI tables. Please note that these estimates are for healthy people and are not suitable for if you have certain health conditions or for pre-term babies or others with specific nutrient needs.

How can I find out about which food has which nutrients?

Because we eat foods and not single nutrients, it's usually better to know which foods provide which nutrients. Find out about recommended daily servings of major food types and more about food groups in generalYou can also read more about nutrients and why we need them.  

What other terms are used when talking about RDIs?

Estimated average requirement (EAR)

This is a daily nutrient level estimated to meet the requirements of half the healthy people in a particular life stage and gender group. The RDI is the amount needed to meet the requirements for 97–98% of healthy people.

Adequate intake (AI)

Sometimes an RDI for a particular nutrient can’t be worked out, so other ways are used to help guide you on how much to eat. One of those ways is to give an adequate intake (AI) amount, based on what experts have found to be the average nutrient intake within a healthy group of people.

Estimated energy requirement (EER)

This is the average dietary energy intake that is predicted to maintain energy balance in a healthy adult of particular age, gender, weight, height and level of physical activity, consistent with good health.

Upper level (UL)

Nutritional experts have also set upper levels (UL) for nutrients, to make sure you know what the highest level of nutrient intake is that’s likely to pose no risk to our health. As intake rises above the UL, the risk of adverse effects rises.

There is no established benefit for healthy people to eat a nutrient in amounts greater than the RDI or AI. Where there is no UL available, this means there are not enough data to set one. It does not mean that eating a high level of that nutrient is safe.

Both Australia and New Zealand review nutritional reference values from time to time, based on changes in evidence, so it’s wise to adhere to the most up-to-date values.

References

  1. Nutrient reference values for Australia and New Zealand Ministry of Health, NZ, 2006
  2. Nutrients National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia and Ministry of Health, NZ

Reviewed by

Katrina is a New Zealand Registered Dietitian. As a freelance nutrition, health and wellness writer she specialises in making complex health concepts easy to understand.
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Katrina Pace, NZ Registered Dietitian Last reviewed: 09 Dec 2020