On this page


Other nutrients

The information on this page is historical. Food labels are changing and the term Guideline Daily Amount is being replaced by Reference Intake (RI). Read about the new nutrition labelling requirements.

Protein (GDA: 45g)

Proteins are the major functional and structural components of all the cells of the body and they are essential for their growth and repair. All enzymes, blood transport molecules, antibodies, hair, fingernails and many hormones are proteins. Proteins are also a large part of membranes. Proteins are made of sequences of amino acids linked together.

Each gram of protein provides four calories, and can therefore be used as a source of energy. Despite that the body prefers using carbohydrates and fats as its first source of energy.

Proteins are found in different foods. Some animal sources of proteins are meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt. Some plant sources of proteins are legumes (or pulses such as beans and lentils), grains, nuts, seeds and cereals.

Proteins should contribute 10-15 percent of our total energy (calories) intake. This amount is essential to maintain the required protein turnover necessary for the normal growth and repair of body tissues. It is also important to introduce proteins into our diet because we cannot produce all the amino acids we need. Therefore we must get 'essential amino-acids' from food.

The Guideline Daily Amount for proteins is 45 grams.

Carbohydrates (GDA: 270g)

Carbohydrates have been traditionally regarded as a simple energy source but they are now recognised as important food components. They are the most important source of energy (fat and protein being the others) and should make up to 50-55 percent of our daily energy (calories) intake.

The main types of carbohydrates are sugars, starches and fibres which can be found in fruits, vegetables, grains, cereal products, milk and milk products.

Sugars and starches are the main sources of energy (calories). They provide four calories per gram and supply energy to the body in the form of glucose. The brain can only use glucose as a source of energy, so it is essential to always keep the level of glucose in the blood at an optimum level.

In addition to providing energy, carbohydrates play an important role in the construction of body organs and nerve cells and in defining a person's blood group.

Unlike sugars and starches, fibre does not supply glucose to the body and is not digested in the small intestine. Fibre has many beneficial effects on health, such as preventing constipation and improving blood glucose levels. It also has a satiating effect so it can play an important role in weight management.

The Guideline Daily Amount for carbohydrates is 270 grams.

Fibre (GDA: 24g)

Fibres are a type of carbohydrate which do not supply glucose to the body (unlike starch and sugars). It is not digested and hence is absorbed by the small intestine. Fibre is only found in plants and is needed to keep the digestive system healthy.

Fruit, vegetables, pulses (such as beans, chickpeas, lentils) and wholegrains are all sources of fibre.

Fibre plays many important roles:

  • It increases stool weight and decreases gut transit time, which helps to prevent constipation.
  • It slows down digestion and the absorption of carbohydrates (starches and sugars), which helps to slow the rise of blood glucose after a meal.
  • It can help prevent heart diseases by having a positive effect on blood lipids.
  • It can help weight management by making you feel more satiated.

These are just some of the reasons why it is very important to introduce enough fibre in our diet.

The Guideline Daily Amount for fibre is 24 grams.