Food labels and vitamin health supplements often list the Percent Daily Value or PDV of each ingredient, but unless you know what it means, the information is unlikely to be of any use or guidance to you.
Simply put, the PDV is the percentage that one portion of that food can contribute to your daily recommended needs. For example, if you check out the ingredients in a daily multivitamin you may see that the PDV of vitamin A is 50% while the calcium content is 22% PDV. This means that one tablet is providing half the vitamin A and 22% of the calcium you need per day. This is far more useful than knowing that you have taken 2500 IU of vitamin A and 220mg of calcium – is that too much or too little? With the PDV, you know that you need to get the remaining 50% of vitamin A and 78% of calcium from your diet.
Other ingredients within a single multivitamin tablet often provide 100% of certain vitamins and minerals, so you know you have already had your daily dose. However, check the labels of each product and compare values so that you know what you are taking and which is the best product to meet your needs.
Food labels are exactly the same; they show the total content and PDV of calories, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, dietary fiber, sugars and protein. Most of the recommended daily intake figures are set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but they have not set a daily value for trans fat or for sugar. The PDV information can help you to judge the value of what you are consuming as part of your food for the day:
- If a product has less than 5% PDV then it is considered low in that nutrient
- If it has more than 20% PDV then it is considered high in that nutrient
Generally you should aim to have a low PDV on bad nutrients such as sugars, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium (salt) if possible. These figures are all based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so if you are trying to lose weight, you should eat foods which have a low PDV for fat and carbohydrates (and consequently lower calories), whereas growing teenagers may need more than 100% PDV as they need around 2,500 calories per day.
It is also worth remembering that the PDV is given per serving, but sometimes a cup of fruit, for example, will be listed as having 2 servings per container, so you will be getting double the PDV of each ingredient if you eat the whole cup.
To get the most benefit from the information given as Percent Daily Values, choose foods that are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber and keep foods which are high in fat, cholesterol and sodium to a minimum. Over time you will learn what foods and brands, are healthier than others and make informed decisions for you and your family.