How do you know if given meal plan (I avoid using word “diet” on purpose) is good for you? How do you check if given product is healthy or if you are eating enough fats? How do you even know how much fat should you eat? Well, we have this thing called Guideline Daily Amounts, so let’s find out what’s that.
Little boring history
Guideline Daily Amounts, or GDA, is a system of nutrition developed in UK between 1998 and 2005, and was based on 1991 report of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy on Dietary Reference Values (damn, that’s long name!) and on raport on salt published by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. It’s main purpose is to help customers put the nutrition information they can find on various product labels into overall diet context. I’m sure you’ve seen food label that, beside absolute values, contains GDA %.
It’s worth to know that GDA tables are UK and European thing, with US and Canada having their own system, called Dietary Reference Intake. Values in both varies and I will focus on GDA in the rest of this post.
Here in the UK GDA are basically on every single food product you can buy, often on both front (summary) and back (detailed table) of packaging. It also spreads across the Europe.
Not that perfect
I don’t want to get into details of how exactly was GDA developed (and I went half brain dead trying to read too much about that), but one thing everyone should know is that GDA tables are based on average values. Those were prepared for average person, with average energy needs, without taking into consideration workout nor any health or weight problems. Still it is a good reference point, but you shouldn’t treat it too strictly.
Below you can see the table for men, women and children.
|Typical values||Women||Men||Children (5-10 years)|
|Calories||2,000 kcal||2,500 kcal||1,800 kcal|
|Protein||45 g||55 g||24 g|
|Carbohydrate||230 g||300g||220 g|
|Sugars||90 g||120 g||85 g|
|Fat||70 g||95 g||70 g|
|Saturates||20 g||30 g||20 g|
|Fibre||24 g||24 g||15 g|
|Salt||6 g||6 g||4 g|
Above table was prepared for Europe, but simple comparison to Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) shows huge differences. For instance, DRI recommends above 50 g of proteins and 130 g of carbohydrates for men. Many people criticise GDA tables for too high salt and sugar values. On top of that I see too high (in my opinion of course) total calories. Perhaps that’s one of the reason of obesity in United Kingdom? And yes, obesity here is quite visible.
Just to compare, I eat around 2000 - 2500 kcal per day, having between two and four training sessions per day. Yes, my plan is to lose weight, but I’m quite sure that 2500 kcal is too high. Excluding exercises, I’d love to see around 1800 for women and 2000 for men. Then, if you need extra energy for workouts, just add some and observe your weight / fat level. Simple.
- avoid sugars, salt and saturated fat.
- strictly avoid trans fat.
- pick products with fibre, natural proteins, grain carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
Misconceptions and misinformation: The problems with Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs)