In order to assist you to find the correct meanings of the commonly used nutrition terms, I have listed down the ABC of nutrition ……in alphabetical order.
This nutrition glossary includes definitions of the common nutritional terms.
Lets start by understanding what exactly is nutrition ?
Nutrition (also called nourishment or aliment) is the provision, to cells and organisms, of the materials necessary (in the form of food) to support life. Many common health problems can be prevented or alleviated with a healthy diet. The diet of an organism refers to what it eats. Dietitians or nutritionists are the health professionals who specialize in human nutrition, meal planning, economics, preparation, and so on. They are trained to provide safe, evidence-based dietary advice and management to individuals (in health and disease), as well as to institutions.
ABC of Nutrition- A comprehensive nutrition glossary
Alcoholic beverages-An alcoholic beverage is a drink containing ethanol (commonly called alcohol). Alcoholic beverages are divided into three general classes: beers, wines, and spirits. Alcoholic beverages that have a lower alcohol content (beer and wine) are produced by fermentation of sugar- or starch-containing plant material; beverages of higher alcohol content (spirits) are produced by fermentation followed by distillation. Excessive consumption leads to a condition called alcoholism, which is related to many health risks.
Antioxidant: Antioxidants are chemical substances that help protect against cell damage from free radicals. Well-known antioxidants include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, and flavonoids
Body Mass Index (BMI): Body Mass Index is a standardized ratio of weight to height, and is often used as a general indicator of health. Your BMI can be calculated by dividing your weight (in kilograms) by the square of your height (in meters). A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal for most adults. Higher BMIs may indicate that an individual is overweight or obese.
Calcium: Of all the essential minerals in the human body, calcium is the most abundant. Calcium helps the body form bones and teeth and is required for blood clotting, transmitting signals in nerve cells, and muscle contraction. Calcium helps prevent osteoporosis; of the two to three pounds of calcium contained in the human body, 99% is located in the bones and teeth.
Calcium also seems to play a role in lowering blood pressure, and has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women.
Calorie: Calorie is a unit of measurement for energy. One calorie is formally defined as the amount of energy required to raise one cubic centimeter of water by one degree centigrade. For the purpose of measuring the amount of energy in food, nutritionists most commonly use kilocalories (equal to 1,000 calories), and label the measurement either as “kcal” or as “Calories” with a capital “C.” One kcal is also equivalent to approximately 4.184 kilojoules
Cholesterol: Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance present in all parts of the body including the nervous system, skin, muscles, liver, intestines, and heart. 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 including the production of hormones, bile acid, and vitamin D. It is transported in the blood to be used by all parts of the body.
In the blood stream, cholesterol combines with fatty acids to form high-density (HDL) and low-density (LDL) lipoproteins. LDLs are considered the “bad cholesterol,” since they can stick together to form plaque deposits on the walls of your blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis.
Dietary Fiber: Dietary fiber comes from the thick cell walls of plants. It is an indigestible complex carbohydrate. Fiber is divided into two general categories: water-soluble and water-insoluble.
Soluble fiber has been shown to lower cholesterol. However, in many studies, the degree of cholesterol reduction was quite modest. For unknown reasons, diets higher in insoluble fiber (mostly unrelated to cholesterol levels) have been shown to correlate better with protection against heart disease in human trials. Soluble fibers can also lower blood-sugar levels, and some doctors believe that increasing fiber decreases the body’s need for insulin—a good sign for diabetics.
Insoluble fiber acts as a stool softener, which speeds digestion through the intestinal tract. For this reason, insoluble fiber is an effective treatment for constipation. The reduction in “transit time” has also been thought to partially explain the link between a high-fiber diet and a reduced risk of colon cancer
Enzyme: Enzymes are complex proteins that assist in or enable chemical reactions to occur. “Digestive” enzymes, for example, help your body break food down into chemical compounds that can more easily be absorbed. Thousands of different enzymes are produced by your body
Fatty Acids: Fatty acids are individual isomers of what we more commonly call “fats”. There are potentially hundreds of different fatty acids, but just a few dozen that are commonly found in the foods we eat.
