Adenosine Tri-phosphate (ATP):
ATP is a molecule that serves as the universal energy source for all plants and
animals. In your body, ATP breaks down into adenosine diphosphate plus a separate phosphate group. This releases
energy, which is used to power your body's cells. During periods of inactivity, the reverse reaction takes place, and
the phosphate group is reattached to the molecule using energy obtained from food. In this way, the ATP molecule is
continuously being recycled by your body.
Antioxidants are chemical substances that help protect against cell damage from free radicals. Well-known antioxidants include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, and flavonoids.
Body Mass Index (BMI):
Body Mass Index is a standardized ratio of weight to height and is often used as a general
indicator of health. Your BMI can be calculated by dividing your weight (in kilograms) by the square of your height (in
meters). A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal for most adults. Higher BMIs may indicate that an
individual is overweight or obese.
Of all the essential minerals in the human body, calcium is the most abundant. Calcium helps the body form
bones and teeth and is required for blood clotting, transmitting signals in nerve cells, and muscle contraction. Calcium
helps prevent osteoporosis; of the two to three pounds of calcium contained in the human body, 99% is located in the
bones and teeth.
Calcium also seems to play a role in lowering blood pressure and has been shown to reduce the risk of
cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women.
A calorie is a unit of measurement for energy. One calorie is formally defined as the amount of energy
required to raise one cubic centimeter of water by one-degree centigrade. For the purpose of measuring the amount
of energy in food, nutritionists most commonly use kilocalories (equal to 1,000 calories), and label the measurement
either as "kcal" or as "Calories" with a capital "C." One kcal is also equivalent to approximately 4.184 kilojoules.
Carotenoids are natural fat-soluble pigments found in certain plants. Carotenoids provide the bright
red, orange, or yellow coloration of many vegetables, serve as antioxidants, and can be a source for vitamin A
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance present in all parts of the body including the nervous system, skin,
muscles, liver, intestines, and heart. It is both made by the body and obtained from animal products in the diet.
Cholesterol is manufactured in the liver for normal body functions including the production of hormones, bile acid, and
vitamin D. It is transported in the blood to be used by all parts of the body.
In the bloodstream, cholesterol combines with fatty acids to form high-density (HDL) and low-density (LDL)
lipoproteins. LDLs are considered the "bad cholesterol," since they can stick together to form plaque deposits on the
walls of your blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis.
One-fourth of the adult population in the U.S. has high blood cholesterol levels. More than half of the adult population
has blood cholesterol levels that exceed the desirable range, as specified by the medical community. Elevated
cholesterol often begins in childhood. Some children may be at higher risk than others due to a family history of high
Copper is a trace element that is essential for most animals, including humans. It is needed to absorb and
utilize iron. The influence of copper upon health is due to the fact that it is part of enzymes, which are proteins that
help biochemical reactions occur in all cells. Copper is involved in the absorption, storage, and metabolism of iron.
The symptoms of copper deficiency are similar to iron deficiency anemia. Copper may be absorbed by both the
stomach and small-intestinal mucosa, with most absorbed by the small intestine. Copper is found in the blood bound
Daily Values (DV):
Daily Values are the dietary reference values that are used on all current U.S. Nutrition Facts
labels. These values were determined by the FDA to best represent the minimum needs of the general population.
For many nutrients, DVs will exceed your actual minimum needs, since they conservatively allow for the minimum
needs of more demanding conditions, such as pregnancy or lactation. Most DVs are derived from Dietary Reference
Intakes (DRI) and other recommendations made by the Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (IOM).
Dietary fiber comes from the thick cell walls of plants. It is an indigestible complex carbohydrate. Fiber
is divided into two general categories: water-soluble and water-insoluble.
Soluble fiber has been shown to lower cholesterol. However, in many studies, the degree of cholesterol reduction
was quite modest. For unknown reasons, diets higher in insoluble fiber (mostly unrelated to cholesterol levels) have
been shown to correlate better with protection against heart disease in human trials. Soluble fibers can also lower
blood sugar levels, and some doctors believe that increasing fiber decreases the body’s need for insulin—a good
sign for diabetics.
