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How much is enough?

Reference Intake (RIs) are set out in European law and replace Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs). They are designed to encourage healthier eating by showing what contribution a particular product, or portion of a product, can make to daily nutrient intake.

While everyone has different energy and nutrient requirements, RIs provide a useful indication of how much energy the average person needs and how a particular nutrient fits into your daily diet. They are usually included as part of nutrition information on product packaging as part of the nutrient label.

RI values are based on an average-sized woman doing an average amount of physical activity, with no special dietary needs and an assumed energy intake of 2000 kcals per day.

 Info 2016 01

Salt

When questioned on the RI for salt, the public is clearly confused on how much is healthy; 44% correctly said it was just 1 teaspoon (6g) per day, but that still left nearly 20% saying they didn’t know the correct RI and 22% believed it was twice the amount at two teaspoons.

Unsurprisingly, the older age groups were the most knowledgeable about how much salt should form part of their daily diet – probably a result of a greater awareness of how an excessive amount of salt can have a negative effect on blood pressure as we age.

Older respondents are also more likely to have their blood pressure checked as part of regular health screening, meaning they probably receive more reminders about the importance of keeping salt consumption down.

57% of those aged 55+ and 45% of 45–54 year-olds understood the RI to be 1g. The percent of respondents guessing the correct amount dropped to just 23% of 18–24 year-olds.

Just 25% of 18-24 year olds and 18% of 25–34 year-olds believed the salt RI to be three teaspoons.

Info 2016 02

Saturated fat

There appears to be a lot of misunderstanding around how much saturated fat adults should consume each day.

A third of survey respondents admitted to not knowing how much they can healthily have with the percentage rising to 37% of 45–54 year-olds and 55+ year-olds. Just a quarter of respondents selected the official RI of 20g per day.

A further quarter of all respondents believed the RI to be 30g per day, with significant numbers of all age groups – ranging from 32% of 25–34 year-olds to 21% of 45–54 year-olds selecting this amount.

There was little difference between men and women on this question with roughly a quarter of both selecting 20g and 30g respectively. However, a further 32% of men and 36% of women – still relatively high considering the intensity of public health campaigns, professed not to know.

Info 2016 03

Find out more about the public's knowledge of health and nutrition in our National Health Report. 

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