Nutrition terminology you should know

Have you found yourself confused when reading nutrition articles or looking at labels on food products? While this list does not cover the full extent of nutrition terminology, these are a few of the most common nutrition terms to know. Familiarizing yourself with these may help you make more informed food decisions and also help prepare for discussions with your provider and/or dietitian.

Blood Glucose: Also known as blood sugar. Glucose is the main sugar in the body that is derived from food.

Carbohydrates: Also referred to as carbs. Carbohydrates are one of the three main nutrient groups. They are the primary source of energy by breaking down into glucose for the body to use as energy.

DASH Diet: DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is an eating plan that focuses on foods that help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. It recommends limiting high sodium foods, sugar and saturated fat and encourages more foods rich in potassium, fiber and protein in the diet.

Digestion: This is the process in which food and liquid are moved through your GI tract, food and liquids are then broken into smaller parts. Once foods are broken down, the body can absorb and move nutrients to parts of the body to store or use.

Diuretic: It is a substance that increases production of urine and promotes removal of fluids in the body. An example of a natural diuretic is caffeine.

Electrolytes: Electrolytes are essential minerals in body fluids. They include sodium, potassium, magnesium, and chloride. This term is often associated with dehydration. Dehydration is when there is deficit of fluids and electrolytes.

Fad diet: While there is no single definition of a fad diet. A fad diet is defined as a trendy dietary regimen or style of eating that often eliminates one or more of the essential food groups and promises insensibly quick results or health improvements. Following fad diets without proper guidance can pose risks to your health.

Fat: In reference to nutrition, fat is one of the main nutrient groups that is obtained from the diet and it gives you energy. There are different types of fat in our diet: saturated and unsaturated fat. Saturated fats are mostly found in animal products, palm and coconut oil. Unsaturated fats are mostly found in vegetables, nuts and fish.

Fiber: It is a carb naturally found in plants. Not all carbs are bad. Fiber is an example of a good carb. It is useful in supporting healthy digestion and making you feel full faster and longer. This is found on food labels under the category, Total Carbohydrates.

GI tract (gastrointestinal tract): Sometimes known as the gut. It is the pathway starting at the mouth by which food enters the body and solid wastes are expelled through the anus.

Gluten: This is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten contributes to dough’s elasticity, it acts like a glue that allows the foods created to hold their shape and gives bread its chewy and soft texture. When shopping for gluten-free products, keep in mind that the Food Drug and Administration (FDA) does not require foods to be labelled gluten-free.

Lactase: This is the enzyme made in the small intestine that is required to breakdown lactose, which is found in dairy products.

Macronutrients: Sometimes referred to as macros. This term describes the three main nutrients your body needs and uses in large amounts: carbohydrates, fat and protein. In contrast, there are micronutrients (see below).

Metabolism: This describes the chemical reactions the body undergoes to break down food into energy. Your metabolism affects how efficient your body burns calories (converting food into energy).

Micronutrients: These are nutrients that include vitamins and minerals, which your body requires and uses much smaller amounts compared to macronutrients.

Omega 3 fatty acids: These are polyunsaturated fats that are essential for good health. There are three main omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found mostly in plant oils such as flaxseed, canola oil, and soybean oil. DHA and EPA are found in fish and other seafood.

Protein: One of the three main nutrient groups. It is a macronutrient that is essential to build, repair and maintain bones, muscle and skin.

Sodium: Also known as salt. It is a mineral found naturally in foods and it may also be added in foods. This is the term that is listed on food labels.

Trans fat: A type of unhealthy fat that is artificially made when manufacturers turn liquid oils into solid fats to help increase shelf life, stability of fat and enhance flavor. This is found on food labels and this is something you want to avoid or highly limit.

Whole grains: These are a type of grain that contains the entire grain kernel ― the bran, germ, and endosperm. They are best known for providing a good source of dietary fiber.

Vegetarian: A plant-based diet that may include varying amounts of eggs and/or dairy products. Sometimes fish and shellfish are included. A vegetarian diet does not include meat, poultry, meat or poultry-based ingredients or their byproducts. There are different types of vegetarian diets: 1) Lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet: Eliminates meat, fish and poultry but includes eggs and dairy products 2) Lacto-vegetarian diet: Eliminates meat, fish, poultry and eggs but includes dairy products 3) Ovo-vegetarian diet: Eliminates meat, fish, poultry and dairy products but includes eggs 4) Pescatarian diet: Eliminates meat and poultry but includes fish and sometimes eggs and dairy products.

Referencing sources:

Winter wellness tips

In collaboration with CSUN nutrition intern Sierra King, we came up with a few essential tips to help remind others to take care of themselves this winter season. What are some of your favorite ways to keep up with wellness?

Curious about artificial sweeteners?

There are often many questions around the use of artificial sweeteners. The Food, Drug and Administration (FDA) has given their nod of approval on a number of these highly intense sweeteners, including saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), sucralose, neotame, and advantame. They’re generally recognized as safe (GRAS). But we still wonder what effect do they have on our health? Are they good or bad for our health?

Thanks to guest blogger, Sierra King, we’ll take a closer review on artificial sweeteners. Sierra is currently an undergraduate student at California State University Northridge studying to get her Bachelor’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences, with a focus on Nutrition & Dietetics. She hopes to become a Registered Dietitian after she completes her education and training.