Glycemic Index (GI): The Glycemic Index is a dietary index that’s used to rank carbohydrate-based foods. The Glycemic Index predicts the rate at which the ingested food will increase bloodsugar levels.
HDL: High-density lipoproteins (HDL) is one of the 5 major groups of lipoproteins (chylomicrons, VLDL, IDL, LDL, HDL) which enable lipids like cholesterol and triglycerides to be transported within the water based blood stream. In healthy individuals, about thirty percent of blood cholesterol is carried by HDL. It is hypothesized that HDL can remove cholesterol from atheroma within arteries and transport it back to the liver for excretion or re-utilization—which is the main reason why HDL-bound cholesterol is sometimes called “good cholesterol. Having omega 3 fatty acids, exercise and stopping smoking helps to build HDL levels.
Insulin: Insulin is a hormone that’s secreted by your pancreas to help regulate blood-sugar level and promotes glycogen storage. Individuals with diabetes mellitus supplement insulin to make up for their body’s inability to produce sufficient amounts
Iron: Iron is one of the human body’s essential minerals. It forms part of hemoglobin, the component of the blood that carries oxygen throughout the body. People with iron-poor blood tire easily because their bodies are starved for oxygen. Iron is also part of myoglobin, which helps muscles store oxygen. With insufficient iron, adenosine triphosphate (ATP; the fuel the body runs on) cannot be properly synthesized. As a result, some iron-deficient people can become fatigued even when they are not anemic
Lipid: A general classification to denote water-insoluble compounds, such as fatty acids and sterols
Macronutrient: Nutritionists often group nutrients into two subclasses, called macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients refer to those nutrients that form the major portion of your consumption and contribute energy to your diet. Macronutrients include carbohydrates, fats, protein, and alcohol. Sometimes water is also considered to be a macronutrient. All other nutrients are consumed in smaller amounts, and are labeled as micronutrients
Monosaccharides: Monosaccharides are simple carbohydrates that consist of a single sugar molecule. Examples include glucose, fructose, and galactose.
Monounsaturated Fat: In biochemistry and nutrition, monounsaturated fats are fatty acids that have a single double bond in the fatty acid chain and all of the remainder of the carbon atoms in the chain are single-bonded. Monounsaturated fats are found in natural foods such as nuts and avocados, and are the main component of flax seed oil and olive oil (oleic acid). Other sources include rapeseed oil, ground nut oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, corn oil, whole grain wheat, cereal, oatmeal, etc. In general, consumption of monounsaturated oils is associated with healthier serum lipid profiles.
Nutrient Density: Nutrient density is the measurement of the amount of a nutrient per fixed portion of food. By its own convention, Nutrition Data calculates nutrient densities based on a 200-Calorie serving size. If you know the nutrient density of a food, you can better compare its nutritional value to that of other foods, regardless of serving size.
Polysaccharides: Polysaccharides are complex carbohydrates, made up of multiple sugar molecules. Examples of polysaccharides include cellulose, starch, and dextrin.
Polyunsaturated Fats- These fatty acids have 2 or more cis double bonds which are separated from each other by a single methylene group. The essential fatty acids are either omega-3 or omega -6 fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fat can be found mostly in grain products, fish and sea food (herring, salmon, mackerel, halibut), soybeans and fish oil.. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in oils like sunflower oil and safflower oil
Potassium: Potassium is an essential mineral that helps regulate heart function, blood pressure, and nerve and muscle activity. Potassium is also required for carbohydrate and protein metabolism and helps maintain the proper pH within the body. Those with higher potassium intakes tend to have lower blood pressure and people with low blood levels of potassium who are undergoing heart surgery are at an increased risk of developing heart arrhythmias and an increased need for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Excessive sodium intake can increase your body’s requirements for potassium.
