Eating Healthy - Common Terms

Common Terms used in Nutrition

There are many people going round masquerading as nutritionists and in fact passing on questionable information and products to unsuspecting consumers. It has taken me 4 years of undergraduate work, 2 years for a Masters Degree and 4 years of PhD and more than 15 years to earn the title of Professor of Food Science and Nutrition Yet, some individuals are given a few hours lecture to “master” the principles of Nutrition Science and start marketing products which could turn out to be dangerous to human health. Well, in today’s piece under Eating Healthy, we present you with a glossary of terms commonly used when you are taking nutrition supplements. I hope you find it useful. This should be particularly useful to those who participate in competitive sports and could find themselves being barred for taking prohibited substances. Oftentimes and most likely, the sports men and women are caught unawares. Sports persons need to be advised to make sure they know exactly what they are swallowing and indeed the source of it. There are many good sources of supplements but like wise, there are some questionable ones. Persons recommending and administering the supplements should be well known personalities of integrity.

Vitamin & Supplement Glossary

Amino Acids The building blocks that make up proteins. Humans need 20 different amino acids to function properly. Some are made by the body. Others, called essential amino acids, must be obtained from foods. More often than not, amino acids from animal proteins are more health promoting than those from plant proteins.

Antioxidant Substances, like vitamins A, C, E, and beta-carotene that protect your body from the damage of oxidation caused by free radicals. Antioxidants tend to be associated with life longevity.

Botanicals Substances obtained from plants and used in food supplements, personal care products, or pharmaceuticals.

Daily Value Found on food and drink nutrition labels, this number tells you the percentage of the recommended dietary allowance provided by one serving of the food or drink in question. In industrialized countries, it is a legal requirement to display this information on product labels.

Fat Soluble Fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E, and K, are absorbed by the body with dietary fats. Your body stores excess fat-soluble vitamins in your liver and body fat and then uses them as needed. Ingesting more fat-soluble vitamins than one needs can be toxic, causing side-effects like nausea, vomiting, and liver and heart problems.

Fortify This is to increase a food or drink's nutritional value by adding vitamins, minerals, or other substances. For example, milk is fortified with vitamins A and D.

Free Radical This is an atom or molecule with at least one unpaired electron, making it unstable and reactive. When free radicals react with certain chemicals in the body, they may interfere with the ability of cells to function normally. Antioxidants can stabilize free radicals.  

Herb Herbs are plants used as flavorings in cooking, but herbs can also be used as supplements for health or medicinal reasons.

Megadose Supplements that provide more than 100% of the daily value of the body's required vitamins and minerals.

Micronutrients The name given to vitamins and minerals because your body needs them in small amounts. Micronutrients are vital to your body's ability to process the "macronutrients:" fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.

Minerals Nutrients found in the earth or water and absorbed by plants and animals for proper nutrition. Minerals are the main component of teeth and bones, and help build cells and support nerve impulses, among other things.

Multivitamin A pill, beverage, or other substance containing more than one vitamin.

Oxidation A chemical reaction in which oxygen combines with a substance, changing or destroying its normal function. Oxidation can damage cell membranes and interfere with a cell's regulatory systems.

Phytochemicals Health-protecting compounds found in fruits, vegetables, and other plants. Phytochemicals (sometimes called phytonutrients) include beta-carotene, lycopene, and resveratrol.

Prenatal Vitamins Specially formulated multivitamins that ensure a pregnant woman gets enough essential micronutrients. Prenatal supplements generally contain more folic acid, iron, and calcium than standard adult supplements.

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) The amount of nutrients needed daily to maintain good health in most people.

Supplements These are vitamins, minerals, herbs, or other substances taken orally and meant to correct deficiencies in the diet.

U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) This is a nonprofit authority that sets standards and certifies supplements that meet certain quality, strength, and purity standards. Many supplements carry the USP symbol on their label.

Vitamins Naturally found in plants and animals, vitamins are vital to growth, energy, and nerve function. There are two types of vitamins used by the body to support health: fat-soluble and water-soluble.

Water-Soluble Water-soluble vitamins like B-6, C, and folic acid are easily absorbed by the body. Your body uses the vitamins it needs, then excretes excess water-soluble vitamins in urine. Because these vitamins are not stored in the body, there is less risk of toxicity than with fat-soluble vitamins.