Glossary of nutrition: the most important terms that you have to know to have a healthy diet

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Today we handle a huge amount of information. So much so that it is very easy to get lost between so much terms. Moreover, some people use this gibberish of language for their own benefit, confusing the consumer. Today we make a small review of all those words that we will meet sometime if we are in search of a healthy diet.

On food and its substances

Let’s start talking about things that we eat, that we will find in the supermarket, in a conversation, reading a table of ingredients … These terms directly associate the substances that make up the food.

  • Macronutrients:is known by this name to fats, proteins and carbohydrates (sugars), incorrectly called carbohydrates. They are called macronutrients because they are the major components of our diet, present in much greater amounts than the rest of nutrients.
  • Micronutrients:as the name suggests, unlike the previous ones, these are present in much less quantity. But that does not mean they are less important. On the contrary, a deficit in these substances, which are minerals, trace elements and vitamins, can basically cause a serious mess in our health.
  • Food fiber:these substances, of vegetable origin in almost 100% of cases, can be soluble or insoluble. The fibers are very important in the diet, and it is recommended to eat at least 25 grams of them every day to improve intestinal transit and protect the intestinal micro biota. They also help to lose weight, among other multiple benefits.
  • Sugars: they are known like this, in a generic way, to all carbohydrates. Sugar, sucrose, is a sugar. But not all sugars are sugar, even if it is confusing. Among the sugars we find the energy ones like fructose, glucose, GA lactose, lactose … these are simple sugar molecules (like glucose) or combinations of these (sucrose is a mixture of fructose and glucose). Many of the fibers are also complex sugars that cannot be digested. Therefore, many foods may contain a certain amount of sugars even if they are not free.
  • Sugar free: the question is simpler than it seems. The free sugar is one that is not associated with other biological components, such as fibers. These prevent rapid assimilation of blood sugar. When we eat added sugar, we are taking free sugar. But this also happens with natural juices, although to a lesser extent, since we break the structural component of the fruit. Free sugar sticks a chute to blood sugar levels, increasing blood sugar.
  • Non-caloric sweeteners: unlike sugars, non-caloric sweeteners produce a sweet taste but do not contain energy to assimilate due to their composition. Among them there are substances of diverse chemical nature, including some sugars. The most famous are aspartame, cyclamate or saccharin.

About the food itself

The food itself has its own section. Much of the terminology is associated with a myriad of confusing concepts and used by the industry for their benefit and, sometimes, at the expense of the consumer. But words mean what they mean and nothing else.

  • Natural:a natural food is one that has not been processed. This means that it is as it comes from nature with minimal manipulation that does not change its properties. Natural foods can be cooked, at which time they are processed.
  • Processed:when they are cooked, processed or prepared, the food falls into the category of processed.
  • Ultra processed: the ultra-processed, however, are those foods that have undergone a treatment that greatly modifies their nature. To the ultra-processed substances are added or removed substances to change their palatability, structure and duration. Many times they lose nutritional properties or the bioavailability of their nutrients as a result of industrial ultra-processing.
  • Good processed: on the contrary, if the procedure is respectful with the food, add few substances of dubious quality and the result maintains the nutritional properties as far as possible, the processing is known as ” good processing “. There is a great variety of these foods in the supermarket.
  • Bio, Eco ..: the organic products, also known as “natural”, bio, etc., refer colloquially to a number of foods, but not all can be classified as such. Organic or bio-based foods are determined according to the legislation to comply with certain characteristics. The denominations “natural “, ” traditional ” and the like have a much more diffuse origin and are not regulated, although they are used indistinctly and, in reality, they do not guarantee anything at all.
  • Light: from the entry of non-caloric sweeteners appear “light” or low in sugars and fats. These products try to replace these substances with others that do not provide energy and, supposedly, help maintain health. For the moment, its usefulness is in question. Although the premise is very simple, nutrition is a very complex thing and there are several reasons to justify that these products do not comply with what they promise.
  • Food additive: they are called a series of added substances, as the name suggests, to achieve a specific goal: certain consistency, flavor, keep them longer … The additives are many, some of “natural” origin and others artificial, but all regulated.
  • Preservative: these additives are intended to ensure the healthiness of a food, avoiding infections or microbiological problems in perishables.
  • Insurance: a safe food is one that is suitable for consumption within the values ​​and time ranges determined by the industry and endorsed by the food safety authority. This security is certified and carries a quality and associated traceability system. In other words, a safe food can be eaten without fear of suffering a food problem under normal conditions.
  • Healthy: a healthy food is one that improves or helps our health. Everything that comes out of this tonic cannot be included as a healthy diet. That means that not all safe foods fall into the category of healthy
  • Food supplements: these substances are ingested outside the normal diet and are designed to solve nutritional deficiencies from the diet. The best-known food supplement is vitamin B12. However, not all are well regulated or useful.
  • Food supplements: the main problem of regulation is that supplements are food supplements. However, in the United States, for example, there is a clear differentiation. Supplements, unlike supplements, do not have to solve a deficit, but can serve to increase a substance already present, they can be foods in themselves, and their goal is to strengthen the diet, not supplement it.

About healthy life

Let’s quickly review some of the most ephemeral concepts that we face. These terms are the result of growing knowledge about health and nutrition, and often do not finish understanding.

  • Healthy life: this is not an ethereal, utopian and baseless concept, as many claim to assume. The healthy lifestyle is one that, as its name suggests, opts for healthy habits that enhance and improve our health. A healthy lifestyle, that is, following these habits, helps to extend hope and quality of life, as has been proven on numerous occasions. Healthy lifestyle is different from diets and punctual remedies in that it is a fundamental, natural and progressive change that accompanies a long period of our lives.
  • Healthy habits: among these, to achieve a healthy lifestyle, is eating better, with a healthier diet, containing more fibers, more water, more fruits and vegetables, less animal products, less or no sugar, fat of good quality, no ultra-processed … It also includes increasing physical effort, which can be done in many ways.
  • Physical exercise: the exercise or training refers to an activity of medium or high intensity. It can be a regular or sporadic training, but it is always of a certain intensity. The WHO advises some physical exercise a week to obtain a series of health benefits.
  • Physical activity: on the other hand, a healthy life does not only include physical exercise, although it recommends it. We can also settle for an increase in daily physical activity. This also has benefits and they are included within a healthy lifestyle: dancing, walking, climbing stairs … in short, moving more, is something very positive.

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