Nutrients of Concern

What Food Manufacturers Need to Know

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Every five years, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a new edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (the most recent was released in 2015 and covers the years through 2020)1.

This guide is intended to serve as a guide for all Americans (age 2 and over) to eating a nutritious diet that provides the nutrients needed for optimal growth and development, reproductive health, well-being, and healthy aging. The guidelines influence the diets of millions of people in the United States by laying the foundation for federal nutrition and health policies, as well as public education around nutrition. They also serve as the basis for the nutrition labels required on packaged foods. Along with providing guidance on the recommended intake of various nutrients, the dietary guidelines also identify certain “nutrients of concern.”

First, we will review the different terms used to refer to the amount of a nutrient you should consume in a healthy diet or the amount of a nutrient in a food or supplement.

RDA’s vs. DV’s

Many different terms are used to refer to either the amount of a nutrient you should consume or the amount of a nutrient in a food or dietary supplement. Two of the most common are the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) and the Daily Value (DV).

RDAs are recommended daily intakes of a nutrient for healthy people. This is the amount of a nutrient such as a vitamin or mineral that you need to consume each day to maintain health. The RDAs were developed by the Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. They vary by age and gender. There are also specific RDA’s for women that are pregnant or breastfeeding. Therefore there are several different RDAs for each nutrient.

The DVs were established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They were designed to be used on food and dietary supplement labels. Unlike RDA’s, there is one DV for each nutrient for all people ages 4 years and older. DVs are not recommended intakes. DV’s indicate how much of a nutrient is in a serving of food or a dietary supplement in the context of a total daily diet. DVs often match or exceed the RDAs for most people, but not in all cases.

DVs are shown on food and supplement label as a percentage. This allows consumers to easily compare one product to another in terms of nutrient values. For example, the DV for Iodine is 150 mcg. If a product label says it contains 10% of the DV for Iodine it would contain 15 mcg. If another product said it contained 20% of the DV for Iodine, it is easy to see that the second product contains twice as much Iodine(30 mg.)

What Is a Nutrient of Concern?

Nutrients of concern are nutrients that are typically either over-consumed or under-consumed based on the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), which provides either the minimum level or the maximum level of consumption required to prevent detrimental effects on health. The diet of many Americans lacks in fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, and seafood, which can lead to under-consumption of certain key nutrients.

The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans added five important nutrients to the list of nutrients of concern due to under-consumption. These include calcium, potassium, iron, dietary fiber, and vitamin D. All are considered “shortfall nutrients” because either the average American doesn’t get enough to stave off negative effects or a particular segment of the population (such as women or children) tend to be deficient.


Because calcium is so important, many common foods are fortified with extra doses of the mineral.

Calcium is a key mineral that is needed for building and maintaining healthy bones. Calcium also plays an important role in vascular contraction, and vasodilation, muscle function, nerve transmission, intracellular signaling, and hormonal secretion. Studies have shown that primary risk factors associated with insufficient calcium levels include softened or brittle bones, bone fractures, osteoporosis, and even dental problems.2

Calcium is found naturally in many foods, especially milk and products made from milk (like cheese and yogurt) and fish with soft bones that you eat like sardines and salmon. Green vegetables like kale and broccoli also contain calcium. Because calcium is so important, many common foods are fortified with extra doses of the mineral. Breakfast cereal, fruit juice, and dairy substitutes like rice milk and soy milk are often fortified with calcium.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the RDA of calcium for most people is between 1000 and 1300 milligrams of calcium per day, but many people fall short of that goal, says The National Institutes of Health. Most Americans, in fact, are only getting about 75 percent of their recommended daily calcium intake through their diets.3


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Dietary Fiber

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Vitamin D

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What Food and Beverage Manufacturers Need to Know

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