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Nutrition Glossary

B

B–Complex Vitamins.

These are water–soluble vitamins, such as Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2) and Niacin (B3). Among other functions, they act as coenzymes in the metabolism of macronutrients to release energy.

C

Calcium

This is one of the most abundant minerals in the body; among its main functions are the formation and maintenance of bones and teeth, neurotransmission and muscular activity, blood clotting and regulation of nutrient transport in the cell membrane.

Calories

A term used to express the energy power of food. The nutrients that contribute energy to the organism are proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Technically, a calorie is defined as the amount of energy necessary to raise the temperature of one gram of pure water by one degree Centigrade (1°C), from 14,5°C to 15,5°C.

Carbohydrates

These are organic compounds, the molecule of which is formed by three simple elements: carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. Carbohydrates include sugars and starches, which are the principal source of energy for the body.

Cholesterol

A sterol–like substance present in animal fats. It is essential for the formation of the plasma membrane, which regulates the entry and exit of substances that cross the cells.

D

Dietary or Dietetic Fiber

These are carbohydrates, analogous of carbohydrates and lignin, which are not hydrolyzed by the endogenous enzymes of the human gastrointestinal tract. Dietary fiber may be soluble or insoluble.

F

Fats

These are substances that are insoluble in water and soluble in organic solvents, and are especially composed of esters of fatty acids. This term includes triglycerides, phospholipids, glycolipids, waxes and sterols. They constitute a very important source of energy for the body; they are part of the cell membrane, and they participate in hormone synthesis and the transport of fat–soluble vitamins (A, D, K and E).

Folic Acid

A water–soluble vitamin, its main function is to participate as a cofactor in numerous enzymatic reactions, such as the synthesis of DNA and RNA, essential in cell division, the homocysteine metabolism, and the formation of erythrocytes and leukocytes in bone marrow.

I

Iron

A mineral essential for the body, it is part of hemoglobin, found in red blood cells and enzymes involved in different metabolic processes. It performs very important functions, such as transporting oxygen, the normal defense of the immune system, cell division, and cognitive performance.

M

Macronutrients

Those nutrients from which the body gets the energy necessary to perform its physiological functions for growth and physical activity. Proteins, fats and carbohydrates are macronutrients that should contribute to a healthy diet.

Micronutrients

These are substances that the body requires in small amounts; they have important functions and are essential to maintain proper health.

P

Proteins

Proteins are polymers of amino acids linked by peptide bonds. Proteins are called simple when they consist of only amino acids; when called compound, they include other substances, such as lipids, carbohydrates, and minerals, etc. They are essential nutrients for growth and maintenance of tissues; they meet regulatory, enzymatic, hormonal, transport and defense functions in the body.

T

Trans Fatty Acids

This is a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid, the result of the industrialization (hydrogenation) that produces a change in its chemical structure. In small amounts, they are also found in milk and fat from ruminants.

S

Saturated Fats or Saturated Fatty Acids

These are fats that do not have double bonds in their hydrocarbon chain. They are solid at room temperature.

Sodium

A nutrient that provides essential functions in the body, such as regulating blood pressure, transmitting nerve impulses from neurons and muscle contractions. Sodium is part of table salt, the composition of which is NaCl (sodium chloride), which provides one of the basic tastes, salty.

Sugars

These are monosaccharide and disaccharide carbohydrates naturally present in food or added to it.

V

Vitamin C

A water–soluble vitamin, it is essential for a number of important metabolic reactions in the body. It contributes to the formation of tissues, the absorption of iron and the healing processes. It is a vitamin that stands out for its antioxidant effect and has been associated as a factor favoring the immune system.