Glossary

Glossary

 

This glossary is updated on a consistent basis as additional terms from our new or existing articles need to be defined.

Running, health, exercise, weight loss
Running is a great form of aerobic exercise.

Aerobic Exercise – A physical form of exercise that focuses on improving the cardiovascular system.  Over an extended period of time, it places demands on your cardiovascular apparatus and, produces beneficial changes in the circulatory and respiratory systems.

Agrochemicals – The term for chemicals that are artificially produced for use in agriculture.  They are intended to improve the efficiency of crops or livestock production.  They are commonly used as growth hormones, herbicides, insecticides, and pesticides.

Alanine – A nonessential amino acid and is an important part of human muscle.  It can be transformed into glucose, that your body uses as an energy source.

Alpha Carotene – A type of carotenoid found in foods such as squash, tangerines, and carrots. It can be converted by the body into Vitamin A and provides the health benefit of neutralizing free radicals that may cause damage to cells.

Amino Acids – Commonly referred to as the building blocks of protein.  There are twenty standard amino acids that combine to make up every protein that is essential to the human body.  An amino acid is classified as essential, if body synthesis is inadequate to meet metabolic need, and must be supplied as part of the diet. The essential amino acids include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Amino acids can be synthesized by the body in adequate amounts, are classified as nonessential. These include alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid,  glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline and serine. Conditionally essential are nonessential amino acids, but  become essential under certain conditions when the body cannot synthesize them.

blueberries, antioxidants, health, diet, fruit
Blueberries are a good source of antioxidants. Photo by henskechristine

Antioxidant – These are chemical substances that help protect against cell damage from free radicals and are thought to help prevent cancer and heart disease. Well-known antioxidants include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, and flavonoids.  Natural sources known to contain high levels of antioxidants include tea, blueberries, broccoli, pomegranates, cranberries, and spinach.

Aorta – The major artery that carries blood from the heart out to your body.

Ascorbic Acid – The most common form is vitamin C. (Hyperlink to Vitamin C)

Aspartame – Aspartame is a low calorie sweetener used in a variety of foods and beverages and as a sugar substitute. It is about 200 times sweeter than sugar.  The FDA asserts that aspartame is safe at current levels of consumption as a non-nutritive sweetener, but must be avoided by individuals with phenylketonuria.

Aspartic Acid – A nonessential amino acid found in its highest quantities in the brain.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) – The minimum level of energy required to sustain the body’s vital functions while at rest.  It is usually and individual’s greatest form of calorie expenditure, responsible for more than half of the calories burned in a day.

Beta-Carotene – A type of carotenoid found in various found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, as well as some green leafy vegetables. They contain antioxidants which provide the health benefit of neutralizing free radicals that may cause damage to cells.

Blood Pressure – A measure of the amount of pressure that is in one’s arteries.  Clogging of the arteries will increase the amount of pressure.

Blood Sugar –  A measure that indicates the blood sugar concentration or blood glucose level. Low blood sugar is associated with hypoglycemia, while high blood sugar is associated with hyperglycemia.

Body Mass Index (BMI) – A ratio of weight to height, and is often used as a general indicator of health by estimating body fat. Your BMI can be calculated by dividing your weight (in kilograms) by the square of your height (in meters).  However, it does not take into account lean body mass and it is possible to have actually have a low percentage of boy fat and still fall into the overweight category.

Bran – Part of a grain husk, which is separated after milling. It is high in dietary fiber and other nutrients.

Caffeine – A natural stimulant found found naturally in plants such as coffee beans, teas, and cocoa beans Caffeine does not accumulate in the body over the course of time and is normally excreted within several hours of consumption.

Calcium – As an essential mineral, calcium helps the body form bones and teeth.  Ot is required for blood clotting, transmitting signals in nerve cells, and muscle contraction.  It can be found in dairy product (e.g milk, cheese) as well as some green vegetables (e.g. spinach, broccoli).

Calorie – A calorie is defined as the amount of energy required to raise one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius. For the purpose of measuring the amount of energy in food, nutritionists most commonly use kilocalories (equal to 1,000 calories).  It is the kilocalorie measurement that is used on food labels.

Carbohydrate – One three macronutrients in our diets that provide calories (other two are fat and protein) and they are a major source of energy for the body. In terms of nutrition, carbohydrates are typically described as either complex carbohydrates or simple carbohydrates.  Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest, contain nutrients such as fiber, vitamins and minerals, and are an important part of your diet.  They are found in many different natural foods such as grains, seeds, nuts, legumes, vegetables and some fruits.  Simple carbohydrates are typically natural products that have been refined with few essential vitamins and minerals (although some occur naturally in fruit).  They are found in foods such as honey, molasses, soft drinks, and table sugar.  The vast majority of the carbohydrates we consume should come from complex carbohydrates.  Any simple carbohydrates should come from less refined sources such as fruits or dairy products.

