This Glossary is meant to be a short and general description of certain terms used in blog posts. By all means are these descriptions not complete, so if you think something should be added or changed, please let me know. I am not a nutritionist and I gather information, that I find useful, from different sources (listed at the bottom of the page). The Glossary will be built as we go, so it is a work in progress.
Ama: In Ayurveda ama is the waste that acumulates in the body, primarily through poor digestion and absorption.
Antioxidants: nutrients that prevent polyusaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in cell membranes from oxidizing by neutralizing free radicals:
- Free radicals are made when your body breaks down food or when you are exposed to tobacco smoke or radiation.
- The buildup of free radicals over time is largely responsible for the aging process.
- Free radicals may play a role in cancer, heart disease, and conditions like arthritis.
Ayurveda: a system of traditional medicine native to the Indian subcontinent.
Cruciferous vegetables: Brassica family of vegetables, which includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, bok choy, rutabags, turnips, mustard greens. They were named Cruciferae because their flower petals grow in a cross shape.
Ellagic acid: natural plant phenol thought to have powerful anticancer and anti-ageing properties. Found in cherries, grapes, strawberries, other red and orange fruits, nuts, seeds, garlic, onions.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs): necessary to maintain healthy skin and hair, to transport fat-soluble vitamins (like A, D, E, K) and signal the feeling of fullness after meals. The tree most important EFAs are omega-3 linolenic acids, omega-6 linolenic acids and gamma linolenic acids. These fatty acids increase immunity, reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and arthritis; sources: flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, nuts, olives, avocados, oily fish:
- Omega-3 fatty acids: important for heart health; the body doesn’t manufacture them. Main beneficial effects include lower triglycerides (blood fat), lower the overall risk of death from heart disease, significantly reduced stiffness and joint pain, seem to boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs, lower levels of depression, additional intake during pregnancy boost the health of pregnant women and the development of their children, reduces inflammation, a key component in asthma, some research suggests that omega-3s may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Plant sources: walnuts, flax and flaxseed oil, hemp seeds, hemp oil, chia seeds, canola oil, olive oil, and soybean oil; fish: anchovies, bluefish, herring, mackerel, salmon (wild has more omega-3s than farmed), sardines, sturgeon, lake trout, and tuna;
Fiber: an indigestible carbohydrate, which protects against intestinal problems and bowel disorders. Best sources – raw fruits and vegetables, seeds, whole grains.
Two main components:
- Soluble fiber dissolve in water and tend to slow the movement of food through the system;
- Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and tend to accelerate the movement of food through the system.
- Pectin: reduces risk of heart disease (lowering cholesterol), helps eliminate toxins; found mainly in fruits (apples, berries, citrus), vegetables, dried legumes;
- Cellulose: prevents varicose veins, constipation, colitis, helps deflect colon cancer; found in the outermost layers of fruits and vegetables (the importance of buying organic!);
- Hemicellulose: the one from fruits, vegetables and grains aids in weight loss, prevents constipation, lowers risk of colon cancer, helps remove cancer-forming toxins from the intestinal tract;
- Lignin: lowers cholesterol, prevents gallstone formation, helps in diabetes; found only in fruits, vegetables, Brazil nuts.
Flavonoids: phytochemicals (e.g., genistein and quercetin), plant based compounds with powerful antioxidant properties, meaning they reduce inflammation, promote healthy arteries (inhibit cholesterol production), help fight ageing by preventing and repairing cellular damage. May also protect against dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and some cancers.
Glucosinolates: Consumers of higher levels of Brassica vegetables, particularly broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage, may benefit from a lower risk of cancer at a variety of organs. At subtoxic doses, their hydrolytic and metabolic products act as chemoprotective agents against chemically induced carcinogens by blocking the initiation of tumors in a variety of rodent tissues, such as the liver, colon, mammary gland, pancreas, etc. They exhibit their effect by inducing Phase I and Phase II enzymes, inhibiting the enzyme activation, modifying the steroid hormone metabolism and protecting against oxidative damages.In particular, the chemopreventive effects of the glucosinolates present in cruciferous vegetables are related to their activity as Histone deacetylase inhibitors.
