Common terms you need to know to maintain good health


Nutrition is the science of the food we eat and its effects on our health and well-being. Here is an exhaustive list of some related terms. 

What is nutrition? Why is it important for your health? 

We eat food to live and grow.  

Food contains carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, etc. which are absorbed by your body. These are called nutrients. These are chemicals that your body needs to function properly. What’s more…. You can measure them. For example, when you buy a food product, on the back label it always mentions the nutrients and their amounts/ quantities.  

Nutrition is the study that tells us how humans consume food and utilize its nutrients to grow and maintain their health. It helps you understand what kind of food has which nutrients, and how much you need for a healthy body.  

Important terms that you need to know  

  • Diet: Your food and water intake are what constitute your Diet. A nutritious diet helps keep a healthy weight, protects you from diseases, boosts your immune system, and makes sure you live longer. There are many types of diets based on your food habits (Keto diet, Mediterranean diet, Vegan diet, etc.) 
  • Dietary Supplements: Supplements add to the nutritional value of your diet. These are a means to get the right amount of a particular nutrient that is required for perfect health.  
  • Digestion: The process of breaking down food into energy by your body is called digestion. It is a process that helps you to grow, and self-repair.  
  • Calories: A calorie (plural calories) is defined as a unit of energy that is frequently used to calculate the amount of energy provided by food. For example, an apple contains approximately 50 calories. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, women need between 1,600 and 2,400 calories per day, while men need between 2,000 and 3,000 to keep a healthy weight. This, however, is also dependent on their age, size, height, lifestyle, overall health, and level of activity. 
  • Metabolism: Metabolism is the process by which your body converts food into energy. Calories in food and beverages are combined with oxygen during this complex process to release the energy your body needs to function. Even when you’re sleeping, your body requires energy to perform all its “invisible” functions, (such as breathing, circulating blood, adjusting hormone levels, and growing and repairing cells). The number of calories used by your body to perform these basic functions is known as your basal metabolic rate.  
  • Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates (also known as carbs) are sugar molecules. Carbohydrates, along with proteins and fats, are one of the three main nutrients found in your food. Carbohydrates are converted into glucose by your body. Glucose is the primary energy source for your body’s cells, tissues, and organs. It can be used right away or stored for later use in the liver and muscles. 
  • Sugar: Sugar is also known as a simple or fast-acting carbohydrate. Sugar is known by many different names like table sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, beet sugar, cane sugar, confectioner’s sugar, powdered sugar, raw sugar, turbinado, maple syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar cane syrup, agave nectar etc. Table sugar is also known by its chemical name, sucrose. Fruit sugar is known as fructose, and milk sugar is known as lactose. Sugar is classified into two types:  
    • Naturally occurring sugars, such as those found in milk, and  
    • Sugars are added to food during processing, such as fruit canned in heavy syrup or sugar added to make a cookie. 
  • Glycemic Index: The glycemic index is a scale that ranks the amount of carbohydrates in foods (from 0 to 100), indicating how quickly a food causes blood sugar to rise. Foods with a high glycemic index (GI) can cause dangerous blood sugar spikes.  
  • Blood Glucose: The amount of glucose in the blood is referred to as the blood glucose level. Glucose is a sugar that is derived from the foods we consume and is also formed and stored within the body. It is the primary source of energy for our body’s cells, and it is transported to each cell via the bloodstream. 
  • Proteins: Proteins are extraordinarily complex nitrogenous compounds made of amino acids. Every cell in the body contains protein. Protein is required by our bodies to build and maintain bones, muscles, and skin. They are found in meat, dairy products, nuts, and certain grains and beans. Meat and other animal products contain complete proteins. This means they provide all the amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own. Most plant proteins are incomplete. To get all the amino acids your body requires, you should eat a variety of plant proteins every day. 
  • Amino Acids: Amino acids are molecules that form proteins. Amino acids and proteins are the building blocks of life. There are 3 types of amino acids: 
    • Essential amino acids (The body cannot produce essential amino acids. As a result, they must be derived from food). 
    • Non-essential amino acids (non-essential means that our bodies can make the amino acid even if we don’t get it from food). 
    • Conditional amino acids (Except in times of illness or stress, conditional amino acids are usually not required). 
