Are you confused by nutritional terms and jargon? Do you shy away from nutrition because it seems to difficult to understand? Don’t worry, these terms are just big words and they can be explained easily. In this blog I will explain 10 terms and concepts you may have heard of before in a more interesting, understandable way.
- Free radicals: The cells in your body use oxygen to stay alive. As a result of these cells using oxygen, they produce free radicals. These free radicals cause damage to our cells. These Free radicals are necessary to sustain life, for cell signaling and also ridding the body of dangerous bacterium. Normally the body has different mechanisms to fix the damage that the free radicals have caused. Also antioxidants play a big part in preventing the damage done by the free radicals. However, if the free radicals accumulate too much in the body, and no antioxidants are available, serious damage can be done. Free radicals can also form by pollution, cigarette smoke, herbicides and age. Free radical damage has been linked to parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer disease, cancer and heart disease.
- Antioxidants: To stop the free radicals from doing any further damage antioxidants need to come to the rescue. These little scavengers are always on the look out for free radicals, putting a stop to them. Beta-Carotene (precursor to vitamin A), Vitamin C and Vitamin E are considered antioxidants. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants so be sure you are eating the recommended 5-8 servings per day. Also whole grains, nuts, seeds and low fat milk contain some of these as well.
- Flavonoids: Flavonoids are responsible for the coloring of different fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids are becoming very popular because of their antioxidant health benefits. Green tea, black tea, citrus fruits and apples are good sources of flavonoids.
- Trans fatty acids: Trans fat is the least heart healthy type of fat out there. It is a man made fat which helps to keep the shelf life longer on some packaged, fried and processed foods. Trans fat raises LDL cholesterol and decreases HLD cholesterol. It is like poison to your body. Beware of these fats, because they are hidden in a lot of foods these days. Always read the label for no trans fat and also read the ingredients. Look for partially hydrogenated oil in the ingredients list, this is a fancy name for trans-fat. You can see that in the picture above there is no amount listed for trans fat on the nutrition facts label, but there is partially hydrogenated oil listed in the ingredients. If food has .5 grams or less of trans fat it doesn’t have to list it on the nutrition facts. Tricky!! If it says partially hydrogenated oil, please put it back on the shelf, there is still trans fat in it!. Never buy stick margarine, because it contains this poison.
- Monounsaturated fats: On the other hand this is the most heart healthy fat. Fats are nothing to be scared of, our bodies need them to live, so it is best to try and consume mostly monounsaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids. Monounsaturated fats are in foods such as olive oil, avocado and almonds.
- Lipoprotein: Think of these as peanut covered M&M’s, the peanut on the inside is the Lipo (fat) and the chocolate on the outside consists of protein. The lipoproteins are basically transporters of the fat which is inside, which are carried throughout the bloodstream. The fat could not be carried though the bloodstream without the protein around it. These little M&M’s go through the bloodstream and go where they are needed. The body needs fat and cholesterol to live. Don’t think that a fat is bad, just too much of the wrong kind is bad. These lipoproteins can consist of LDL (low density lipoproteins) and HDL (high density lipoproteins)
- Bioavailability: When we eat a meal, not everything is absorbed into our body. The amount of nutrients that are absorbed into the body is considered the bio-availability of that nutrient. Combining different foods together can increase the nutrient absorption, and also combining different foods together can decrease or inhibit absorption. Examples: Add olive oil to salad. The fat helps absorb the fat soluble vitamins in the salad. Combine lemon and green tea to absorb maxim antioxidants. Drink orange juice with your cereal, the vitamin c in the oj helps to better absorb the iron in your cereal. Don’t take your calcium and iron supplements together, the calcium blocks the iron from being absorbed.
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG): This is a flavor enhancer for foods such as Chinese, canned foods, chips, processed meats and most fast foods such as taco bell. It has a salty like flavor. It is a very controversial topic about if it is safe or not for us. Research has yet to prove if it is completely safe. The FDA has said that it is safe for us, however some people experience side effects such as headaches sweating and chest pain and after consuming MSG. Research has yet to find evidence between a link between symptoms like these and MSG consumption. I recommend avoiding it at all costs. This flavor enhancer is not needed when other natural spices and herbs can be used with better, fresher flavor.
- Why too much salt is bad for us: Salt does play a very important role in our body, carrying out nerve impulses, fluid balance, muscle contraction, blood pressure regulation. We do need sodium to survive and it is essential through what we eat. However this amount is very low and American’s are consuming well over the generous amount allotted to us. Basically the kidneys help to rid the body when the sodium level gets too high, but when the level is overloaded the kidneys cannot rid the salt, it accumulates in the bloodstream. Just remember that wherever salt goes, water follows. So when the salt is in your bloodstream water will be right behind following it, causing an increase in blood volume. When there is more blood the heart has to pump it all, which overworks the heart and makes it harder to get the blood where it needs to go. The pressure increases in your arteries and therefor causes your blood pressure to increase. Do not add salt to any foods at the table or when cooking, instead use herbs and spices for flavor. Avoid processed foods such as frozen, canned and boxed meals which contain overloads of sodium.
As a nutritionist I know that nutrition can come off as very complicated, and it is indeed when studying into great depths. However, as you can see, these terms and concepts can be explained in a very simple way! No need to shy away from nutrition because of these terms. It is important to know what is going into your body, how your body works and what your body needs to function! In order to do that you must understand nutrition! Nutrition doesn’t and shouldn’t have to be a foreign language!
Please leave any comments for any other terms/concepts/processes/mechanisms you may need explained! 🙂