- Boron: a trace mineral that boosts and helps maintain estrogen levels in the blood, thought to prevent loss of calcium (and prevent osteoporosis), found in legumes, leafy greens, nuts;
- Calcium: There is more calcium in the body than any other mineral. More than 99 percent of it is stored in the bones and teeth to help make and keep them strong, the rest is throughout the body in blood, muscle and the fluid between cells. It helps muscles and blood vessels contract and expand, to secrete hormones and enzymes and to send messages through the nervous system. It is found in leafy greens, green vegetables, certain fruits, nuts and seeds and dairy products. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of Calcium from the food you ingest;
- Copper: a trace mineral, an essential co-factor of antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase;
- Iron: a trace mineral needed in the body to make the proteins hemoglobin (in red blood cells) and myoglobin (in muscles), which help carry and store oxygen in the body. Also part of many other proteins and enzymes in the body. Causes of low iron levels include blood loss, poor diet, or an inability to absorb enough iron from foods. Too much iron is toxic to your body. Iron can be found in plant based foods too; it is advisable to consume those foods in combination with foods containing vitamin C to increase Iron absorption in the body;
- Manganese: a trace mineral involved in many chemical processes in the body, including processing of cholesterol, carbohydrates, and protein. It might also be involved in bone formation – possibly effective against weak bones (osteoporosis) when used with calcium, zinc, and copper;
- Phosphorous: a mineral that makes up 1% of a person’s total body weight, it is present in every cell of the body, but most of it is found in the bones and teeth. It plays an important role in the body’s utilization of carbohydrates and fats and in the synthesis of protein for the growth, maintenance, and repair of cells and tissues. Phosphorus works with the B vitamins, assists in the contraction of muscles, in the functioning of kidneys, in maintaining the regularity of the heartbeat, and in nerve conduction.
- Potassium: helps nerves and muscles communicate, helps move nutrients into cells and waste products out of cells. A diet rich in potassium helps to offset some of sodium’s (contained in salt) harmful effects on blood pressure.
Phenolic compounds: can prevent oxidation of “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease; they include catechins, anthocyanins, ellagic acud, tannins. Found in red wine.
Phytonutrients: natural chemicals contained in plant foods, which help protect plants from germs, fungi, bugs, and other threats. They may help prevent disease in humans and keep your body working properly. There are more than 25.000, a few important ones are carotenoids, ellagic acid, flavonoids, resveratrol, glucosinolates, phytoestrogens.
Protein: the building block of body tissues, it is necessary for healthy growth, cell repair, reproduction and protection against infection. Protein consists of various amino acids, of which some cannot be manufactured by the body (essential amino acids). A complete protein is a protein that contains all essential amino acids – all animal proteins are complete. In a plant based diet complete protein is found in soy, spirulina, hemp seed, amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa. Plant food can also be combined to obtain a complete protein intake for example beans and rice, beans and seeds, beans and nuts, and beans and grains.
Resveratrol: fungicide occurring naturally in grapes – linked to the prevention of clogged arteries by lowering blood cholesterol levels. Found in red wine and in lesser amount in purple grape juice.
Vitamin: organic compound required by an organism as a vital nutrient in limited amounts.
Vitamin A: helps form and maintain healthy skin, teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, mucus membranes, and skin. It is also known as retinol because it produces the pigments in the retina of the eye. Promotes good vision, especially in low light, it may also be needed for reproduction and breast-feeding.
Retinol is an active form of vitamin A. It is found in animal liver, whole milk, and some fortified foods.
Carotenoids are dark-colored dyes (pigments) found in plant foods that can turn into a form of vitamin A. There are more than 500 known carotenoids. One such carotenoid is beta-carotene:
- Beta-carotene is an antioxidant.
- Food sources of carotenoids such as beta-carotene may reduce the risk for cancer.
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): plays a key role in energy metabolism, and for the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, proteins;
- Vitamin B3 (niacin)
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
- Vitamin B7 (biotin)
- Vitamin B9 (folic acid)
- Vitamin B12 (various cbalamins; commonly cyanocobalamin in vitamin supplements)
Vitamin C: necessary for normal growth and development, leftover amounts of the vitamin leave the body through the urine.
Needed for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body (form an important protein used to make skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels, heal wounds and form scar tissue, repair and maintain cartilage, bones, and teeth), one of many antioxidants. The body is not able to make vitamin C on its own, and it does not store vitamin C. It is important to include plenty of vitamin C-containing foods in your daily diet. Best sources are fruits, vegetables and certain cereal. Cooking vitamin C-rich foods or storing them for a long period of time can reduce the vitamin C content.
Vitamin D: helps the body absorb calcium and has a role in the nerve, muscle, and immune systems. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone diseases such as osteoporosis. It can be obtained through the skin, from diet, from supplements. The body forms Vitamin D naturally after exposure to sunlight, but we need to be careful to avoid the damaging effects of excessive sun exposure.
Vitamin E: is the body’s primary fat soluble antioxidant. The body needs it to help keep the immune system strong against viruses and bacteria, it is important in the formation of red blood cells and it helps the body use vitamin K. It helps widen blood vessels and keep blood from clotting inside them. Cells use vitamin E to interact with each other and carry out many important functions. It is key for strong immunity and healthy skin and eyes.
Vitamin K: the clotting vitamin, because without it blood would not clot. Some studies suggest that it helps maintain strong bones in the elderly. Sources are certain vegetables (green leafy and cruciferous), fruits, animal foods. Vitamin K is also made by the bacteria that line the gastrointestinal tract.
Volatile oil: also known as essential oil or ethereal oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid extracted from plants. It is “essential” in the sense that it carries a distinctive scent, or essence, of the plant. It can be used in perfumes, cosmetics, soaps, for flavoring food and drink, and for adding scents. Essential oils are also used medicinally.
– The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible: Pat Crocker,