Glossary of terms


Antioxidants are substances that offset potential damage from unstable compounds called free radicals, which are produced when the body burns fuel for energy. Free radicals can cause cell damage and can eventually contribute to cell damage and can eventually contribute to chronic disease i.e. cataracts, cancer and heart disease. Selenium and also vitamins A and C are some examples of antioxidants. Antioxidants also prevent oxidation of fats and - in particular - prevents cholesterol from oxidation. If cholesterol is oxidased it tends to stick to the lining of the arteries and forms a hardened crust. This is what then causes narrowing of arteries or even blockages. This process is called Artherosclerosis.


Cholesterol is a necessary part of every cell in the body. It is a waxy, fat-like substance with no smell or taste and it is invisible in foods. It is both manufactured and broken down in the liver, and it is also absorbed from the diet. The body wraps cholesterol in protein packages called lipoproteins so that it can be carried in the blood. The main contributing factor towards dangerous cholesterol levels is the amount and type of fat we eat. Check out the cholesterol page for complete details

Essential fatty acids

Essential fatty acids are called essential because the human body must have them to function normally. However, the body is unable to produce these, so we have to obtain them from nutrition. Fatty acids are vital for proper growth and development of the brain and central nervous system.

Fat, saturated

This is a fat that is mainly derived from animal sources, and is considered a detrimental fat, because it increases LDL cholesterol and triglyceride, while decreasing HDL cholesterol.

Fat, hydrogenated

A fat, generally found in commercially produced foods like bricks of margarine. It is considered a detrimental fat, because it increases LDL cholesterol and triglyceride, while decreasing HDL cholesterol.

Fat, Poly-unsaturated

A fat, generally found in fish and some plant sources. This can have a detrimental effect if consumed in large amounts, but should nevertheless be included in the diet as this lowers fibrinogen levels.

Fat, Mono-unsaturated

This is a fat derived from plant sources, and is considered a beneficial fat, because it decreases LDL cholesterol, while increasing HDL cholesterol.


This is a plasma protein found in the blood, and is responsible for blood clotting. Too much fibrinogen can lead to blood clots that can cause heart attacks and strokes.

Free radicals

Refer to Antioxidants for more detail.

Glycaemic index (GI)

The GI of food is simply a ranking of carbohydrate food based on their immediate effect on blood glucose levels. Carbohydrate foods include fruit, vegetables and starch. The glycaemic index of pure glucose is 100 and every other food is ranked on a scale from 0 – 100 according to its actual effect on the blood sugar levels. Carbohydrate foods that break down quickly during digestion have the highest GI (> 70). This is associated with higher insulin levels. Carbohydrates that are broken down slowly, releasing sugar gradually into the blood stream, have a low GI value (0 – 55). Low GI foods are associated with lower insulin levels, which make fat easier to burn and less likely to be stored.

Glycaemic load (GL)


HDL cholesterol

High-density lipoprotein particles are often referred to as good (healthy) cholesterol. They contain a much lower percentage of cholesterol and return it back to the liver for breakdown and elimination from the body. LDL cholesterol+ HDL cholesterol = Total cholesterol. LDL levels should be low and HDL levels should be higher.

LDL cholesterol

Low-density lipoprotein particles (often referred to as bad (lousy) cholesterol) contain a high percentage of cholesterol and carry it from the liver to the cells of the body. High LDL cholesterol increases the risk for heart disease. LDL cholesterol + HDL cholesterol = Total cholesterol. LDL levels should be low and HDL levels should be higher.

Trans Fatty Acids

These fats are formed when other fats are heated or burned. A prime source is take-away foods due to the heated oils used during the preparation. These are considered detrimental fats, because they increase LDL cholesterol andtriglyceride, while decreasing HDL cholesterol


This is a type of fat in the blood, which can predispose a person to Diabetes. It is often associated with high total cholesterol, high LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol. The main contributing factor towards dangerous cholesterol and triglyceride levels is the amount and type of fat we eat.

