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Nutrition Glossary


Calcium is the most abundant mineral found in the body. 99% of the calcium in the body is found in bones. Calcium plays a role in blood clotting, muscle contraction, nerve transmission, and cell metabolism. A diet deficient in calcium can lead to the condition called osteoporosis. This is characterized by the loss of bone mass, and can lead to loss of teeth and bone fractures.

Recommendation: 800 mg per day

Foods in: Milk and dairy products, spinach, broccoli, canned fish-such as tuna, salmon, and sardines.

Dictionary Definition: A silvery, moderately hard metallic element constituting approximately 3% of the earth's crust, a basic component of bones, shells, and leaves.


Calorie is a term for which energy in food is measured. The needs for calories depend a lot on how active a person is. 

Recommendation: Average for men is 2500 calories, and 2000 for women

Dictionary Definition: A kilogram calorie. Any of several approximately equal units of heat, each measured as the quantity of heat required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by 10C from a standard initial temperature.


The main function of carbohydrates is for energy in the body. In the absence of carbohydrates, protein is broken down to provide needed energy (which could lead to a protein deficiency); however, it would be very difficult to become deficient in carbohydrates. In cases of extreme exercise or other extreme circumstances such as starvation, a deficiency may occur.

Recommendation: There is no set recommendation for carbohydrates, but an intake of at least 50-100 g per day is needed.

Foods in: sugar, syrup, honey, caramel, jellies, cereals, ice cream, cake, sodas, and candies-to name a few.

Dictionary Definition: Any of a group of chemical compounds, including sugars, starches, and cellulose, containing carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen only.


holesterol is a waxy lipid or fat that is found only in animal derived products. Cholesterol serves several important functions in the body, and is also made by the body. The main function of cholesterol is to be the precursor for a group of hormones called sterols, which include estrogen and testosterone. Cholesterol is also a derivative of Vitamin D. An excess of cholesterol is not beneficial for the body, and it can lead to heart disease and high blood pressure. High Cholesterol can be avoided if cholesterol is cut out of the diet. However, some people are prone to high cholesterol because their body produces the compound in excess.

Recommendation: 300mg per day

Foods in: any animal product or anything made with an animal product

Dictionary Definition: A glistening white, soapy crystalline substance, C27 H45 OH, the most common animal sterol, a precursor of a form of vitamin D and a universal tissue constituent, occurring notably in bile, gallstones, the brain, blood cells, plasma, egg yolk and seeds.

Dietary Fiber

Dietary fiber has two main components, insoluble and soluble. Both types have advantages in the diet. Insoluble fibers do not dissolve in water, while soluble fibers dissolve or are broken down in the body. Insoluble fibers provide more bulk to stool size, and also may play a role in reducing the risk for certain types of cancer. Soluble fibers have been proven to have a lowering effect on blood cholesterol levels.

Recommendation: there is no set need for fiber, but it is recommended to be 20-35 g per day.

Foods in: (insoluble): wheat bran, brown rice

Foods in: (soluble): apples, bananas, oranges, carrots, oats, beans

Dictionary Definition: One of the elongated thick-walled cells that give strength and support to plant tissue.


Fat is the main fuel for the body, and the main form of fat is triglycerides. There are two main types of fat in food, saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fat is solid at room temperature, while unsaturated fats are liquids, or oils. Saturated fat is linked to heart disease and high cholesterol. Unsaturated fat is better for the body, and in fact can reduce blood cholesterol levels.

Recommendation: It is recommended that less than 30% of your calories in a day come from fat.

Foods in: fried foods, cakes, muffins, chocolate, avocados, pies, meat, cheese, seeds & nuts

Polyunsaturated fat: This is an essential fat needed by the body for the building of hormones, and cell wall structures. It also helps lower blood cholesterol levels. Examples of this fat or oil are corn, soybean, and safflower oil.

