Nutrition Terms

Diet and Nutrition

Nutrition Terms

Nutrition Terms

We live in the era of the most "formally educated" population in the history of the world. The media, in its massive proliferation of printed, video and audio sight and sound bites, attempts to keep pace with the educated masses, by offering an endless stream of information about an endless stream of topics.

Health and fitness is one of the hottest topics today and the information stream often contains jargon which may seem like a foreign language to some.

Do you understand all of the nutrition terms used in the media today? You could use this list of definitions as a self test and gloat about your results or quietly enjoy the little bit of education it offers.

Free Radicals

Unstable molecules which can be very destructive to human tissue particularly when combined with oxygen. Molecules are stable when they have pairs of electrons around the nucleus.

When there is an odd number of electrons, the molecule becomes unstable. This occurs in the presence of cosmic rays (which we are all exposed to if we live on Earth), pollution, alcohol, radiation, sunlight, environmental chemicals, heavy metals exposure, physical trauma, emotional stress, rancid fats, cheap oils, and even exercise.

These unstable molecules are known to steal an electron from another molecule and oxygen is a very available target.

This theft sets up a chain reaction of electron thefts which is known as oxidation (in fat it is known as lipid peroxidation which is also known as Rancid).

Uncontrolled oxidation leads to cellular damage and becomes the underlying cause of many ailments. Free radical development is a natural process necessary for the control of bacteria, the disposal of toxins and the recycling of our cells.

It is the out of control Free Radicals that create the problems and this happens when exposure to the above list is excessive and the nutrition for protection is inadequate.


These are not somebody's relative but rather nutrients which neutralize the Free Radicals. Therefore they protect the body from some of the ravages of damage. They have been dubbed the "Free Radical Scavengers".

They include Vitamins A, C and E, beta carotene, selenium, grape seed extract and riboflavin (a B vitamin). A good reason for eating your fresh fruits and vegetables as they are the biggest suppliers of antioxidants.

Most research suggests that it is difficult to get enough of these protectors from a diet, due to calorie limitations and available quality produce. Therefore, responsible supplementation becomes a modern solution to a modern problem.

Trans Fatty Acids

Fatty Acids, which have been heated above 160 degrees F. Occurs in the popular processed food action known as hydrogenation.  Fatty acids change their configuration and consequently their behavior in human metabolism. Some become toxic and behave like Free Radicals, others compete with the good fats - essential fatty acids.

This may upset the production of some of the good "super hormones" which, in turn, are responsible for controlling inflammation and fat metabolism. Some behave like saturated fats leading to increased blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

The most common sources are most margarines, cheap vegetable oils, and deep fried products. Trans fatty acids are implicated in heart disease, cancer and immune deficiency diseases. Should be avoided at all costs.


One of the essential amino acids (methionine), a component of complete protein, is used to make homocysteine. This is a building block for other necessary items in the metabolic chain.

However high homocysteine levels are considered toxic. Vitamin B-6 deficiencies are the most likely cause of excess build up of homocysteine and this has been implicated in heart disease.

In fact, homocysteine levels are now used by many Physicians as red flag indicators to predict heart disease.

The best recommendation is to be sure you eat adequate levels of B complex, also known as the stress vitamin.

Folic Acid

This B vitamin is one of the recognized essential nutrients for the development of a normal fetus. It is one of the most recommended supplements during pregnancy. It is best known for encouraging proper cell division in the developing fetus, prevention of Spina Bifida and Neural Tube disorders during pregnancy.

Folic acid bio-availability is not easy to achieve and the foods highest in Folic acid are not necessarily main stream.

Recent laboratory tests have shown that Folic acid availability in 11 of 14 B complex supplements didn't meet standards necessary for required bio-availability.

Folic acid is also implicated in the prevention of colon cancer, heart disease and stroke. This is a nutrient you don't want to be without.


This is a term used to describe the amount of a nutrient that can be absorbed and used by the cells of the body. Bio-availability is affected by the heat in food processing, the fiber content of a diet, the cofactors present or absent in a food or supplement and the health of your digestive system.

If you knew all of this you can gloat to your friends. Now everybody reading this knows it also, so it could become routine parlor room conversation. Best wishes and good heath to all.

About the Author

Dr. L. Lee CoyneDr. L. Lee Coyne, the Healthy Professor, is a nutritional consultant, lecturer and author of Fat Won't Make You Fat and the LeanSeekers nutrition program. He may be reached at 1-800-668-4042 or by e-mail


Further Reading