Beginners guide to understanding health lingo
Helping you understand labels and health articles one term at a time.
In health articles, on foods labels, in causal conversation have you ever found yourself wondering what the heck some health terms mean and why you should care about them?
For example, if a smoothie shop boasts that their products are packed with antioxidants, do you know exactly what that is and why it's good for you?
I am a big advocate that education is power and the more you know, the better you'll be able to navigate what's best for your body! I have created this beginners guide to break down some of the most common terms used in the world of health.
*This is listed in alphabetical order
Amino acids are compounds that combine to make proteins. They're important for distributing nutrients, healthy muscle growth, enhancing your immune system and proper functioning of the body. A lack of amino acids can lead to a weak immune system, poor mental health, fertility issues, and digestive problems to name a few.
There are 9 essential amino acids you should get every day. You can be sure to consume them by eating a variety of these foods in a day: quinoa (has all 9), eggs, tofu, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, almonds, chicken, lean beef, dark chocolate, salmon, avocados, bananas, and spirulina.
An anti-inflammatory is a substance (natural or medical) used to block your body from pain, fever and inflammation. Common drugstore versions are Iburoprofen, aspirin, and Aleve. These drugs however can be harsh on the body and cause bleeding in the gut lining. You do want natural anti-inflammatories in your diet though!! They help to prevent disease, infection, and reduce irritation in the body.
Some foods & spices that are naturally anti-inflammatory and don't have negative side effects are: tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, nuts, salmon, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, oranges, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and turmeric.
Antioxidants are a variety of vitamins and nutrients that help to prevent or slow down damage to your cells (aka free radicals). Free radicals are trouble in the body if not stopped, so antioxidants take away their power to harm. You want more antioxidants in your body than free radicals so it's essential to eat a diet high in them.
Foods with antioxidants: all fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds, rice, whole grains, and dark chocolate.
Free radicals are the bad guys that antioxidants are fighting. They are toxins and damaged cells in the body. It's impossible to eliminate free radicals completely from your body but you can significantly decrease them. Free radicals are formed from a poor diet, environmental toxins, heavy metals, electronic waves, a sun burn, etc. I suggest you limit your exposure to these things and increase your antioxidants.
GMO means Genetically Modified Organisms. These are living organisms that have been altered in a lab with genetic engineering. These are used to protect plants from herbicides and alter traits in them. Such as preventing apples from browning. There aren't any long term studies on the effect of GMOs on the human body but many people opt for Non-GMO foods for precaution.
Inflammation occurs when your body is fighting against things such as infection, injuries, toxins, and anything else it sees as a threat. You'll see me use this word a lot because many common health issues are related to inflammation. The process of inflammation occurs when your body signals to your immune system that something is wrong and it sends in the troops to attack it. If someone has chronic-inflammation (aka non-stop) the body gets weak and tired of fighting which leads to additional health problems.
Inflammation can be caused by a variety of factors so you might have to work to find the root cause of the problem. However, you can help by eating anti-inflammatory foods.
Insulin are hormones (or chemical messengers) created by your pancreas that helps your cells absorb sugar (glucose) from your blood. Insulin is important because it essentially helps turn food into energy. Think of it as charging your batteries. If someone consumes too much sugar often though, they can get insulin resistance which means cells can't absorb sugar out of the blood. This causes high blood sugar and leads to other health problems such as type 2 diabetes, weight gain, hormone imbalance, acne, etc.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is added to food to enhance the flavor. Essentially it's a type of salt often found in Chinese foods, canned soups and vegetables, and processed meats like bacon, prosciutto, and lunch meat. There are mixed reviews on the health effects of MSG but it is recommended to at least limit consumption. As with table salt, too much is not good for you.
Omega-3 and Omega-6:
These are fatty acids needed to protect cells in your body. Your body can't naturally create either of these so you have to consume foods that have them. Omega-3's are the most important because they especially help your eyes and brain. Foods that contain this are seafood, nuts, seeds, and eggs. Omega-6's help to create energy in the body, and may help inflammation. You don't need as much of this as you do omega-3s. You can get omega-6 from soybeans, corn, meat, fish and eggs.
Organic means something came from something natural or in terms of produce, it means the plants were grown without chemicals, pesticides or other artificial agents. If you see something labeled as organic it means there was some regulation on it to make it safer for consumption.
When there is are more free radicals in the body than antioxidants. When the body is overwhelmed with free radicals and goes into oxidative stress it can lead to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and chronic illnesses. You can prevent this by consuming the foods listed under antioxidants.
Prebiotics are plant fibers that probiotics (good body bacteria) need as fuel. Every living thing needs to eat right? By consuming prebiotic foods you help maintain happy probiotics.
Foods that are prebiotic are apples, asparagus, garlic, onions, bananas, and oatmeal.
Preservatives are natural and synthetic substances used to prevent food from decaying. Any food you see in the store boxed, canned, or packaged in some way has preservatives in it. Since most preservatives are engineered, they are foreign to your body and can lead to health issues.
Have you ever lost a McDonald's french fry in your car and then months later it looked like it was fresh out of the bag? Thats preservatives and if it doesn't break down naturally in the car, how do you think it breaks down in your body?
Probiotics are living organisms (bacteria) that work in your body to protect the gut lining, digest foods, and maintain the health of your vagina. There are different strains and you want to get about 1 billion-10 billion CFUs daily. The best way to consume probiotics is through a supplement. You can also get some from eating fermented foods but in order to get the amount you need in a day, I recommend the supplement.
Processed food is when something has been altered from its original form. This often means that the vitamins and nutrients have been removed leaving you with chemicals, preservatives, and not much of the actual food. You can usually tell something is processed if it is packaged in someway on a shelf, has ingredients that you can't read or pronounce, and if it looks nothing like its original form. It's recommended to limit processed foods because of the lack of quality nutrients and link to many health issues.