Carbohydrate loading – A strategy used by athletes designed to increase temporarily the amount of glycogen stored in your muscles, by consuming a high quantity of carbohydrates, in preparation for an endurance event.

Carcinogens – Any substance, natural or synthetic, that is an agent in causing cancer.

Cholesterol – A soft, waxy substance which is present in all parts of the body.  It is both made by the body and obtained from animal products in the diet. Cholesterol is manufactured in the liver for normal body functions. Dietary cholesterol is found only in animal foods. LDL seems to be the culprit in coronary heart disease, since they can stick together to form plaque deposits on the walls of your blood vessels and is commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol.”

Choline – An essential nutrient that is used in the production and repair of cellular membranes.  It can be found in foods such as egg yolks and soy.

Chromium – A trace mineral that is important for the metabolism of sugar, as it helps the body be more responsive to insulin.

Cobalamin – Commonly referred to as Vitamin B12.  (Include V B12 link)

Complete Protein – A protein that contains ample amounts of all nine of the essential amino acids.

Control group – A group of subjects that are a part of an experimental study, to whom a comparison is made in order to determine whether an observation or treatment has an effect.  This group does not receive a treatment and is given a placebo, or false treatment.  They are compared to the experimental group, which does receive the treatment.

Controlled experiment – In this type of research, study subjects are selected according to relevant characteristics, and then randomly assigned to either the experimental group, or the control group. The experimental group is then given a treatment, and the results are compared to the control group, which does not receive the treatment.

Correlation – A mutual or reciprocal relationship between two or more things.  A correlation does not prove cause and effect.

Dairy – One of the five food groups.  Common dairy foods include, milk, cheese and yogurt.  They are an important source of calcium.

Diet – The amount and types of food consumed.  A healthy diet is one that helps attaint optimal health.

Dietary fat – The fat that you get from the food you eat.  The four main types are monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, saturated fat, and trans fat.

Dietary Supplement – A substance with which the intended use is to provide the body with additional nutrients.

Dietary Fiber Fiber that is obtained from food.  (Hyperlink to Fiber)

Digestion – The process by which the body breaks down food into nutrients that can be used throughout the body.

DNA – The molecule that carries the genetic information for most living systems.

Electrolytes – Mineral compounds, such as sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium, that, when dissolved in water, become electrically charged particles called ions.  Proper electrolyte balance in the body is important for hydration, blood pH, and proper nerve and muscle functionality.

Empty Calorie – Calories that are obtained from substances containing little or no nutritional value.

Enriched Foods – Foods that have nutrients added during processing. This is typically done to replace the nutrients that may have been lost through processing and handling.

Enzyme – Complex proteins that assist in or enable chemical reactions to occur.  An example are “digestive” enzymes, which help your body break food down so that it can more easily be absorbed.

Essential Amino Acids – Amino acids that your body does not have the ability to synthesize. The nine essential amino acids for humans are; histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, theronine, tryptophan, and valine.  They must be supplied by your diet.

Essential Fatty Acid – A fat that your body needs but cannot assemble from other fats. They must be supplied by your diet.  These include two families of essential fatty acids called omega-3 and omega-6.

Essential Nutrient – They cannot be manufactured by your body and must be obtained from your diet.

Fats – There are different types of fats and some are a vital nutrient in a healthy diet. Dietary fat is needed to carry fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and to aid in their absorption.  They are an important type of fuel as one gram of fat provides 9 calories.  Fatty acids are generally classified as saturated, unsaturated (monounsaturated or polyunsaturated) and trans fats. These

Fat-Soluble Vitamins – Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble vitamins because they dissolve in fat. These vitamins are not easily excreted by the body and can build up to toxic levels over time if much more than the RDA is taken.

Fiber – Dietary fiber is made up of complex carbohydrates that cannot be digested, but aid in digestion and elimination. Since the body does not absorb fiber, it has no calories. Dietary fiber is obtained from plants (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and legumes). There are two basic types of fiber insoluble and soluble.

Flavonoids – A class of water-soluble pigments that are found in many plants. They not labeled as essential nutrients, but many of them serve as antioxidants/anticarcinogens or play other important roles in maintaining the health of your body.

Folate, Folic Acid – Forms of Vitamin B9.  (hyperlink VB9)

Food Additives – Any natural or synthetic material, other than the basic raw ingredients, used in the production of a food item including those used in the production, processing, treatment, packaging, transportation or storage of food.

