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Amino acids
Small building blocks that make up proteins. There are about 20 common amino acids, which in different combinations make up all the proteins found in plants and animals.  Essential amino acids are those that cannot be built from scratch but must be obtained from food. They can then be arranged into protein as is, or chemically altered to make other amino acids before use.

Anaemia
A deficiency disease often associated with iron.  If the amount of haemoglobin in the blood falls below a certain limit the body begins to suffer from anaemia.

Antibodies
Antibodies are part of the immune system.  They are proteins which are produced by white blood cells. Their task is to circulate in the body and to attach themselves to, and neutralize, any foreign particles (antigens) they come across.

Antioxidants
Substances that prevent oxidative damage to cells, which is linked to degenerative diseases and ageing, by deactivating single oxygen molecules (also called free radicals) in the body. Found in a wide range of foods, especially grains, fruits and vegetables. The term may also refer to a synthetic substance that reduces the rate at which fat or oil in food oxidises and becomes rancid, preserving the food and preventing stale flavours developing.

Body Mass Index (BMI)
Is a measure of bodyweight which also takes into account a person’s height. It is calculated by the formula: Weight (kg) / Height2 (m)

Carbohydrate
Composed of sugar molecules made up of carbon with hydrogen and oxygen, carbohydrates are classified based on their structure. The primary role of carbohydrates is to supply the body's cells with glucose, which is the base unit of carbohydrates and an important energy source.

Carotene
Yellow-orange pigment found in cereals and vegetable, convertible to vitamin A.

Cholesterol
Cholesterol plays an essential role in the formation of cell membranes, some hormones and Vitamin D. However problems occur when there is too much cholesterol in the body.

HDL cholesterol
Transports cholesterol from the blood to the liver for removal from the body and is therefore called the 'good' cholesterol.

LDL cholesterol
Transports cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the body in the blood and is considered the 'bad' cholesterol. If there is too much cholesterol in the blood then it is deposited in the walls of the coronary arteries.

Dietary fibre
An edible substance that is able to avoid absorption into the small intestine and thus reach the large intestine. This is because it includes polysaccharides that are a little like starch, except that the sugar units are linked by bonds that our body's digestive enzymes cannot digest. Wholemeal and grain breads are the best source. Bakery products made from refined flour contain little dietary fibre. The recommended intake of dietary fibre for adults is 30 g a day.

Energy
Scientifically, it is the ability to do work, measured in joules. Energy can be transformed between electrical energy, mechanical energy, light and heat. Energy is required by the body and is produced when digested food undergoes chemical changes.

Energy density
Energy density relates to the number of kilojoules (kJ) per unit of measure, whether the unit is a gram, a serving or a bite. Foods that are energy dense have a high concentration of kilojoules per bite and tend to be high in fat and or sugar. In low energy dense food, the calories are diluted by water, air and fibre, so there are fewer calories in the same size bite, for example many fruits and vegetables.

Enzyme
A biological catalyst (proteins) which are capable of speeding up chemical reactions without being destroyed themselves. Many different ingredients contain enzymes.

Fat
The term used to describe fats and oils in the diet. Triglycerides are the predominant component of fats and oils, consisting of one unit of glycerol and three fatty acids.

Saturated fats
All the hydrogen atoms present in the fatty acid surround the carbon atoms. This term is sometimes abbreviated to SAFAs. In general saturated fats are fats that are solid at room temperature and are found in animal products, such as butter, milk and cheese. Coconut and palm oils are an exception to this ‘rule’ as both of these vegetable fats are predominantly saturated. Most meats contain saturated fat although there may also be some monounsaturated fat present. Saturated fats increase total blood cholesterol and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, which promote high levels of fat in the blood and encourage blood clotting. Studies have concluded that a decreased consumption of products containing large amounts of saturated fats decreases the risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease.

Monounsaturated fats
Some of the hydrogen atoms are missing from around the carbon atoms and double bonds (a chemical bond) have formed between the carbon atoms. When one double bond is present, this fat is classified as monounsaturated. This term is sometimes abbreviated to MUFAs. Monounsaturated fats are most commonly found in olive oil, canola oil, avocado oil, macadamia nuts and almonds. Monounsaturated fats decrease total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol but have no effect on HDL cholesterol, which has a protective effect on cardiovascular (heart) disease.

