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Glossary of Nutrition Terms

The following nutrition glossary is a list of terminologies for both clients and students.


24-Hour Recall

All of the last meals a person has consumed (food, beverages, and alcohol) in a 24 hour period.

3-Day Recall

All of the last meals a person has consumed (food, beverages, and alcohol) in a 3-day period.



The uptake of nutrients by cells inside the small intestine.

Added Sugars

Sugars and other caloric sweetness that are added to foods during processing or preparation.


Substances not normally found in foods that are added to food intentionally. 

Adverse Reactions

Unusual responses to food, such as intolerances or allergies.



A volatile, intoxicating liquid that is produced by the natural fermentation of sugars. Examples are wine, beer, spirits, and cordials.

Alcohol Abuse

A pattern of drinking that causes the failure of normal responsibilities (school, work, paying bills, completing projects).

Amino Acids

Nitrogen-containing compounds that are the building blocks for proteins.


A form of human measurements. The measuring of hip, waist, ribs, thigh, arm, height, and weight to assess risk of disease, and acquire BMI, caloric intake, and necessary macronutrient requirements.


Substances that significantly decrease the negative affects of free radicals.


A response to the sight, smell, thought, and taste of food that may initiate or delay eating. 

Artificial Sweetener

Fake sugar. Sugar substitutes. 


Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

The rate of energy used for the metabolism to function. Basal metabolism is the energy required to sustain life while the body is at rest.


The rate and extent to which a nutrient is absorbed and used.

Body Composition

Muscles, bones, fat and other tissue that make the entire human body's weight.


Body Mass Index (BMI)

The result of weight-to-height ratio, calculated by dividing one's weight in kilograms by the square of one's height in meters. It can be used to indicate weight status.



Used to express the nutritional content of food. Calories are a unit of energy equivalent to the heat energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 °C, equal to 4.1868 joules.



A food that breaks down into glucose such as sugars, starch, and cellulose. They are water soluble and can be broken down to release energy in the human body. 

Carbohydrate Loading

A routine of exercise followed by the consumption of a high-carbohydrate meal that helps muscles store glycogen beyond their normal capacities. 


Chemical Energy

The energy from food. The body can convert chemical energy to mechanical, electrical, or heat energy.


A sterol type of fat found in most body tissues. Cholesterol and its derivatives are important constituents of cell membranes and precursors of other steroid compounds, but a high proportion in the blood of low-density lipoprotein (which transports cholesterol to the tissues) is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease.



A nonprotein compound that is necessary for the functioning of an enzyme.

Complex Carbohydrate

Polysaccharides. Examples are starches and fiber.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc.


Daily Value

Reference values developed by the FDA used on food labels. 


Milk products. Examples are hard cheese, milk (low fat and regular), cottage cheese, cream cheese, ricotta cheese, yogurt, whey protein, chocolate milk, etc.


Not enough of a nutrient to meet the body's needs. 


Not enough water taken into the body compared to how much is eliminated from the body.


Describing the kinds of food (food, beverages, edibles, foodstuff, provision, junk foods, sweets, and alcohol) that a person eats or special selection of foods prescribed to eat.


Eating Pattern

Customary intake of both foods and beverages over a period of time. 



Minerals that dissolve into water and disassociate into negatively or positively charged particles helping the flow of cellular processes. Examples are sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium.


The capacity to do work.

Enhanced Water

Fortified with other ingredients.


The addition of a specific nutrient to food to replace losses that occur during processing.


Substances produced by living organisms that help facilitate the biochemical reactions. Examples are vitamins and other nutrients. 

Essential Nutrient

A nutrient needed that cannot be made by the human body. Examples are carbohydrates, fats, proteins, water, vitamins, and minerals. 

Estimated Energy Requirement (EER)

The amount of calories it takes to maintain energy when not resting and are physically active.



Too much.


Planned structured physical activity.



A substance found in animals and humans as a layer under the skin and around certain organs. It is insoluble in water. Also known as ​lipids, esters of glycerol, and fatty acids.


Fatty Acid

Also known as a fat or lipid. Describing triglycerides. 



The process by which bacteria break down fibers to help make them more digestible. 



Plant substances that cannot be absorbed by the human body. Examples are cellulose, lignin, and pectin.


Food Allergy

A negative reaction to food, also known as hypersensitivity.


Food Aversion

A strong desire to avoid certain foods.


Food Bank

A place that collects food and donates to those incapable of affording their own food sources.

Food Craving

Strong desire to eat particular foods.

Food Crisis

A rise in the rates of hunger and malnutrition as a result of cut-off in food supplies, spike in food prices, or inability of governments to grow sufficient crops. 

Food Dessert

Neighborhoods and communities that have limited access to food.

Food Diary

An extensive record of food history. An accurate log of all things consumed (food, beverages, alcohol, supplements, and prescription drugs) and log of emotions or feelings that arise from consumption or lead to consumption, over more than a 1-week period.


Food Frequency Questionnaire

A checklist of foods which a person can record the frequency of consumption of each food or beverage.

Food History

A record of eating behaviors and the foods an individual eats.

Food Insecurity

Limited access to food or uncertain of how to resource food.


Food Insufficiency

Inadequate amount of food due to lack of resources. 


Food Intolerance

Adverse reactions to foods that do not involve the immune system.


Food Poverty

Hunger resulting from inadequate access to available food.

Food Recovery

Collecting wholesome food and donating to low-income individuals.