Insoluble fiber acts as a stool softener, which speeds digestion through the intestinal tract. For this reason, insoluble
fiber is an effective treatment for constipation. The reduction in "transit time" has also been thought to partially explain
the link between a high-fiber diet and a reduced risk of colon cancer.
Enzymes are complex proteins that assist in or enable chemical reactions to occur. "Digestive" enzymes,
for example, help your body break food down into chemical compounds that can more easily be absorbed.
Thousands of different enzymes are produced by your body.
Essential Amino Acids:
Essential Amino Acids are amino acids that your body does not have the ability to
synthesize. Hundreds of different amino acids exist in nature, and about two dozen of them are important to human
nutrition. Nine of these–histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and
valine–are considered essential, since they must be supplied by your diet.
While the essential amino acids requirements vary among different individuals, the Food and Agricultural
The organization of the United Nations (FAO) has proposed a standard that specifies the minimum amount of each
essential amino acid that should be supplied per gram of protein consumed. This standard is the reference by which
protein quality is determined. By comparing the limiting (i.e., lowest level) amino acid in food with this standard, the
amino acid score is determined. A score of 100 or above indicates a complete or high-quality protein; a score below
100 indicates a lower-quality protein.
Fatty acids are individual isomers of what we more commonly call "fats". There are potentially hundreds
of different fatty acids, but just a few dozen that are commonly found in the foods we eat.
Flavonoids (bioflavonoids): Flavonoids are a class of water-soluble pigments that are found in many plants. A few
thousand different flavonoids have so far been identified. While not labeled as essential nutrients, many of these
compounds serve as antioxidants or play other important roles in maintaining the health of your body.
Some researchers break flavonoids down into subclasses that include isoflavones, anthocyanidins, flavans, flavonols,
flavones, and flavanones. However, these subclassifications are not universally recognized.
Glycemic Index (GI):
The Glycemic Index is a dietary index that's used to rank carbohydrate-based foods. The
Glycemic Index predicts the rate at which the ingested food will increase blood sugar levels.
Glycemic Load (GL): Glycemic Load is equal to the Glycemic Index of food times the number of grams of
carbohydrates in the serving of food that's being eaten. Glycemic Load is believed to correlate more directly to blood sugar level changes than Glycemic Index.
Insulin is a hormone that's secreted by your pancreas to help regulate blood sugar level and promotes
glycogen storage. Individuals with diabetes mellitus supplement insulin to make up for their body's inability to produce
International Unit (IU):
IU is a measurement unit that is primarily used on nutrition labeling for vitamin A. One IU is
equivalent to 0.3 mcg of retinol, 0.6 mcg of beta-carotene, or 1.2 mcg of other provitamin-A carotenoids.
Iron: Iron is one of the human body’s essential minerals. It forms part of hemoglobin, the component of the blood that
carries oxygen throughout the body. People with iron-poor blood tire easily because their bodies are starved for
oxygen. Iron is also part of myoglobin, which helps muscles store oxygen. With insufficient iron, adenosine
triphosphate (ATP; the fuel the body runs on) cannot be properly synthesized. As a result, some iron-deficient people
can become fatigued even when they are not anemic.
An isomer is a variation in the arrangement of atoms in two or more otherwise similar chemical compounds.
A general classification to denote water-insoluble compounds, such as fatty acids and sterols.
Nutritionists often group nutrients into two subclasses, called macronutrients and micronutrients.
Macronutrients refer to those nutrients that form the major portion of your consumption and contribute energy to your diet. Macronutrients include carbohydrates, fats, protein, and alcohol. Sometimes the water is also considered to be a macronutrient. All other nutrients are consumed in smaller amounts and are labeled as micronutrients.
Magnesium is an essential mineral for the human body. It is needed for protein, bone, and fatty acid
formation, making new cells, activating B vitamins, relaxing muscles, blood clotting, and forming adenosine
triphosphate (ATP). The production and use of insulin also require magnesium.
