GLOSSARY OF NUTRITION TERMS
alpha lipoic acid See lipoic acid.
allium, allinase Garlic is a particularly rich source of these organosulfur compounds, which are currently under investigation for their potential to prevent and treat disease. Crushing or chopping garlic releases an enzyme called allinase that catalyzes the formation of allicin. Allicin rapidly breaks down to form a variety of organosulfur compounds.
amino acids The basic building blocks of proteins, some amino acids are classified as essential, which means we need them in our diet. These include leucine, isoleucine, valine, tryptophan, phenylalanine, methionine, threonine, lysine, histidine, and possibly arginine. Nonessential amino acids are synthesized by the body and include alanine, aspartic acid, asparagine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, and serine.
anthocyanidins This group of antioxidants are a subclass of flavonoids, which provides the health benefits of neutralizing free radicals and possibly reducing the risk of cancer. Found in red, blue, and purple berries; red and purple grapes; and red wine, they include cyanidin, delphinidin, malvidin, pelargonidin, eonidin, and petunidin.
antioxidants Substances that protect your cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food or by environmental exposures like tobacco smoke and radiation, which damage cells and contribute to aging, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. Antioxidants protect key cell components by neutralizing the damaging effects of free radicals.
antioxidant rich Antioxidants are best known for helping your body by preventing neural degeneration, protecting you from cancer, helping prevent heart disease and even slowing the aging process. Eating foods that are rich in antioxidants will improve your overall health and may even increase your life span by combating free radicals. Free radicals are caused by UV exposure, environmental pollution, stress, certain types of food, and have been linked to health problems including premature aging, heart disease, cancer, poor immune function, and Alzheimer's. Our bodies generate a certain amount of antioxidants, but in order to make the most these age defying benefits, you should eat plenty of antioxidant rich foods.
ascorbic acid Also known as vitamin C, this water-soluble vitamin is essential for the development and maintenance of connective tissue and to speed the production of new cells in wound healing. It is also an antioxidant that keeps free radicals from hooking up with other molecules to form damaging compounds that might attack tissue. Vitamin C protects the immune system, helps fight off infections, reduces the severity of allergic reactions, and plays a role in the synthesis of hormones and other body chemicals. Food sources include green peppers, broccoli, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and strawberries.
atherosclerosis A condition that exists when too much cholesterol builds up in the blood and accumulates in the walls of the blood vessels.
beta-carotene A derivative of the antioxidants vitamin A, this compound is found in many foods that are orange in color, including sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, squash, apricots, pumpkin, and mangos. Some green leafy vegetables (including collard greens, spinach, and kale) are also rich in beta-carotene.
body mass index, or BMI A method used for determining overweight and obesity. BMI is a calculation that divides a person's weight in inches, squared, by weight in pounds. Search the term "BMI" for many calculators on the Internet, or use this formula: BMI = [lbs/in?] x 703. The general guideline currently iterated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is that individuals with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight and those individuals with a BMI greater than 30 are considered obese.
caffeic acid A type of phenol found in various fruits, vegetables, and citrus fruits, caffeic acid has antioxidant-like activities and may reduce the risk of degenerative diseases, heart disease, and eye disease.
caffeine A naturally occurring substance found in the leaves, seeds, or fruits of over 63 plant species worldwide, caffeine is part of a group of compounds known as methylxanthines. The most commonly known sources of caffeine are coffee and cocoa beans, cola nuts, and tea leaves. Caffeine is a pharmacologically active substance and, depending on the dose, can be a mild central nervous system stimulant. Caffeine does not accumulate in the body over the course of time and is normally excreted within several hours of consumption. Coffee is the primary source of antioxidants in the United States.
calcium A mineral that builds and strengthens bones, calcium helps in muscle contraction and heartbeat and assists with nerve functions and blood clotting. Milk and other dairy foods such as yogurt and most cheeses are the best sources of calcium. In addition, dark green leafy vegetables, fish with edible bones, and calcium-fortified foods supply significant amounts.
carotenoids Derived from the antioxidant Vitamin A, these yellow, orange, and red pigments are synthesized by plants. The most common carotenoids are alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and lycopene, and zeaxanthin.
