Diet and Nutrition Term Definitions

In the form of vitamin and mineral supplements, antioxidants help counteract the effects of free radicals on cells and repair cellular damage. Antioxidants protect cells by sacrificing electrons to prevent free radicals from stealing electrons from healthy cells.

Arachidonic Acid
An essential fatty acid that is the immediate precursor to “bad” eicosanoids found in fatty red meats, egg yokes, and organ meats.

A unit for measuring energy. The more calories a food has, the more energy-producing value it has. If you eat more calories than your body will use as fuel, the excess calories will be stored as fat. Certain foods contain various calories per gram:

  • Proteins: contain 4 calories per gram, or 112 calories per ounce
  • Fats: contain 9 calories per gram, or 252 calories per ounce
  • Carbohydrates: contain 4 calories per gram, or 112 calories per ounce

Calorie Restriction
The reduction of calories that maintains adequate levels of proteins and essential fats while supplying adequate amounts of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).

Various forms of sugar that, when converted into glucose, are the primary source fuel for the body. Simple carbohydrates are absorbed more quickly into the bloodstream than complex carbohydrates.

Is a fatty, wax-like substance, necessary in small amounts for cell function, though harmful to the heart if too much is consumed or produced by the body.

  • HDL (High-density lipoprotein) is considered “good cholesterol” because it scavenges “bad cholesterol” from the rest of the body and stores it in the liver.
  • LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is considered “bad cholesterol” and builds up as plaque on arterial walls, thus it can place a person at risk for heart disease.

A condition in which blood glucose (sugar) is not well controlled.

  • Type 1 Diabetics make no insulin. Without some hormonal escort to bring nutrients into cells, they can starve to death even if they consume any quantity of food. Type 1 diabetics require insulin supplementation, usually via injection.
  • Type-2 Diabetics are characterized by an overproduction of insulin and the inability of the target cells to respond to insulin (insulin resistance). By controlling insulin release through dietary measures, type-2 diabetics can help bring balance back to their hormonal systems.

An autocrine hormone made by virtually every cell in the body. “Good” eicosanoids are anti-inflammatory, whereas “bad” eicosanoids cause inflammation.

EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid)
An omega-3 fatty acid found in cold-water fish and fish-oil; a precursor to “good” eicosanoids.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
These are fats the body cannot make and therefore must be part of the diet. Essential fatty acids are building blocks of eicosanoids and other necessary compounds. Two groups of EFAs, omega-3s and omega-6s, engender eicosanoids.

Compounds composed of hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen atoms that serve as stored fuel for the body. There are different kinds of fats, some of which are healthier than others:

  • Saturated Fats: unhealthy fats found in most animal products and tropical oils. With a high proportion of hydrogen atoms, they are solid at room temperature and are converted to cholesterol in the body.
  • Mono-Unsaturated Fat: the healthiest fats, are produced by plants. With a lower amount of hydrogen atoms, they tend to be liquid at room temperature.
  • Poly-Unsaturated Fats: have the lowest amount of hydrogen atoms, come from plant sources, and are liquid at room temperature.
  • Hydrogenated Fats: found in processed foods and commercially baked goods, have an extra hydrogen atom added to them to make them solid at room temperature and to increase the shelf life of foods they are in. They are considered to be the most unhealthy.

Free Radicals
Are highly reactive, imbalanced molecules that are the byproducts of normal metabolism and are associated with the degenerative aging process. Free radicals steal electrons from healthy cells to neutralize their own charge, causing cellular damage. Free radicals are also produced by exposure to cigarette smoke, smog and other environmental pollutants, harmful chemicals, toxins, and even sunlight. Antioxidant supplementation will help counter the effects of free radicals.

The hormone from the pancreas that causes the release of stored carbohydrate in the liver to restore blood glucose levels. Glucagon is a mobilization hormone.

Is the simplest form of sugar and circulates in the bloodstream to be used by cells as fuel. Glucose is the primary fuel used by the brain and is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen.

Glycemic Index
A measure of the rate at which a carbohydrate will enter the bloodstream as glucose. Some simple sugars, such as table sugar, will enter the bloodstream slower than many complex carbohydrates, such as bread, rice, and potatoes. The faster a carbohydrate enters the bloodstream, the higher its glycemic index. The higher the glycemic index of a carbohydrate, the greater the increase in insulin levels. Fruits and vegetables tend to have a low-glycemic index, whereas breads, pasta, grains, and starches tend to have a high-glycemic index.

Glycemic Load
Is a measure of the density and digestion speed of carbohydrates (the glycemic index of a food multiplied by the amount of carbohydrates per serving). The goal of Zone eating is to keep the glycemic load low. Carrots, for example, even though they have a high glycemic index, have a much lower glycemic load than pasta because they are less carbohydrate-dense.

A food is considered to be high-glycemic if it is broken down rapidly and enters the bloodstream quickly as glucose.

The hormone that drives incoming nutrients into cells for storage. Excess insulin is the cause of weight gain and many degenerative illnesses.

Insulin Resistance
A condition in which cells no longer respond well to insulin. As a result, the body secretes more insulin into the bloodstream in an effort to reduce blood glucose levels.

Low glycemic foods are broken down into glucose less quickly than high-glycemic foods and enter the bloodstream at a much slower rate.

Foods that contain calories and can therefore generate hormonal responses. Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are macronutrients.

Vitamins and minerals that have no caloric value and little direct impact on hormonal response, but are a vital means of achieving optimal health.

Essential Fatty Acids found primarily in cold-water fish and purified fish oils, omega-3s are the building blocks for “good” eicosanoids.

An Essential Fatty Acid found in protein and most seed oils, Omega-6 can generate both “good” and “bad” eicosanoids.

An essential fatty acid that has neutral effects on hormone production, i.e. does not produce “good” or “bad” eicosanoids.

Various organic substances that are essential in minute quantities to the nutrition of most animals and plants. Though we produce some vitamins within our bodies, we need to obtain others via the foods we eat.


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