Glossary of Diet Terms
Carbohydrates. A broad category of sugars, starches, fibers and starchy vegetables that the body eventually converts to glucose, the body's primary source of energy. There are two classes of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are the sugars, which include glucose and fructose from fruits and vegetables, sucrose from beet or cane sugar and lactose from milk. Simple carbohydrates are absorbed by the body very quickly. Complex carbohydrates include starches and fiber and are most commonly found in whole grains and legumes. Complex carbohydrates, which are generally large chains of glucose molecules, take longer to digest and provide more nutrients than simple carbohydrates
Protein. A molecule made up of amino acids that is needed for the body to function properly. Proteins are the basis of body structures such as skin and hair and of substances such as enzymes, cytokines, and antibodies. It is found in meat, eggs, and beans. The stomach and small intestine break down proteins into amino acids. The blood absorbs amino acids and uses them to build and mend cells.
Fats. The body uses fat as a fuel source, and fat is the major storage form of energy in the body. Fat also has many other important functions in the body, and a moderate amount is needed in the diet for good health. Fats in food come in several forms, including saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. Too much fat or too much of the wrong type of fat can be unhealthy. Some examples of foods that contain fats are butter, oil, nuts, meat, fish, and some dairy products.
Fiber. A substance in foods that comes from plants. Fiber helps with digestion by keeping stool soft so that it moves smoothly through the colon. Soluble fiber dissolves in water. Soluble fiber is found in beans, fruit, and oat products. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. Insoluble fiber is found in whole-grain products and vegetables.
Free radicals. Typically, stable molecules contain pairs of electrons. When a chemical reaction breaks the bonds that hold paired electrons together, free radicals are produced. Free radicals contain an odd number of electrons, which makes them unstable, short-lived, and highly reactive. In the human body, oxidized free radicals are believed to cause tissue damage at the cellular level -- harming our DNA, mitochondria, and cell membrane.
Antioxidants. Known to prevent the damage done by free radicals by ending the free radical chain reaction before vital molecules are harmed. Sometimes referred to as "free radical scavengers," the most commonly recognized antioxidants are vitamin E, beta-carotene (a pre-cursor to vitamin A), and vitamin C. The trace metal selenium is required for the function of one of our antioxidant enzyme systems, and is often included in lists of antioxidant micronutrients (i.e., vitamins).
Carcinogens. A substance or agent that causes cancer
Metabolism. All the chemical processes in your body, especially those that cause food to be used for energy and growth:
Ketosis. An elevation of ketone bodies – most especially seen among people with diabetis
Caloric value. This is the amount of heat that is generated by a food when it is burned or metabolised
Diuretic. A substance that has the metabolic effect of increasing the body’s discharge of urine.
Monounsaturated fats. These are fats that has a large concentration of monounsaturated fatty acids or MUFAs. MUFAs are called as such because the fat molecule is not filled with hydrogen. Monounsaturated fats are generally liquid at room temperature but it solidifies when it is refrigerated. It is said that MUFAs can help lower blood cholesterol. It can also help raise good (HDL) cholesterol while at the same time lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol.
Glycemic index. This is an index that measures how fast and how much a food can raise blood glucose levels when ingested. The higher the number of the glycemic index the faster it can raise blood glucose levels.
Amenorrhoea. The absence or suppression of menstruation.
Osteoporosis. The deterioration of the bone tissues that result in brittle bones and increased susceptibility to bone fractures. It also causes the spine to deteriorate resulting in a hump in some old women. Osteoporosis is a condition that affects more women than men.
Transfatty acids. These are fats with unsaturated fatty acids. These are considered the bad kind of fat that can clog arteries. It is recommended that transfatty acids be eliminated or lessened in a diet as much as possible
Hypoglycemia. Iin the simplest terms this means a lowering of blood sugar levels.
Insulin. A hormone that lowers the level of glucose (a type of sugar) in the blood. It's made by the beta cells of the pancreas and released into the blood when the glucose level goes up, such as after eating. Insulin helps glucose enter the body's cells, where it can be used for energy or stored for future use.
In diabetes, the pancreas doesn't make enough insulin or the body can't respond normally to the insulin that is made. This causes the glucose level in the blood to rise.
Obesity. A condition describing excess body weight in the form of fat. Morbid obesity is defined as being about 100 lbs. overweight or having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of around 40 or above. Obesity is associated with many illnesses and is directly related to increased mortality and lower life expectancy.
Stroke. The sudden death of some brain cells due to a lack of oxygen when the blood flow to the brain is impaired by blockage or rupture of an artery to the brain. A stroke is also called a cerebrovascular accident or, for short, a CVA.]
Cholesterol. A white, powdery substance that is found in all animal cells and in animal-based foods (not in plants). Cholesterol is an essential nutrient necessary for many functions, including the repair of cell membranes, manufacture of Vitamin D, production of hormones like estrogen and testosterone, and creation of cell connection in the brain. Regardless of these benefits, when cholesterol levels rise in the blood, they can have dangerous consequences, depending on the type of cholesterol. Although the body acquires some cholesterol through diet, about two-thirds is manufactured in the liver, its production stimulated by saturated fat. Saturated fats are those found in animal products, meat and dairy.