catechins A type of flavonoid found in tea, catechins provide the health benefits of neutralizing free radicals and possibly reducing the risk of cancer.
cholesterol A waxy, fatlike substance that occurs naturally in all parts of the body. Your body needs some cholesterol to work properly. But high levels of cholesterol in the blood can block arteries and increase the risk of heart disease.
choline Although the body manufactures some of this essential nutrient, linked to heart health and cancer prevention, we need dietary sources, too; beef and eggs are good sources.
coenzyme Q10 A fat-soluble compound primarily synthesized by the body and also consumed in the diet, coenzyme Q10 acts as an antioxidant in cell membranes. Food sources include nuts, herring, trout, and soybean and canola oils.
conscious indulgences This means that when you indulge, you should plan it and make it count - make the experience special versus just engaging in mindless eating (or overeating!). Recognize that it is your choice--you are choosing to indulge--so you can feel empowered and good about it. Reframe your thinking so it's not about "I couldn't help it" or "I lost control" anymore!
coronary artery disease (CAD) The most common type of heart disease, coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. The arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle become hardened and narrowed due to the buildup of cholesterol and other material, called plaque, on their inner walls. As the buildup grows, less blood can flow through the arteries. As a result, the heart muscle can't get the blood or oxygen it needs. This can lead to chest pain (angina) or a heart attack.
cortisol A stress hormone manufactured by the adrenal and pituitary glands.
curcumin A polyphenolic compound that gives turmeric its yellow color and an antioxidant that may be linked to cognitive function.
dha An omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is essential for the growth and functional development of the brain in infants and for maintenance of normal brain function in adults.
diallyl sulfide A type of sulfide found in onions, garlic, olives, leeks, and scallions, diallyl sulfide may provide the health benefits of lowering LDL cholesterol and of maintaining a healthy immune system.
egcg Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is a type of catechin found in green tea. It has been linked to heart health, lower cancer risks, and weight loss.
ellagic acid A natural-cancer fighting agent found in strawberries.
essential fatty acids Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid, and linoleic acid (LA), an omega-6 fatty acid, are considered essential fatty acids because they cannot be synthesized by humans.
ferulic acid A type of phenol found in various fruits and vegetables and citrus fruits, ferulic acid has antioxidant-like activities that may reduce the risk of degenerative diseases, heart disease, and eye disease.
flavonoids A subgroup of polyphenols, flavonoids are naturally occurring compounds found in plant-based foods recognized as exuding certain health benefits. So far, there are more than 4,000 flavonoid compounds, including anthocyanidins; flavanones, including catechins, found in teas (particularly green and white), chocolate, grapes, berries, apples; theaflavins and thearubigins, found in teas (particularly black and oolong); and proanthocyanidins, found in chocolate, apples, berries, red grapes, and red wine. This category also includes the widely distributed quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin, and isorhamnetin, which are found in yellow onions, scallions, kale, broccoli, apples, berries, and teas.
flavanols A type of flavonoid found in citrus fruits, which provides the health benefits of neutralizing free radicals and possibly reducing the risk of cancer.
flavones A type of flavonoid that includes apigenin and tuteolin, found in parsley, thyme, celery, and hot peppers.
folic acid A B vitamin, this helps the body make healthy new cells. Folic acid is critical for pregnant women, to prevent major birth defects in her baby's brain or spine. Food sources include leafy green vegetables, fruits, dried beans, peas, and nuts. Enriched breads, cereals, and other grain products also contain folic acid.
free radicals Highly reactive substances that result from exposure to oxygen, background radiation, and other environmental factors. Free radicals cause cellular damage in the body. The damage may be repaired by antioxidants.
glycemic index This is a measure of how much a certain food raises your blood sugar levels. Often high fiber foods have a low glycemic index, meaning they cause minor fluctuations in your blood sugar levels.
heart-healthy fats These include mono- and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids. When they replace saturated and trans fats, these fats have been shown to increase your good cholesterol (HDL) and reduce bad cholesterol (LDL), as well as reduce your risk for heart disease and inflammation. Heart-healthy fats are found in avocado, fish, flax, and almonds, among other foods.