Protein: Protein is one of the basic components of food and makes all life possible. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. All of the antibodies and enzymes, and many of the hormones in the body, are proteins. They provide for the transport of nutrients, oxygen, and waste throughout the body. They provide the structure and contracting capability of muscles. They also provide collagen to connective tissues of the body and to the tissues of the skin, hair, and nails.
Refined foods– Refined food is the term for packaged foods that has gone through many processes to modify basic foods, to improve generally the shelf life (time before it goes rotten), and the way of storage (ie. longlife milk and juice that don’t need refrigeration) or to enhance flavour, colour etc. Examples of refined foods are white flour, white sugar, packaged foods .Whole grains are healthier because they contain higher amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fiber than refined grains, primarily because the bran of the kernel has not been removed.
Satiety: Satiety refers to the feeling of satisfaction or “fullness” produced by the consumption of food.
Saturated Fat: A saturated fat is a fat or fatty acid in which there are no double bonds between the carbon atoms of the fatty acid chain. Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature. Diets high in saturated fat have been shown to correlate with an increased incidence of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. Dehydrogenation converts saturated fats to unsaturated fats, while hydrogenation accomplishes the reverse.
Common saturated fats include butter, lard, palm oil, coconut oil, cottonseed oil, and palm kernel oil. Saturated fat is found in dairy products, especially cream and cheese, and in meat, as well as in many prepared foods. Some studies suggest that replacing saturated fats in the diet with unsaturated fats will increase one’s ratio of HDL to LDL serum cholesterol.
Alternatives to saturated fats include mono un saturated fats such as olive oil and polyunsaturated fats such as canola oil and corn oil
Sodium: Sodium is a mineral, an essential nutrient. It helps to maintain blood volume, regulate the balance of water in the cells, and keep nerves functioning. The kidneys control sodium balance by increasing or decreasing sodium in the urine. One teaspoon of salt contains about 2,300 milligrams of sodium, more than four times the amount the body requires per day.
Most of us consume far more sodium than our bodies need. Many foods contain sodium naturally, and it is commonly added to foods during preparation or processing or as a flavoring agent. Sodium is also found in drinking water, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter medications.
Trans fats– Trans fat is the common name for a type of unsaturated fat with trans–isomer fatty acid(s). Trans fats may be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated but never saturated. These saturated fats have a higher melting point, which makes them attractive for baking and extends their shelf-life. However, the process frequently has a side effect that turns some cis-isomers into trans-unsaturated fats instead of hydrogenating them completely. Unlike other dietary fats, trans fats are not essential, and they do not promote good health The consumption of trans fats increases one’s risk of coronary heart disease. by raising levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and lowering levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. Health authorities worldwide recommend that consumption of trans fat be reduced to trace amounts. Trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils are more harmful than naturally occurring oils
Triphala- Triphala literally means three fruits. It is an Ayurvedic herbal rasayana formula consisting of equal parts of three myrobalans, taken without seed: Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Bibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica), and Haritaki (Terminalia chebula). Triphala is used to promote appetite and digestion, increase the number of red blood cells, and aid in removal of undesirable fat in the body. When dissolved in the mouth, Triphala is used to clear congestion and headaches. Other claimed benefits include helping maintain normal blood sugar levels, as well as improvement in skin tone and colour.
Unsaturated Fat: An unsaturated fat is a fat or fatty acid in which there are one or more double bonds between carbon atoms of the fatty acid chain. Such fat molecules are monounsaturated if each contains one double bond, and polyunsaturated if each contains more than one.
Hydrogenation converts unsaturated fats to saturated fats, while dehydrogenation accomplishes the reverse. Unsaturated fats tend to melt at lower temperatures than saturated fats, which tend to be solid at room temperature.