Under certain circumstances, magnesium has been found to improve vision in people with glaucoma. Similarly,
magnesium has demonstrated an ability to lower blood pressure.
Manganese is an essential trace mineral that is required in small amounts to manufacture enzymes
necessary for the metabolism of proteins and fat. It also supports the immune system and blood-sugar balance and is
involved in the production of cellular energy, reproduction, and bone growth.
Manganese works with vitamin K to support normal blood clotting. Working with the B-complex vitamins, manganese
helps promote a positive outlook when faced with stress, frustration, and anxiety.
A microgram is a unit of measure equal to one one-millionth of a gram (g).
A milligram is a unit of measure equal to one one-thousandth of a gram (g).
Monosaccharides are simple carbohydrates that consist of a single sugar molecule. Examples
include glucose, fructose, and galactose.
An NLEA Serving is a standardized serving size that arose from the U.S. government's Nutrition
Labeling and Education Act. The NLEA regulations are governed by the FDA, and restrict the typical serving size that
can be claimed on a U.S. Nutrition Facts label. The intent of this regulation is to deter food manufacturers from
misleading the public by using serving sizes that are unrealistically small or large. Food manufacturers must now
report serving sizes that are reasonably close to the NLEA standard. This standard is different for each type of food,
and applies to virtually all foods except meats.
Nutrient density is the measurement of the amount of a nutrient per fixed portion of food. If you
know the nutrient density of a food, you can better compare its nutritional value to that of other foods, regardless of
Phosphorus is an essential mineral that is usually found in nature combined with oxygen as phosphate.
Most phosphate in the human body is in bone, but phosphate-containing molecules (phospholipids) are also
important components of cell membranes and lipoprotein particles, such as good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol.
Small amounts of phosphate are engaged in biochemical reactions throughout the body.
The role of phosphate-containing molecules in aerobic exercise reactions has suggested that phosphate loading
might enhance athletic performance, though controlled research has produced inconsistent results.
Phytosterol is any plant-derived sterol.
Polysaccharides are complex carbohydrates, made up of multiple sugar molecules. Examples of
polysaccharides include cellulose, starch, and dextrin.
Potassium is an essential mineral that helps regulate heart function, blood pressure, and nerve and
muscle activity. Potassium is also required for carbohydrate and protein metabolism and helps maintain the proper
pH within the body. Those with higher potassium intakes tend to have lower blood pressure and people with low
blood levels of potassium who are undergoing heart surgery are at an increased risk of developing heart arrhythmias
and an increased need for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Excessive sodium intake can increase your body's
requirements for potassium.
Protein is one of the basic components of food and makes all life possible. Amino acids are the building
blocks of proteins. All of the antibodies and enzymes, and many of the hormones in the body, are proteins. They
provide for the transport of nutrients, oxygen, and waste throughout the body. They provide the structure and
contracting capability of muscles. They also provide collagen to connective tissues of the body and to the tissues of
the skin, hair, and nails.
Retinol Activity Equivalent (RAE):
The Retinol Activity Equivalent is a relatively new unit for expressing vitamin A
activity. One mcg of RAE is equivalent to 1 mcg of all-trans-retinol, 12 mcg of all-trans-beta-carotene, or 24 mcg of
another provitamin A carotenoids. These RAE conversion factors are based on recent studies that show that the
conversion of provitamin A carotenoids to retinol is only half as great as previously thought.
SAMe, a natural metabolite of the amino acid methionine, plays a key role in
dozens of chemical reactions in the body.
Satiety refers to the feeling of satisfaction or "fullness" produced by the consumption of food.
Saturated fat is a fat or fatty acid in which there are no double bonds between the carbon atoms of
the fatty acid chain. Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature. Diets high in saturated fat have been shown
to correlate with an increased incidence of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. Dehydrogenation converts
saturated fats to unsaturated fats, while hydrogenation accomplishes the reverse.