Monounsaturated fat: This type of fat is not essential to the body, but is can serve to lower cholesterol to some degree. It is better for the body than saturated fat. Olive oil and canola oil are examples of this type of fat.

Saturated fat: This type of fat is not essential to the body, and could be left out completely. In small amounts, this will not be harmful or have an ill effect on health. In large amounts, this fat can cause heart disease, high blood pressure, and lead to heart attack or stroke. This fat is solid at room temperature, examples are lard, hard butter, and Crisco. It is recommended that 10% or less of your calories come from saturated fat.

Dictionary Definition: The glyceride ester of a fatty acid. Any of various soft solid or semi-solid organic compounds comprising the glyceride esters of fatty acids and associated phosphates, sterols, alcohols, hydrocarbons, ketones and related compounds.


Iron is a trace mineral in the body. Iron is important in the composition to two important blood proteins, hemoglobin and myoglobin. Iron aids in the transport of oxygen to all cells from the lungs, and serves a very important role in the immune system of the body. Iron deficiency is usually termed iron deficiency anemia. Symptoms include pale skin, fatigue, loss of appetite, and apathy.

Recommendation: 15 mg for women, 10 mg for men. Iron is the only nutrient which more is required for women than men. Women require more iron due to the amount lost in blood via the menstrual cycle. 

Foods in: spinach, liver, red meat, legumes, oysters

Dictionary Definition: a strong, hard magnetic silvery-gray metal, the chemical element of atomic number 26, much used as a material for construction and manufacturing, especially in the form of steel


Niacin is a vitamin B complex. Its main function is in metabolic pathways, especially those involved in making energy for the body. It is also useful in the making of fatty acids. A deficiency in niacin results in Pellagra, which signs are inflammation of the skin, diarrhea, dementia, dermatitis, and hallucinations.

Recommendation: 15-19 mg for men, 13-15 for women

Foods in: mushrooms, wheat bran, tuna, chicken, and peanuts

Dictionary Definition: Nicotinic Acid, a member of the vitamin B-complex, C5 H4 NCOOH, occurring in living cells as an essential substance for growth and synthesized for use in treating pellagra.


Potassium is a mineral in the body which aids in fluid balance and nerve transmissions in the body. Potassium is not found in many foods, so a deficiency could occur. This is a state called hypokalemia, and symptoms include loss of appetite, muscle cramps, confusion and apathy.

Recommendation:  2000 mg per day

Foods in: spinach, beans, zucchini, asparagus, cantaloupe, orange juice

Dictionary Definition: the chemical element of atomic number 19, a soft silvery-white reactive metal of the alkali metal group.


Phosphorus is a mineral in the body which plays many roles. A majority of phosphorus found in the body is in bone and teeth. It also makes up part of the major energy compound in the body, ATP. It is difficult to become deficient in phosphorus because it is absorbed so easily in the body.

Recommendation: 800 mg per day

Foods in: milk, cheese, meat, and cereal. A good portion of phosphorus in the diet also comes from food additives

Dictionary Definition: the chemical element of atomic number 15, a poisonous, combustible nonmetal that exists in two common allotropic forms, white phosphorus, a yellowish waxy solid that ignites spontaneously in air and glows in the dark, and red phosphorus, a less reactive form used in making matches.


Proteins provide a variety of essential functions in the body. A few of these include forming the tissue in muscles which aid in contraction (actin and myosin), connective tissue, blood-clotting factors, maintaining fluid balance, making up hormones and enzymes, forming antibodies for the immune system, and forming glucose for energy. Protein deficiency is mainly seen in children, and is usually related to a lack of calories in the diet as well as low protein consumption. Two main diseases are caused from this, Kwashiorkor and Marasmus.

Recommendation: 0.8 g per kg body weight

Foods in: canned tuna, beef, chicken, milk, legumes, beans

Dictionary Definition: Any of a group of complex nitrogenous organic compounds of high molecular weight that contain certain amino acids as their basic structural units and that occur in all living matter and are essential for growth and repair of animal tissue.