  • Gluten: Gluten is a protein found naturally in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. It acts as a binder, holding food together and giving it a “stretchy” texture. Wheat berries, durum, semolina, graham, Khorasan wheat, einkorn, and triticale (a blend of wheat and rye) are also gluten-containing grains. 
  • Fats: Fats are a type of macronutrient (along with carbohydrates and proteins) that is metabolized in the body and used as a fuel source, and fat is the body’s primary energy storage form. Fat serves numerous other functions in the body, and a small amount is required in the diet for good health. Food fats come in a variety of forms, including saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. Too much fat, or the wrong kind of fat, can be harmful. Butter, oil, nuts, meat, fish, and some dairy products are examples of fat-containing foods. 
  • Fatty Acid: Fatty acids are the building blocks of fats. During digestion, the body converts fats into fatty acids, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream. Fatty acids perform numerous vital functions in the body, including energy storage. When glucose is unavailable for energy, the body turns to fatty acids to power the cells. 
  • Cholesterol: Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance produced by the liver and found in the blood and all body cells. Cholesterol is essential for good health because it is required for the formation of cell walls, tissues, hormones, vitamin D, and bile acid. Cholesterol is also obtained from animal products such as egg yolks, meat, and whole-milk dairy products. Too much cholesterol in the blood can cause plaque to form on blood vessel walls, obstruct blood flow to tissues and organs, and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein): HDL is short for high-density lipoproteins. It is also known as “good” cholesterol because it transports cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver. The cholesterol is then removed from your body by your liver. 
  • LDL (Low-Density Lipoproteins): LDL is short for low-density lipoproteins. Because a high LDL level causes a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries, it is sometimes referred to as “bad” cholesterol. 
  • Monounsaturated Fat: A type of healthy dietary fat, monounsaturated fatty acids are liquid at room temperature, but when chilled, they begin to harden. Plant foods that contain monounsaturated fats include nuts, avocados, and vegetable oils. Eating monounsaturated (and polyunsaturated) fats in place of saturated and trans fats can improve your health. 
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: Polyunsaturated fats are considered healthy fats because they may lower your risk of heart disease, particularly when substituted for saturated fats. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are the two major classes of polyunsaturated fats. Both are essential fatty acids required by your body for brain function and cell growth. However, because your body cannot produce essential fatty acids, you must obtain them through diet. 
  • Triglycerides: Fatty acid molecules are typically joined in groups of three to form a molecule known as a triglyceride. Triglycerides are also produced in our bodies because of the carbohydrates we consume.
  • Saturated Fat: Saturated fat is a type of fat found in foods. Along with trans-fat, it is one of the unhealthy fats. At room temperature, these fats are usually solid. Saturated fat is abundant in foods such as butter, palm and coconut oils, cheese, and red meat. A diet high in saturated fat can lead to heart disease and other health issues. 
  • Trans Fat: Trans fat is a type of dietary fat commonly found in processed foods like baked goods, snack foods, fried foods, shortening, margarine, and certain vegetable oils. Trans fat consumption raises blood cholesterol levels and increases the risk of heart disease. 
  • Water Intake: Humans need water to survive. In fact, over 60% of your body is made of water. How much water you need to drink depends on the weather, your weight, and your level of physical activity. You need to keep track of your water intake to maintain optimal hydration levels. 
  • Dehydration: Dehydration is when your body doesn’t have enough water. It usually happens when you do not take enough water to compensate for the It may happen due to excess sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea. 
  • Electrolytes: Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge in your blood and other bodily fluids. Sweating causes electrolyte loss. You must replenish them by drinking electrolyte-containing fluids. Water contains no electrolytes. 
    Typical electrolytes include calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium. Electrolytes influence how your body functions in a variety of ways, including: 

    • The quantity of water in your body 
    • Your blood’s acidity level (pH) 
    • Your muscles’ activity 
  • Enzymes: Enzymes are proteins that aid in the speeding up of metabolism, or the chemical reactions that occur in our bodies. Some substances are created while others are destroyed. Enzymes are found in all living things. Enzymes are naturally produced by our bodies.  
  • Fiber: Fiber is a carbohydrate that the body is unable to digest. While most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules called glucose, fiber cannot be broken down and thus passes through the body undigested. Fiber regulates the body’s use of sugars, which helps to control hunger and blood sugar levels. 

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