Common saturated fats include butter, lard, palm oil, coconut oil, cottonseed oil, and palm kernel oil. Saturated fat is
found in dairy products, especially cream and cheese, and in meat, as well as in many prepared foods. Some studies
suggest that replacing saturated fats in the diet with unsaturated fats will increase one's ratio of HDL to LDL serum
Alternatives to saturated fats include monosaturated fats such as olive oil and polyunsaturated fats such as canola oil
and corn oil.
Selenium is an essential trace mineral. Selenium activates an antioxidant enzyme called glutathione
peroxidase, which may help protect the body from cancer. Yeast-derived forms of selenium have induced "apoptosis"
(programmed cell death) in cancer cells in test tubes and in animals. One study found that men consuming the most
dietary selenium developed 65% fewer cases of advanced prostate cancer than did men with low levels of selenium
Selenium is also essential for healthy immune functioning. Even in a nondeficient population of elderly people,
selenium supplementation has been found to stimulate the activity of white blood cells. Selenium is also needed to
activate thyroid hormones.
In a placebo-controlled study, selenium supplementation indicated a reduction in disease activity in people with
autoimmune thyroiditis (thyroid inflammation). In a double-blind trial, selenium supplementation of infertile men
improved the motility of sperm cells and increased the chance of conception.
Sodium is a mineral, an essential nutrient. It helps to maintain blood volume, regulate the balance of water
in the cells, and keep nerves functioning. The kidneys control sodium balance by increasing or decreasing sodium in
the urine. One teaspoon of salt contains about 2,300 milligrams of sodium, more than four times the amount the body
requires per day. Many foods contain sodium naturally, and it is commonly added to foods during preparation or processing or as a flavoring agent. Sodium is also found in drinking
water, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter medications. Sodium intake is only one of the factors
known to affect high blood pressure, and not everyone is equally susceptible. The sensitivity to sodium seems to be
very individualized. Usually, the older one is, the more sensitive one is to salt.
A sterol is any of a class of solid cyclic alcohols, found in both plants (e.g., campesterol, stigmasterol, betasitosterol) and animals (e.g., cholesterol).
Sugar alcohols, sometimes called polyols, are a class of carbohydrates that are more slowly or
incompletely absorbed by the human digestive system than sugars. Common sugar alcohols include sorbitol,
mannitol, maltitol, and xylitol. Sugar alcohols contribute fewer Calories to the diet than most other types of
carbohydrates but may cause digestive discomfort.
Theobromine is an alkaloid compound with a molecular structure similar to caffeine. Theobromine has
a mild stimulating effect on humans and is found in certain foods, such as cocoa and chocolate. Theobromine can be
lethal to some animals, including dogs and horses, which metabolize theobromine much more slowly than humans.
Unsaturated fat is a fat or fatty acid in which there are one or more double bonds between
carbon atoms of the fatty acid chain. Such fat molecules are monounsaturated if each contains one double bond, and
polyunsaturated if each contains more than one.
Hydrogenation converts unsaturated fats to saturated fats, while dehydrogenation accomplishes the reverse.
Unsaturated fats tend to melt at lower temperatures than saturated fats, which tend to be solid at room temperature.
Both kinds of unsaturated fat can replace saturated fat in the diet. Substituting unsaturated fats for saturated fats
helps to lower levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in the blood.
Vitamin A (Retinol):
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin with multiple functions in the body. It helps cells differentiate,
an essential part of cell reproduction. Cells that are not fully differentiated are more likely to undergo precancerous
changes. It is a central component for healthy vision; vitamin A nourishes cells in various structures of the eye and is
required for the transduction of light into nerve signals in the retina. It is required during pregnancy, stimulating
normal growth and development of the fetus by influencing genes that determine the sequential growth of organs in
embryonic development. It influences the function and development of sperm, ovaries, and placenta and is a vital
component of the reproductive process.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin):
Vitamin B1 is a water-soluble vitamin that the body requires to break down carbohydrates, fat,
and protein. Every cell of the body requires vitamin B1 to form adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Vitamin B1 is also
essential for the proper functioning of nerve cells.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin):
Vitamin B2 is a water-soluble vitamin that helps the body process amino acids and fats,
activate vitamin B6 and folic acid, and convert carbohydrates to adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Under some
conditions, vitamin B2 can act as an antioxidant.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin):
Vitamin B3 is required for cell respiration and helps release the energy in carbohydrates, fats,
and proteins. It also supports proper circulation and healthy skin, functioning of the nervous system, and normal
secretion of bile and stomach fluids. It is used in the synthesis of sex hormones, treating schizophrenia and other
mental illnesses, and as a memory-enhancer.