l-carnitine A derivative of the amino acid, lysine, healthy individuals manufacture enough of this substance, which plays an important role in cellular activity, converting long chain fatty acids so the body can use them.
ldl cholesterol Also known as the bad, or "lousy," cholesterol, low-density cholesterol can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. Together with other substances, it can form plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. If a clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery, heart attack or stroke can result.
l-ergothioneine A powerful antioxidant, linked to heart health, found in mushrooms.
lignans Lignan precursors are found in a wide variety of plant-based foods, including seeds, whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables; when they are eaten, they are converted to the mammalian lignans, enterodiol and enterolactone, by bacteria that normally colonize the human intestine. Flaxseeds are the richest dietary source of lignan precursors.
lipoic acid Alpha-lipoic acid (LA), also known as thioctic acid, is a naturally occurring compound that is synthesized in small amounts by humans and is found in some foods. Although it is an antioxidant itself, lipoic acid also regenerates other antioxidants after they've been oxidized by their scavenging activity.
lutein A caretenoid, this antioxidant is best known for its association with healthy eyes. Lutein is abundant in green, leafy vegetables such as collard greens, spinach, and kale.
lycopene A carotenoid, this potent antioxidant is found in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, papaya, apricots, pink grapefruit, blood oranges, and other foods. Estimates suggest 85 percent of American dietary intake of lycopene comes from tomatoes and tomato products.
minerals The body uses minerals for many different jobs, including building bones, making hormones, and regulating heartbeat. There are two kinds: your body needs macrominerals in larger amounts, and these include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur. Your body needs just small amounts of trace minerals. These include iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride, and selenium.
nutrient density This is all about getting the most bang for your buck, nutrient-wise. You want to choose foods with the best possible amount of and availability of nutrients; for instance, for the same number of calories, an apple with a bit of peanut butter is much more nutrient dense than a handful of M&M's.
omega-3 fatty acids A type of fatty acid found in fish and marine oils, omega-3s provide the health benefits of reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and improved mental and visual function.
orac The name "ORAC" is an abbreviation for "Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity." The ORAC scale was developed as a way to determine which foods were richest in antioxidants. Researchers suggest eating at least 3,000-5,000 ORAC "points" per day. I encourage all of my clients to eat about 30,000 ORAC "points" per day in order to reap maximum age defying benefits of a high antioxidant diet!
organic Organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.
oxidation The loss of electrons from a compound (or element) in a chemical reaction. When one compound is oxidized, another compound is reduced. That is, the other compound must "pick up" the electrons that the first has lost.
oxytocin An octapeptide hormone secreted by the pituitary gland, it stimulates the contraction of uterine muscle and the secretion of milk; production is also stimulated by orgasm and cuddling. Oxytocin is linked to lower rates of breast cancer and has some antioxidant properties.
pectin A natural gelling agent found in ripe fruit, pectin is an important source of fiber.
phytochemical Technically, these are any chemicals produced by plants, but the term is generally used to describe compounds that may affect health but are not essential nutrients.
phytosterols Plant-derived compounds that are similar in structure and function to cholesterol.
proportioned eating This means that you're consuming a diet that contains the right proportion of nutrients--carbohydrates (complex), protein (lean), and fats (healthy). Not every single meal needs to be in the right proportion, but the idea is that your overall diet will be well-balanced.
resveratrol A polyphenolic compound found in grapes, red wine, purple grape juice, peanuts, and some berries, linked to heart health.
retinoids Derivatives of vitamin A, retinoids are topical and oral antioxidants that are used to prevent and reverse sun damage and signs of aging, as well as to treat acne. These medications should be prescribed and coordinated by a qualified licensed healthcare professional. Vitamin A supplements should not be used simultaneously due to a risk of increased toxicity.
saponins The functional component of soybeans, soy foods and soy protein, saponins may lower LDL cholesterol and may contain anticancer enzymes.