Food Allergen – An adverse reaction to an otherwise harmless food or food component.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – Part of the Public Health Service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Taken from their website: “The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.  The FDA is also responsible for advancing the public health by helping to speed innovations that make medicines and foods more effective, safer, and more affordable; and helping the public get the accurate, science-based information they need to use medicines and foods to improve their health.”  The only foods not regulated by the FDA are eggs, meat, and poultry, as they are regulated by the USDA.

Food Pyramid – The Food Pyramid is nutrition guide release by the USDA.  It is used to communicate the recommended daily food choices contained in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Food Preservatives – Natural or synthetic substances that prevent spoilage either by slowing the growth of organisms that live on food or by protecting the food from oxygen

Fortified Foods– Adding nutrients to foods that are not present organically. Milk that has been fortified with vitamin D is a good example.  This helps your body absorb the calcium and phosphorus found naturally in milk.

Free Radicals – Highly reactive molecules and play a role in many different biological processes.  Some free radicals are necessary, but others have been linked to cancer.

Gene – A natural unit of the hereditary material. It is responsible for the transmission of the characteristics of living organisms from one generation to another.

Glucose – A simple sugar carbohydrate that is essential to biology and an important source of energy for the body.

Glycemic Index (GI) – A scale that’s used to rank foods according to their effects on blood-sugar levels. It predicts the rate at which the ingested food will cause an increase blood-sugar levels. The scale goes from 1 to 100. Foods with a lower GI level release energy more slowly

Glycogen – An energy reserve in your body.

Grains – The grain food group is made up of barley, corn, oats, rice and wheat.  Common food made with grain include bread, cereal, and oatmeal.

HDL Cholesterol –  Commonly referred to as “good cholesterol,” as it may help remove plaque buildup in the arteries.

Health – The term health refers to the condition of our mind and body. Good health generally means that one is free from illness (mental or physical), injury, or other ailment.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) – A corn syrup that has been processed to increase its fructose so that it is sweet enough to act as a substitute for table sugar in many food products.

Hydrogenation – In the food industry, it is the process of adding hydrogen molecules directly to an unsaturated fatty acid (usually from a vegetable oil) to convert it to a semi solid form.  This produces substances such as margarine or shortening.

Incomplete Protein – A protein that lacks one or more of the essential amino acids.

Insoluble Fiber – This is a plant fiber that the human digestive system cannot process.  It is a natural laxative and it absorbs water which helps us feel fuller after eating.  Many plant foods such as wheat bran, cauliflower, cabbage, beans and green leafy vegetables contain insoluble fiber.

Insulin – A hormone that enables the body to move and regulate blood sugar (glucose).

International Unit (IU) – A unit of measure that measure the effect or biological activity of the substance.  It is not a weight measurement.

Iron – This is an essential mineral that forms part of the hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body.

Lactose – A sugar naturally occurring in milk.

Lactose Intolerance – An inability to properly digest dairy products.

Low Calorie Sweetener – Chemical substitutes for table sugar that contain a fraction of the amount of calories.

Magnesium – An essential trace mineral. It is needed for protein, bone, and fatty acid formation, making new cells, activating B vitamins, relaxing muscles, blood clotting, and the production of insulin.

Mercury – A metal that is toxic to humans.  It is commonly found in fish and shellfish, especially in fish that are high up on the food chain such as albacore tuna, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel.

Metabolism – Process by which digested food is converted into energy and used by the body.  It is measured in calories.

Monounsaturated Fat – Commonly referred to as a “good fat.”  They are known to reduce bad cholesterol and are found in foods such as olive oil.

Niacin – See Vitamin B3

Nutrients – The parts of food that we need to live (vitamins, minerals, etc.).

Nutrition – Processing the parts of food necessary for supporting life.

Obesity – A condition in which a person’s percentage of body fat is excessively high.  Most experts agree that it is when the body fat ratio is greater than 20% of optimal weight.

Overweight – A condition in which a person’s percentage of body fat is in excess.  Most experts agree that it is when the body fat ratio is within 10%-20% of optimal weight.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids – A type of unsaturated fatty acid that has been linked to health benefits such as reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and improved mental function.  Good sources include chia seeds, salmon and sardines.

Organic foods – These are foods that were grown with out the use of manufactured fertilizers, pesticides, plant growth regulators and genetically modified organisms.  Farmers markets are great places to find organic foods.

Phosphorus (Phosphate) – An essential mineral that is needed for strong bones and teeth.

Potassium – An essential mineral that is important for regulating blood pressure, heart function, and nerve and muscle activity.