Nicotinic acid (but not nicotinamide) supplementation improves the blood cholesterol profile, and has been used to
flush the body of organic poisons, such as certain insecticides. People report more mental alertness when this
vitamin is insufficient supply.
A shortage of niacin may be indicated with symptoms such as canker sores, depression, diarrhea, dizziness, fatigue,
halitosis, headaches, indigestion, insomnia, limb pains, loss of appetite, low blood-sugar, muscular weakness, skin
eruptions, and inflammation.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid):
Vitamin B5 is a water-soluble vitamin involved in Kreb’s energy production cycle
and is needed for the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter. Vitamin B5 also triggers the adrenal glands, is
essential in transporting and releasing energy from fats, and enables the synthesis of cholesterol, vitamin D, and
steroid hormones. Pantethine—a vitamin B5 byproduct—has been shown to lower cholesterol and triglycerides in the
Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin and is part of the vitamin B complex. Vitamin B6 plays a role in the
synthesis of antibodies by the immune system, which is needed to fight many diseases. It helps maintain normal
nerve function and also acts in the formation of red blood cells. Vitamin B6 is also required for the chemical reactions
needed to digest proteins. The higher the protein intake, the more they need for vitamin B6.
Large doses of vitamin B6 can cause neurological disorders and numbness. The deficiency of this vitamin can cause
mouth and tongue sores, irritability, confusion, and depression. Vitamin B6 deficiency is uncommon in the United
Vitamin B9 (Folate):
Vitamin B9, also known as folic acid, is a B vitamin necessary for cell replication and growth.
Folic acid helps form building blocks of DNA, which holds the body’s genetic information, and building blocks of RNA,
needed for protein synthesis. Folic acid is most important, then, for rapidly growing tissues, such as those of a fetus,
and rapidly regenerating cells, like red blood cells and immune cells. Folic acid deficiency results in anemia that
respond quickly to folic acid supplements.
The need for folic acid increases considerably during pregnancy. Deficiencies of folic acid during pregnancy are
associated with low birth weight and an increased incidence of neural tube defects in infants. Most doctors, many
other healthcare professionals, and the March of Dimes recommend that all women of childbearing age supplement
with 400 mcg per day of folic acid. Such supplementation may protect against the formation of neural tube defects
during the time between conception and when pregnancy is discovered.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamine): Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin needed for normal nerve cell activity, DNA
replication, and production of the mood-affecting substance SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine). Vitamin B12 acts with
folic acid and vitamin B6 to control homocysteine levels. An excess of homocysteine has been linked to an increased
risk of coronary disease, stroke, and other diseases such as osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s.
Vitamin B12 deficiency causes fatigue. A small trial reported that even some people who are not deficient in B12
showed a marked increase in energy after vitamin B12 injections. However, the relationship between B12 injections
and the energy level of people who are not vitamin B12-deficient has been rarely studied. Oral B12 supplements are
unlikely to achieve the same results as injectable B12, because the body has a relatively poor absorption rate for this
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid):
Vitamin C is an essential water-soluble vitamin that has a wide range of functions in the
human body. One of vitamin C’s important functions is acting as an antioxidant, protecting LDL cholesterol from oxidative damage. When LDL is damaged, the cholesterol appears to lead to heart disease, but vitamin C acts as an important antioxidant protector of LDL. Vitamin C may also protect against heart disease by reducing the stiffness of arteries
and the tendency of platelets to coagulate in the vein.
The antioxidant properties also protect smokers from the harmful effects of free radicals. Small doses of vitamin C
taken by nonsmokers before being exposed to smoke have been shown to reduce the free radical damage and LDL
cholesterol oxidation associated with exposure to cigarette smoke.
