Glossary Of Terms
|The chemical “building blocks” of proteins. There are 20 amino acids that make all proteins. Of these, 9 have to come from food (our bodies don’t make them). For this reason, these 9 are called “essential amino acids.”
|Antioxidants are phytonutrients, compounds found in plants that are beneficial for human health. They help cells fight damage. Vitamins A, C, and E are considered antioxidants.
|Blood sugar, blood glucose
|A measure of how much glucose is circulating in your blood. If the level is high, it means glucose is not getting into your cells properly, which happens in conditions like prediabetes and diabetes.
|A scientific unit of energy in a certain amount of food. For dietary purposes, this is essentially the same as a kilocalorie.
|Carbohydrates (“carbs”) are macronutrients that include starches, sugars, and fiber. Starches and sugars are primarily where glucose (“blood sugar”), the body’s source of energy, comes from.
|A electrolyte that comes from the breakdown of dietary salt (sodium chloride).
|Cholesterol is a waxy substance our bodies need to build cells and make certain vitamins and hormones. The body makes all the cholesterol it needs, but we also get it from food. If we get too much, it can begin to build up on the walls of our arteries, making them narrower and less flexible. If blood forms clots in these narrow passageways, a stroke or heart attack can result. There is a good type (HDL) of cholesterol and a bad type (LDL). The good type helps protect our heart and blood vessels.
|Complex carbohydrates are also known as starches. These include bread, pasta, potatoes, and cereals/grains like rice, wheat, maize (corn), and barley. Starches are broken down more slowly, providing a steadier supply of glucose.
|Electrolytes are substances that are important for many functions in the body. For example, sodium helps keep the right fluid balance in your body. Calcium, which is important for strong bones and teeth, also helps control your muscles. And magnesium helps your body turn food into energy.
|A food item that has had a nutrient added in (often after first being removed during processing/refining.)
|Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in our fat, which means they can build up and cause toxicity. Luckily, this is not common, but it people should be careful about taking vitamin supplements. (More is not always better.)
|Fats are macronutrients found in oils (including olive, peanut, soybean), butter, red meat (beef, mutton), cheese, nuts, and avocados, among other foods. The main types are saturated, unsaturated, and trans.
|Fiber is the undigestible part of carbohydrates (think of the strings on celery or the pulp in orange juice). It helps slow digestion down, steadying glucose release. It also forms feces (“poop”) and helps people avoid constipation by promoting regular bowel movements.
|The scientific name for the type of sugar our body uses for energy. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of glucose. Elevated blood glucose, or blood sugar, may indicate glucose is not getting into our cells properly. This can happen in prediabetes and diabetes.
|Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and some other grains. Unless someone has celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, gluten is not unhealthy for most people.
|A special form of glucose that gets stored in our muscles and liver for energy between meals.
|HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is considered the good cholesterol, because it carries LDL from the arteries back to the liver for disposal, and so lowers our disease risk. It’s found in unsaturated fats.
|The industrial process of forcing hydrogen into liquid unsaturated fats/oils to make them solid, as a method of preservation and convenience.
|A natural process by which the immune system protects the body. In acute form, inflammation is a helpful part of the healing process, such as the redness and swelling you experience when you get a splinter. Less healthy is chronic inflammation, which can be caused by such lifestyle factors such as diet, and is associated with a number of diseases and health disorders.
|On packaged food, a list of all the ingredients in that food, in order of the largest amount to the smallest amount. (So if enriched flour is first, that food has more enriched flour than any other ingredient listed.)
|A scientific unit of energy in a certain amount of food. For dietary purposes, this is essentially the same as a calorie.
|LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is considered the bad cholesterol, because it can build up in arteries and cause chronic inflammation, increasing our risk for a variety of diseases. It’s found in saturated fats and trans fats.
|Carbohydrates, fats, and protein are macronutrients. These are the elements of nutrition we need in larger quantities.
|Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients. These are elements of nutrition we need in smaller amounts.
|Minerals are micronutrients that are naturally found in the ground and in water. We also get these from foods. Examples include calcium, sodium, potassium, iodine, and zinc.
|In the United States, a label required on packaged food that lists components of the food, such as serving size, calories per serving, sodium content, and total fat.
|Omega-3 fatty acids (fats)
|A type of unsaturated fat—found in fatty fish like salmon as well as foods like walnuts and flaxseeds—that elevates good cholesterol and reduces inflammation.
|Phytonutrients are natural compounds that help plants fight diseases, insects, and other environmental threats. They cause the bright colors of fruits and vegetables, and are beneficial for our health.
|Prepared foods, processed foods
|Commercially made foods that you can buy in the supermarket or other store. Prepared/processed foods tend to be less healthy than home-cooked foods, and often contain more salt, sugar, fat, preservatives, and other less-desirable ingredients.
|Another name for beans and peas.
|Saturated fats are solid at room temperature (think of butter, ghee, or bacon grease). These are considered less healthy, because they tip the balance of good and bad cholesterol toward the bad side. They also promote chronic inflammation.
|Also known as “simple sugars,” simple carbohydrates are found in things like fruit, milk, and table sugar. They are broken down quickly and send a burst of glucose into the bloodstream. This can feel like a surge of energy, which can be followed by a lull or “crash” when the glucose is used up.
|A electrolyte that comes from the breakdown of dietary salt (sodium chloride). It is important for fluid balance as well as other critical functions in the body. Getting t too much dietary sodium can increase a person’s risk for high blood pressure and stroke.
|Starch is complex carbohydrate. These include bread, pasta, potatoes, and cereals/grains like rice, wheat, maize (corn), and barley. Complex carbs are broken down more slowly than simple carbs, providing a steadier supply of glucose for energy the body uses.
|A simple carbohydrate, sugar (also known as a “simple sugar”) is found in things like fruit, milk, and table sugar. They are broken down quickly and send a burst of glucose into the bloodstream.
|Supplements get their name from the fact that they supplement the diet; they can be vitamins, minerals, or other substances, such as fiber.
|Trans fats are created by processing unsaturated fats to make them solid and therefore more like saturated fats. This makes them particularly unhealthy. They can also occur from deep frying foods.
|Unsaturated fats, such as olive and other oils, are liquid at room temperature and are generally considered healthier. They elevate good cholesterol, and do not promote chronic inflammation. Subtypes include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
|Vitamins are micronutrients that are needed for a range of bodily functions, but that our bodies typically do not make. They are classified as either water-soluble or fat-soluble. Thirteen vitamins are considered essential for human health: A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12, and folate).
|The whole kernel of a grain, such as wheat), which includes the bran, germ, and the endosperm. These parts of the kernel contain valuable fiber, iron, and B vitamins. These nutritious elements are often removed by refining.