satiety This is the feeling you have when hunger goes away. It's important to learn to differentiate between being satisfied (satiety) and feeling full (which can indicate overeating).
saturated fat The main dietary cause of high blood cholesterol, found mostly in foods from animals and some plants, including beef, beef fat, veal, lamb, pork, lard, poultry fat, butter, cream, milk, cheeses, and other dairy products made from whole and 2 percent milk. All of these foods also contain dietary cholesterol. Foods from plants that contain saturated fat include coconut, coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil (often called tropical oils), and cocoa butter.
selenium While this is a mineral, not an antioxidant nutrient, it is a component of antioxidant enzymes. Plant foods like rice and wheat are the major dietary sources of selenium in most countries. The amount of selenium in soil, which varies by region, determines the amount of selenium in the foods grown in that soil. Animals that eat grains or plants grown in selenium-rich soil have higher levels of selenium in their muscle. Meats, bread, and Brazil nuts are good food sources.
serotonin A hormone manufactured by the brain, serotonin is a feel-good chemical that, along with dopamine, has been shown to have antioxidant properties.
soluble fiber A type of dietary fiber found in psyllium, cereals, oatmeal, apples, citrus fruits, beans, and other foods, which increases the viscosity in the gut and acts to reduce high blood cholesterol levels.
superoxide dismutase enzyme An antioxidant enzyme produced in the body.
trans fatty acids Found in small amounts in various animal products such as beef, pork, and lamb and in the butterfat in butter and milk, trans fatty acids are also formed during the process of hydrogenation, making margarine, shortening, cooking oils and the foods made from them a major source of trans fats in the American diet. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils provide about three-fourths of the trans fats in the U.S. diet. Trans fatty acids are also formed during the process of hydrogenation.
triggers & controls A trigger is a food or situation in which you lose control of your eating (for instance, if you simply cannot resist eating a whole container of ice cream or if you always overeat at your parents' house). A control is a way to regain power over a trigger; more instance, maybe you eat yogurt instead of ice cream or you bring a good book you're dying to read the next time you spend a stretch of time at your parents' house.
triglycerides A form of fat made in the body. Elevated triglycerides can be due to overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, cigarette smoking, excess alcohol consumption and a diet very high in carbohydrates (60 percent of total calories or more). People with high triglycerides often have a high total cholesterol level, including a high LDL (bad) level and a low HDL (good) level. Many people with heart disease and/or diabetes also have high triglyceride levels.
unsaturated fats Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are the two unsaturated fats. They're found mainly in many fish, nuts, seeds, and oils from plants. Some examples of foods that contain these fats include salmon, trout, herring, avocados, olives, walnuts, and liquid vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, safflower, canola, olive, and sunflower. Both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats may help lower your blood cholesterol level when you use them in place of saturated and trans fats.
vitamin One of many organic compounds that are nutritionally essential in small amounts to control metabolic processes and cannot be synthesized by the body. Vitamins are usually classified by their solubility, which to some degree determines their stability; occurrence in foodstuffs; distribution in body fluids, and tissue storage capacity. While there are many vitamins, vitamins A, C, and E have the strongest antioxidant properties.
vitamin A Also known as retinol (because it produces the pigments in the retina of the eye) and carotenoids, this is a fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin. It helps form and maintain healthy teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, mucous membranes, and skin. Retinol is an active form of vitamin A found in animal liver, whole milk, and some fortified foods.
vitamin C See ascorbic acid.
vitamin E Also known as alpha-tocopherol, this antioxidant is found in almonds; in many oils including wheat germ, safflower, corn, and soybean oils; and ain mangos, nuts, broccoli, and other foods. It's also important in the formation of red blood cells and helps the body to use vitamin K.
whole grain Whole grains are made up of all parts of the grain - the bran (the fiber-rich outer layer), the endosperm (the middle part) and the germ (the nutrient-rich center). Whole grains, such as whole wheat, contain more healthy fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals than refined grains.
xanthones An antioxidant found in the tropical fruit mangosteen.
zeaxanthin A type of carotenoid found in eggs, citrus fruits, and corn that contributes to the maintenance of eye vision.