Vitamin C has a range of additional functions. It is needed to make collagen, a substance that strengthens many
parts of the body, such as muscles and blood vessels, and plays important roles in healing and as an antihistamine.
Vitamin C also aids in the formation of liver bile, which helps to detoxify alcohol and other substances. Evidence
indicates that vitamin C levels in the eye decrease with age and that vitamin C supplements prevent this decrease,
lowering the risk of developing cataracts.
Vitamin C has been reported to reduce the activity of the enzyme aldose reductase, which theoretically helps protect
people with diabetes. It may also protect the body against the accumulation or retention of the toxic mineral lead. People
with recurrent boils (furunculosis) may have defects in the white-blood-cell function that are correctable with vitamin C
Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol):
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps maintain blood levels of calcium, by
increasing absorption from food and reducing urinary calcium loss. Both functions help keep calcium in the body and
therefore spare the calcium that is stored in bones. Vitamin D may also transfer calcium from the bone to the blood,
which may actually weaken bones. Though the overall effect of vitamin D on the bones is complicated, some vitamin
D is certainly necessary for healthy bones and teeth.
Vitamin D is also produced by the human body during exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. However, seasonal
changes, latitude, time of day, cloud cover, smog, and sunscreen can all affect UV exposure. Vitamin D deficiency is
more common in northern latitudes, making vitamin D supplementation more important for residents of those areas.
Vitamin D plays a role in immunity and blood cell formation and also helps cells differentiate—a process that may
reduce the risk of cancer. From various other studies, researchers have hypothesized that vitamin D may protect
people from multiple sclerosis, autoimmune arthritis, and juvenile diabetes. Vitamin D is also necessary to maintain
adequate blood levels of insulin. Vitamin D receptors have been found in the pancreas, and some evidence suggests
that supplements may increase insulin secretion for some people with adult-onset diabetes.
Vitamin E (Tocopherol):
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects cell membranes and other fat-soluble parts of the
body, such as LDL cholesterol (the ―bad‖ cholesterol), from damage. Several studies have reported that supplements
of natural vitamin E help reduce the risk of heart attacks.
Vitamin E also plays a role in the body’s ability to process glucose. Some trials suggest that vitamin E may help
in the prevention and treatment of diabetes.
In the last decade, the functions of vitamin E have been further clarified. In addition to its antioxidant functions,
vitamin E has now been shown to directly affect inflammation, blood cell regulation, connective tissue growth, and
genetic control of cell division.
Vitamin K (Phylloquinone):
Vitamin K is necessary for proper bone growth and blood coagulation. Vitamin K
accomplishes this by helping the body transport calcium. Vitamin K is used to treat overdoses of the drug warfarin.
Also, doctors prescribe vitamin K to prevent excessive bleeding in people taking warfarin but requiring surgery.
There is some evidence that vitamin K2 (menadione), not vitamin K1 (phylloquinone; phytonadione), may improve a
group of blood disorders known as myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). These syndromes carry a dramatically
increased risk of developing acute myeloid leukemia. Comprehensive trials of K2 for MDS are needed to confirm
these auspicious early results.
Zinc is an essential mineral with a wide variety of functions within the human body. Zinc is a component of over
300 enzymes needed to repair wounds, maintain fertility in adults and growth in children, synthesize protein, help
cells reproduce, preserve vision, boost immunity, and protect against free radicals, among other functions.
In some trials, zinc lozenges have reduced the duration of colds in adults, though they have not been demonstrated
to be effective in children. The ability of zinc to shorten colds may be due to a direct, localized antiviral action in the
throat. A small, preliminary trial has also shown zinc sulfate to be effective for contact dermatitis, a skin rash caused
by contact with an allergen or irritant.
Zinc can reduce the body’s ability to utilize copper, another essential mineral. The ability to interfere with copper
makes zinc an important therapy for people with Wilson’s disease, a genetic condition that causes copper overload.
In healthy individuals, however, this effect is best offset by copper supplementation.