Both kinds of unsaturated fat can replace saturated fat in the diet. Substituting unsaturated fats for saturated fats helps to lower levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in the blood
Vitamin A (Retinol): Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin with multiple functions in the body. It helps cells differentiate, an essential part of cell reproduction. Cells that are not fully differentiated are more likely to undergo precancerous changes. It is a central component for healthy vision; vitamin A nourishes cells in various structures of the eye and is required for the transduction of light into nerve signals in the retina. It is required during pregnancy, stimulating normal growth and development of the fetus by influencing genes that determine the sequential growth of organs in embryonic development. It influences the function and development of sperm, ovaries, and placenta and is a vital component of the reproductive process.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): Vitamin B1 is a water-soluble vitamin that the body requires to break down carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Every cell of the body requires vitamin B1 to form adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Vitamin B1 is also essential for the proper functioning of nerve cells.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Vitamin B2 is a water-soluble vitamin that helps the body process amino acids and fats, activate vitamin B6 and folic acid, and convert carbohydrates to adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Under some conditions, vitamin B2 can act as an antioxidant.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin): Vitamin B3 is required for cell respiration and helps release the energy in carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It also supports proper circulation and healthy skin, functioning of the nervous system, and normal secretion of bile and stomach fluids. It is used in the synthesis of sex hormones, treating schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, and as a memory-enhancer.
Nicotinic acid (but not nicotinamide) supplementation improves the blood cholesterol profile, and has been used to flush the body of organic poisons, such as certain insecticides. People report more mental alertness when this vitamin is in sufficient supply.
A shortage of niacin may be indicated with symptoms such as canker sores, depression, diarrhea, dizziness, fatigue, halitosis, headaches, indigestion, insomnia, limb pains, loss of appetite, low blood-sugar, muscular weakness, skin eruptions, and inflammation.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid): Vitamin B5 is a water-soluble vitamin involved in the Kreb’s energy production cycle and is needed for the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter. Vitamin B5 also triggers the adrenal glands, is essential in transporting and releasing energy from fats, and enables the synthesis of cholesterol, vitamin D, and steroid hormones. Pantethine—a vitamin B5 byproduct—has been shown to lower cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.
Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin and is part of the vitamin B complex. Vitamin B6 plays a role in the synthesis of antibodies by the immune system, which are needed to fight many diseases. It helps maintain normal nerve function and also acts in the formation of red blood cells. Vitamin B6 is also required for the chemical reactions needed to digest proteins. The higher the protein intake, the more the need for vitamin B6.
Large doses of vitamin B6 can cause neurological disorders and numbness. Deficiency of this vitamin can cause mouth and tongue sores, irritability, confusion, and depression.
Vitamin B9 (Folate): Vitamin B9, also known as folic acid, is a B vitamin necessary for cell replication and growth. Folic acid helps form building blocks of DNA, which holds the body’s genetic information, and building blocks of RNA, needed for protein synthesis. Folic acid is most important, then, for rapidly growing tissues, such as those of a fetus, and rapidly regenerating cells, like red blood cells and immune cells. Folic acid deficiency results in an anemia that responds quickly to folic acid supplements.
The need for folic acid increases considerably during pregnancy. Deficiencies of folic acid during pregnancy are associated with low birth weight and an increased incidence of neural tube defects in infants.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamine): Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin needed for normal nerve cell activity, DNA replication, and production of the mood-affecting substance SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine). Vitamin B12 acts with folic acid and vitamin B6 to control homocysteine levels. An excess of homocysteine has been linked to an increased risk of coronary disease, stroke, and other diseases such as osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s. Vitamin B12 deficiency causes fatigue.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid): Vitamin C is an essential water-soluble vitamin that has a wide range of functions in the human body.
One of vitamin C’s important functions is acting as an antioxidant, protecting LDL cholesterol from oxidative damage. When LDL is damaged, the cholesterol appears to lead to heart disease, but vitamin C acts as an important antioxidant protector of LDL. Vitamin C may also protect against heart disease by reducing the stiffness of arteries and the tendency of platelets to coagulate in the vein.