Polyunsaturated fats
More than one double bond is present. This term is sometimes abbreviated to PUFAs.
Polyunsaturated fats decrease total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, although they also have an additional positive effect by increasing HDL cholesterol.

Omega-3/Omega-6
These are polyunsaturated fats and their names relate to the position of the double bond present. For example, in omega-3 the double bond is positioned between the third and fourth carbon in the chain. It is advisable to eat more omega-3s, as they are thought to have a positive impact on your heart health and an important role in brain and eye function. Oily fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel are a good source of omega-3s, but they are also found in walnuts and some oils like soybean and rapeseed. Omega-6 fatty acid is required for proper functioning of skin cells with a deficiency of this fat causing rashes and poor skin function. Good sources of Omega-6 are sunflower seeds, soybean and corn oils.

Trans-fats
Trans fats are formed during the heating and frying of oils at high temperatures and during processing of edible oils. They are also found naturally in beef, mutton, lamb and dairy fat. Like saturated fats, trans fats increase ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol carriers in our blood, a key indicator for heart disease. In addition, trans fats may also decrease ‘good’ HDL cholesterol carriers.

Folate
A form of folic acid, a B group vitamin important for cell division, growth and the formation of red blood cells. Folate is important for pregnant women.

Fructose
A basic six-carbon sugar that forms a building block for other more complex sugars.

Glucose
The base unit of carbohydrates and an important energy source for the body.

Haemoglobin
A protein that gives red blood cells their colour. It is formed by a combination of haem (which contains iron) and the protein globin. It carries oxygen to the bodies tissues.

Hormone
Acts as a messenger molecule that carries instructions from its site of production through the bloodstream to other cells throughout the body. Hormones are secreted in response to altered conditions by a variety of glands in the body.

Kilojoules
The energy value of food used to be measured in calories, but is now measured in kilojoules (kJ).

Lycopene
A red pigment found predominantly in tomatoes (and also in some other fruits) that gives them their colour. Lycopene has antioxidant properties and has been claimed to ‘promote a healthy heart’ and to reduce the risk of cancer.

Metabolism
Refers to the production, release and storage of energy by body cells.  It includes the chemical processes which build up, maintain and repair broken down cells and tissues and the elimination of waste.

Minerals
Minerals are inorganic substances that are required by the body.  Unlike fats, carbohydrates and proteins, minerals are not energy-yielding substances. Only small quantities of minerals are required in the diet but they have many important functions in the body. Some examples of minerals are: calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, iron, zinc, copper, selenium and iodine.

Nutrients
These are food or chemicals that are required for humans to live and grow or a substance used in the body’s metabolism which must be taken in from the environment.

Nutrition information panel
A nutrition information panel lists ingredients in order of weight from the greatest amount to the smallest, per serve or 100g. Information on energy (kilojoules), protein, total fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugar, sodium (salt) and any other nutrient about which a claim is made must be included, for example “contains added iron”.

Protein
Complex molecules composed of as little as 20 and up to thousands of amino acids linked together in a chain. The order of the amino acids in any given protein chain affects the way the protein works. Protein is required in the body for numerous functions, most importantly building and repairing tissue.

Recommended Daily Intake (RDI)
These values suggest the minimal amounts of nutrients that should be eaten each day to prevent nutrient-deficiency conditions and diseases.

Relative Glycaemic Impact
Relative Glycaemic Impact is the rate at which energy from food is digested and converted into glucose, the body’s fuel.  It is measured in glycaemic glucose equivalents (GGEs).

Sodium
Sodium is an important component of extracellular fluid. The physiological roles of sodium include maintenance of acid base balance, energy transfer mechanisms, the uptake of nutrients, and fluid balance. High sodium intake (principally from salt) is associated with high blood pressure, an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Vitamins
These are organic compounds that are needed in small amounts in the body for carrying out essential processes. The majority of vitamins required by the body cannot be produced in the body so they need to be consumed in the diet. Only small amounts of vitamins are required, in milligrams (mg) or micrograms (µg). Some examples of vitamins are thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, folate, Vitamin C, Vitamin A and Vitamin D (Vitamin D mainly comes from the action of sun on our skin).