Minerals and their effect

Mineral Functions Source
Calcium Builds and protects the skeletal structure
Helps with blood clotting
Almonds, Soya beans, milk, sesame seeds, honey, salmon
Chromium Aids the breaking down of sugar in the body, to provide energy Wholewheat bread, potatoes, bananas, spinach
Copper Helps to avoid anemia Peaches, turnips, shellfish, wholegrain cereals, nuts
Iron Protects the immune system Wheat, rice, brazil nuts, raisins, apples, greens, pumpkin, liver
Magnesium Vital for nerve and muscle function Green leafy vegetables, meat, milk, nuts, bananas, chocolate
Manganese Aids the thyroid gland during hormone production Apples, peaches, nuts, ginger, wholewheat bread, avocados
Phosphorus Helps with the formation of healthy bones and teeth Rice, wheat, brazil nuts, poultry, leeks, seafood
Potasium Regulates water balance
Helps with disposing of the body's wastes
Artichokes, asparagus, bananas, cayenne pepper
Selenium . Wheatgerm, bran, onions, broccoli,tomatoes, shellfish
Sodium Essential for growth
helps with nerve and muscle functions
Olives, apricots, currants, figs, eggs, lentils, red cabbage
Sulphur Fights bacterial infection
helps with tissue building
Onions, sprouts, cucumber, garlic, egg yolk, potatoes
Zink Aids healing
prevents prostate problems
apricots, peaches, oysters, meat, wheatgerm, eggs

Vitamins and their effect

Vitamins are essential nutrients. They are required for good health as well as many vital functions in the body. The body is unable to manufacture most vitamins for itself, so they have to be obtained from your diet. Each vitamin has more than one specific role. A deficiency can lead to serious illness.

Vitamin Functions Source RDA
A Essential for growth and cell development, vision, immune system. Carotenes are a kind of antioxidant From retinol in animal foods : liver, oily fish, egg yolk, butter, cheese
From beta carotene in plant foods : carrots, apricots, spanspek, green leafy vegetables
1000ug 800ug
1300ug when
breast feeding
B1 (Thiamin) Needed to obtain energy from carbohydrates, fats and alcohol. Prevents buildup of toxins that may damage the heart and nervous system. Pork, liver, heart, kidneys, fortified bread, fortified breakfast cereals,potatoes, nuts, pulses 1.5mg 1.1mg
B2 (Riboflavin) Needed to release energy from food, and for the proper functioning of vitamins B3 and B6 Milk, yoghurt, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, fortified breakfast cereals 1.7mg 1.3mg
B3 (Niacin) Needed to produce energy inside cells, and to form neurotransmitters. Helps maintain a healthy skin and digestive system Lean meat, poultry, pulses, potatoes, fortified breakfast cereals, nuts 19mg 15mg
B6 (Pyridoxine) Helps to release energy from proteins. Important for immune functions, the nervous system and the formation of red blood cells Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, wholewheat bread, cereals, nuts, bananas, yeast extract, soya beans. 2.0mg 1.6mg
B12 (cyanocobalamine) Vital for making DNA, RNA and myelin - the white sheath surrounding nerve fibers. Also required for cell division. Foods of animal origin such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products 2ug 2ug
C (Ascorbic acid) Required to make collagen (a protein essential for healthy gums, teeth, bones, cartilage and skin) and neurotransmitters. Important antioxidant. Aids adsorbtion of iron from plant foods Fruits and vegetables, particularly citrus, guava, strawberries, kiwi fruit, peppers, black currants, potatoes. 60mg 60mg
Pantothenic acid Helps releasing energy from food. Essential to the synthesis of cholesterol, fat and red blood cells All meats and vegetable foods, particularly liver, dried fruits and nuts. 4mg - 7mg 4mg -7mg
Biotin Helps releasing energy from food. Essential to the synthesis of cholesterol and fat Present in almost all foods, particularly liver peanut butter, egg yolk, fortified foods such as yeast extracts 30-100ug 30-100ug
Folate (Folic Acid) Vital for making DNA, RNA and proteins. Very important before conception and during pregnancy to protect against neural tube defects. Green leafy vegetables, liver, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, pulse, wheatgerm, fortified breakfast cereals, bread. 200ug 180mgc(400ug
when pregnant)
D (Calciferols) Required to absorb calcium and phosphorus for normal formation of bones and teeth. Oils from fish liver, eggs, fortified margarines, tuna, salmon and sardines Enough is made
when the skin is
exposed to sunlight.
E (Tocopherols) Helps to prevent oxidation by free radicals of polyunsaturated fatty acids in cell membranes and other tissues Vegetable oils, wheatgerm, nuts, seeds, margarine 10mg 8mg
K ( Phylloquinone,
Essential for the manufacturing of some proteins. Required for normal blood clotting Green leafy vegetables, green cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts 70-80ug 60-65ug

Note : ug = microgram


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