Food Substitutes

Foods used as replacements for other foods.


Addition of nutrients that are not originally present in a food.

Free Radicals

Highly unstable and reactive molecules with one or more unpaired electrons.


A simple sugar used as an energy source in humans. It is the result of degraded carbohydrates from fruits.


A seed bearing plant, usually thought of as sweet. A type of carbohydrate. 


Genetically Modified 

A method of artificially altering genetic material (crops or animals) to produce a desired characteristic.


A simple sugar used as the primary energy source in humans for cell survival. It is the result of degraded carbohydrates.


A food that contains less than 20 ppm of gluten from any wheat source.

Glycemic Index

A method of classifying food for their potential to raise glucose. 


Wheat, corn, teff, millet, oats, or other crops used as cereal.


High Density Lipoprotein (HDL)

A protein that helps carry cholesterol back to the liver.


Chemical messengers that are produced by a variety of endocrine glands in response to altered conditions within the human body. Each hormone travels to a targeted tissue or organ in response to maintaining homeostasis.




The body's response to cellular injury.

Insoluble Fiber

Non-starch polysaccharides that do not dissolve in water.

Integrative Medicine

Care that combines conventional and complimentary therapies together using high quality scientific evidence to provide healing and wellness.




A metabolic state with increased ketone bodies in the body tissues. A familiar condition with high ketones is diabetes. Ketosis may also be the consequence of a very low carbohydrate diet.


Laboratory Work

Blood draws conducted by a qualified practitioner such as comprehensive metabolic (CMP) panel, lipid panel, complete blood count (CBC) panel, and other specific testing.


An enzyme that breaks down milk (lactose).




Are fatty acids, which are insoluble in water and support body functions by completing thee outer layer of cell membranes. They are also known as fats, oils, waxes, and steroids.

Lipid Panel

The testing of cholesterol, triglycerides, and lipoproteins.

Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL)

A lipoprotein created during the breakdown and removal of triglycerides.



A type of food needed in large amounts. Examples are fat, protein, carbohydrate and water. 


Flesh of an animal used as food.

Medical History

An account of a patient's current and past health status and disease risks.

Medication and Supplemental History

A record of all of the current prescription supplements and drugs, over-the-counter supplements and drugs, and dietary prescriptions.


A chemical element needed in small amounts. Examples are vitamins and minerals such as potassium, vitamin D, or magnesium.


An inorganic metal substance from the earth required by the body to produce bodily functions. Examples are potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, and selenium.


A saturated fat except for one double or triple bond.


Net Protein Utilization

A measure of protein quality assessed by measuring the amount of protein nitrogen that is retained from a given amount of protein nitrogen eaten.


Non Essential

Nutrients that the body can make and are not needed to be consumed in order to survive.


Anything not genetically modified.


A substance that provides nourishment essential for the growth and the maintenance of life.

Nutrient Claims

Statements on the back of nutrition labels that describe the quantity of nutrients within a product.

Nutrition Screening

The use of preliminary nutrition assessment techniques to identify people who are malnourished or are at risk for malnutrition.




A thick liquid or type of fat that is insoluble in water and is obtained from animals or plants. 


For plant foods, organic means that the food has been farmed or produced without adding chemicals, pesticides, or artificial fertilizers to plants. For meats, it means the meats are produced without adding hormones into animal tissues. Grass-Fed and range free on food labeling means that the animals are not locked up in tiny cages, that they are free to roam around and eat the grasses and other live plants or microorganisms of the earth.


Personal and Social History

A record of a patient's social and economic background including education, income, residential, ethnic, and racial identity.

Physical Activity 

Activity that is added to normal daily activities such as walking, aerobics, karate, exercise, resistance training, and dancing. 


A leafy thing such as a tree, shrub, herb, grass, or moss. Examples are basil, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, peppers, potatoes, kale, beans, turmeric, or cabbage.



A fat having multiple double or triple bonds. 


Fibers consisting of various monosaccharides. An example is hemicellulose, a type of fiber.

Processed Foods

Foods that have been altered to change their physical, chemical, or microbiological properties. 



A class of nitrogenous organic compounds that have large molecules composed of one or more long chains of amino acids that help build and repair cells and tissue in the body. Examples are meat, egg, milk, and beans.



How much.



A process that removes coarse parts of foods.



A part of a plant found in the dirt underground. Examples are carrots, horseradish, arrowroot, parsnips, and cassava. 



A feeling of fullness and satisfaction.


Saturated Fat

A type of fat less healthier than unsaturated fat containing a high proportion of fatty acid molecules.


A lifestyle that includes no exercise and only normal daily activities.

Serving Size

A single portion of food suitable for one person.


A mineral found in high amounts of table salt.



A polysaccharide carbohydrate found in plants such as grains, carrots, beans, and potatoes. 


A sweet substance obtained from various plants. Examples of sugar are cane and sugar beets. Sugar is a type of carbohydrate.



An ester type of fat formed from glycerol and three fatty acid groups. 


Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other potato varieties.


Unsaturated Fats

A type of fat healthier than saturated fat containing a high proportion of fatty acid molecules. 



The plant or parts of a plant used as food, such as wheat, lettuce, potato, garlic, radish, or beans. They can be described as tubers, bulbs, grains, or legumes.



They are organic compounds essential for the nourishment of the human body and are required in small quantities. Examples are vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and vitamin K.


Weekly Recall

All of the last meals a person has consumed (food, beverages, and alcohol) in a 1-week period.




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