The Scoop on Artificial Sweeteners

Guest blog by Sierra King
Reviewed by Julie Tang, MS, RDN, CNSC

Have you ever wondered if artificial sweeteners are good or bad for you? Well you are not alone. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at what they are and how they affect a person’s body. We’ll need to first take into account that artificial sweeteners and even sugar affects everyone’s bodies differently. This blog is meant to be informational, but not intended to replace your provider’s medical advice.

To begin, there is a difference between low calorie sweeteners and zero calorie sweeteners. Low calorie sweeteners are modified natural sugars; they are also known as sugar alcohols and they usually have an “ol” at the end of their names. For instance, some common sugar alcohols are sorbitol, maltitol, and lactitol. Sugar alcohols are naturally derived from fruits and vegetables. Due to their chemical structure, they are partially resistant to digestion. While they provide some calories, they provide fewer calories than regular sugar such as sucrose. Sugar alcohols also affect the blood sugar levels less than regular sugar. Zero calorie sweeteners, also known as artificial sweeteners, are sugar substitutes that are synthesized in laboratories.These sweeteners have no calories and will not raise a person’s blood glucose level due to the fact that the body is unable to digest them. The artificial sweeteners that are commonly used are saccharin (Sweet ‘N’ Low), aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal), and sucralose (Splenda). These sweeteners can be found added to foods such as desserts, gums, and drinks to make them taste sweet. Compared to regular sugar, artificial sweeteners are 180 times to 8000 times sweeter.

Some people may choose to use artificial sweeteners if they have diabetes or if they are trying to manage their weight. When a person eats carbohydrates, the body breaks it down into sugars. This increases the sugar levels in the bloodstream which signals the pancreas to release a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps lower blood sugar by bringing the sugar into the cells to be used primarily for energy, but also for many other different body functions. The liver stores the excess sugars as glycogen to use as energy when needed. However, if a person has either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, their body is unable to process sugar properly due to lack of insulin production (type 1 diabetes) or insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes) which can lead to a build up of sugar in their bloodstream. When artificial sweeteners are consumed,the sweetener goes through the body and is not absorbed. There are no sugars that can build up and cause the blood sugar levels to rise. For those managing their weight, artificial sweeteners may be commonly used based on the theory that they can continue to enjoy sweetened foods and beverages without the calories.

Even though artificial sweeteners do not have calories or raise blood sugar levels, there are still some concerns when people consume them. Some research indicates that when people eat artificial sweeteners regularly, it can cause them to have side effects such as headaches, nausea, stomach cramps, anxiety, diarrhea, or complications with vision. It is good to keep this in mind if you are considering drinking a diet soda or eating sugar free foods, as these potential side effects are not great to have. Due to the fact that artificial sweeteners can be intensely sweet, another concern is they can trick our brains. Our brains enjoy eating sweets because it signals to them that this food provides calories to keep us full and satisfied. By consuming artificial sweeteners, a person’s palate might change. When they eat foods with natural sugars such as fruits or vegetables, it can leave that person feeling unsatisfied and desiring more sweets because their palate has developed a tolerance for the intense sweeteners from artificial sweeteners. In addition, because artificial sweeteners are technically calorie free, there is the potential to overcompensate with other high caloric foods in the diet and ultimately disrupt natural hunger and satiety signals. These factors can potentially lead to overeating and unintended weight gain.

Artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols approved by the FDA are generally indicated safe to consume, however, because side effects and long term use of artificial sweeteners are still being researched, we still do not truly know how they affect a person’s body long term. In addition, certain groups including pregnant and lactating women, children and those with Phenylketonuria (PKU) may be advised to stay away from all or some artificial sweeteners due to harmful effects. When unsure, it is best to check with your provider and a Registered Dietitian.

healthy living resource blog

Want to stay educated with healthy living resources created by Registered Dietitians?

Hello! I hope you’re staying safe and healthy. In light of COVID, many of us are going through a shift in schedule and routine. Please take time for wellness by staying in touch with loved ones, staying active and eating healthy. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me, I’m happy to help. I am still offering 1-on-1 nutrition coaching services, however they are all conducted virtually until further notice. In the meantime, if you are looking for some light reading on healthy diet and lifestyle, including tips on meal prepping, grocery shopping, plant protein and much more, check out Meta Nutrition Healthy Living Blog. In collaboration with Meta Nutrition, I, along with other registered dietitians, cover some of the most popular nutrition topics and questions that you might also have! If you have suggestions on what you’d like to learn more about, send me a message. I hope you enjoy.

Until next time,


How to organize the fridge for better food storage

Top Shelf: Ready to eat foods, leftovers, prepared salads, cooked meats, herbs. They should be covered or placed in sealed containers. They’re stored away from raw foods to prevent cross contamination.

Middle Shelf (Shelves): Continuing with leftovers, dairy products, eggs, cream, yogurts, cooked meats.

Lower Shelf: Raw meats, poultry, fish. They should be individually wrapped or in sealed containers. These foods should be stored at the lower shelf to prevent drippings and cross contamination into other foods.

Fruit and Vegetable Crisper: Fruits and vegetables. Drawer should be kept closed. The crisper drawer is intended to extend the life of your fruits and vegetables. Be careful not to stock this drawer too tightly to allow adequate ventilation.