Riboflavin is a vitamin B complex. It is needed to help breakdown fatty acids in the body.

Recommendation: 1.4-1.7 mg for men, 1.2-1.3 mg for women

Foods in: Foods in: beef liver, mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, milk

Dictionary Definition: A crystalline orange-yellow pigment, C17 H20 O6 N4, the principal growth promoting factor in the vitamin B complex, found in milk, leafy vegetables, fresh meat, egg yolks, and produced synthetically.


Despite all the press sodium receives as being harmful to the body, it is still extremely important for some functions in the body. Its main purposes are fluid balance and nerve transmission. A deficiency is rare because sodium is found in so many foods.

Recommendation: the minimum requirement is 500 mg per day, and the max is 2000 mg

Foods in: processed foods, table salt, cheeses, and many condiments 

To lower sodium intake, cut back on processed foods, and try cooking more from scratch-that way you have more control over what is going in the foods.

Dictionary Definition: the chemical element of atomic number 11, a soft silver-white reactive metal of the alkali metal group.


Thiamin is a vitamin B complex. Thiamin aids in making energy through the metabolism of carbohydrates. A deficiency results in a disease known as Beriberi. Symptoms include weakness, loss of appetite, irritability, nervous tingling throughout the body, poor arm and leg coordination, and muscle pain deep in the calves.

Recommendation: 1.5 mg for men, 1.1 mg for women

Foods in: whole grains, green beans, peanuts, pork, and sunflower seed

Dictionary Definition: A B-complex vitamin, C12 H17 Cl N4 O5, produced synthetically in the bran coat of grains, in yeast, and in meat, that is necessary for carbohydrate metabolism, maintenance of normal neural activity, and the prevention of beriberi.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin whose best known role is aiding in night and color vision. The vitamin is also necessary for growth and may serve as an antioxidant. A diet deficient in vitamin A makes a person more susceptible to infections and illness due to lack of immune function. A deficiency can also lead to night blindness and in extreme cases, total blindness.

Recommendation: 5000 IU for men, 4000 IU for women

Foods in: spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, lettuce, cantaloupe, mango, apricots, broccoli

Dictionary Definition: A vitamin or mixture of vitamins especially vitamin A, or a mixture of Vitamin A1 and A2, occurring principally in fish liver oils and some yellow and dark green vegetables, functioning in normal cell growth and development, and responsible in deficiency for the hardening and roughening of skin, night blindness and degeneration of mucous membranes.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, which can be made by many animals, excepts humans. Thus it must be consumed in the diet. The most important function of vitamin C is for collagen (a protein) synthesis. This protein is needed for bone maintenance and to help wounds heal. Vitamin C may also serve as an antioxidant, which may aid in preventing certain types of cancer. Diets deficient in this vitamin may lead to a disease known as Scurvy. Symptoms include bone pain, diarrhea, and small hemorrhages around the hair follicles of the skin.

Recommendation: 60 mg for adults

Foods in: citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit), green peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, lettuce

Dictionary Definition: Ascorbic Acid. a vitamin found particularly in citrus fruits and green vegetables. It is essential in maintaining healthy connective tissue, and is also thought to act as an antioxidant. Severe deficiency causes scurvy.


Water is a major component of the body's composition, making up 50-70% of our body weight. We do not store water well, therefore we need to consume it daily. Water plays many roles in the body-it helps maintain body temperature, helps with removal of body wastes, serves as a lubricant, and it is a great medium for chemical reactions to take place.

Recommendation: 8-10 cups a day Dictionary Definition A clear colorless nearly odorless and tasteless liquid. It is essential for most plant and animal life, and the most widely used of all solvents

Sources: & Dictionary

Disclaimer: The statements on these nutrients are provided only for informational purposes and do not constitute medical advice. Individual recommendations regarding supplements and diets should come from physicians and registered dietitians.

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