The antioxidant properties also protect smokers from the harmful effects of free radicals. Small doses of vitamin C taken by nonsmokers before being exposed to smoke have been shown to reduce the free radical damage and LDL cholesterol oxidation associated with exposure to cigarette smoke.
Vitamin C has a range of additional functions. It is needed to make collagen, a substance that strengthens many parts of the body, such as muscles and blood vessels, and plays important roles in healing and as an antihistamine. Vitamin C also aids in the formation of liver bile, which helps to detoxify alcohol and other substances. Evidence indicates that vitamin C levels in the eye decrease with age and that vitamin C supplements prevent this decrease, lowering the risk of developing cataracts.
Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol): Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps maintain blood levels of calcium, by increasing absorption from food and reducing urinary calcium loss. Both functions help keep calcium in the body and therefore spare the calcium that is stored in bones. Vitamin D may also transfer calcium from the bone to the blood, which may actually weaken bones. Though the overall effect of vitamin D on the bones is complicated, some vitamin D is certainly necessary for healthy bones and teeth.
Vitamin D is also produced by the human body during exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. However, seasonal changes, latitude, time of day, cloud cover, smog, and sunscreen can all affect UV exposure. Vitamin D deficiency is more common in northern latitudes, making vitamin D supplementation more important for residents of those areas.
Vitamin D plays a role in immunity and blood cell formation and also helps cells differentiate—a process that may reduce the risk of cancer. From various other studies, researchers have hypothesized that vitamin D may protect people from multiple sclerosis, autoimmune arthritis, and juvenile diabetes. Vitamin D is also necessary to maintain adequate blood levels of insulin. Vitamin D receptors have been found in the pancreas, and some evidence suggests that supplements may increase insulin secretion for some people with adult-onset diabetes.
Vitamin E (Tocopherol): Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects cell membranes and other fat-soluble parts of the body, such as LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), from damage. Several studies have reported that supplements of natural vitamin E help reduce the risk of heart attacks.
Vitamin E also plays some role in the body’s ability to process glucose. Some trials suggest that vitamin E may help in the prevention and treatment of diabetes. In addition to its antioxidant functions, vitamin E has now been shown to directly affect inflammation, blood cell regulation, connective tissue growth, and genetic control of cell division.
Vitamin K (Phylloquinone): Vitamin K is necessary for proper bone growth and blood coagulation. Vitamin K accomplishes this by helping the body transport calcium. Also, doctors prescribe vitamin K to prevent excessive bleeding in people taking warfarin but requiring surgery.
Whey protein– Whey protein is the collection of globular proteins that can be isolated from whey, a by-product of cheese manufactured from cow’s milk. Whey has the highest biological value (BV) of any known protein. More than other protein supplements, whey protein powder is commonly used by bodybuilders and other athletes to accelerate muscle development and aid in recovery. Some individuals with suppressed or otherwise abnormal immune systems or degenerative diseases use undenatured bioactive whey proteins to increase their antioxidant levels.
Yolk– An egg yolk is the part of an egg which serves as the food source for the developing embryo inside. As a food, yolks are a major source of vitamins and minerals. They contain all of the egg’s fat and cholesterol, and almost half of the protein.
Zinc: Zinc is an essential mineral with a wide variety of functions within the human body. Zinc is a component of over 300 enzymes needed to repair wounds, maintain fertility in adults and growth in children, synthesize protein, help cells reproduce, preserve vision, boost immunity, and protect against free radicals, among other functions.
In some trials, zinc lozenges have reduced the duration of colds in adults, though they have not been demonstrated to be effective in children. The ability of zinc to shorten colds may be due to a direct, localized antiviral action in the throat. A small, preliminary trial has also shown zinc sulfate to be effective for contact dermatitis, a skin rash caused by contact with an allergen or irritant.
Zinc can reduce the body’s ability to utilize copper, another essential mineral. The ability to interfere with copper makes zinc an important therapy for people with Wilson’s disease, a genetic condition that causes copper overload. In healthy individuals, however, this effect is best offset by copper supplementation.