Glossary of Nutritional Terms

Anthocyanins The reason for blueberries fame, this superfood is known to be high in antioxidants, which may help in the fight against diseases associated with aging. 

Sources : black currants, blueberries, bilberries, elderberries, and red grapes.

Antioxidants As part of their normal function, cells make toxic molecules called free radicals. A free radical is a damaged molecule – that is, it is missing an electron. A free radical selfishly reacts with other molecules to steal an electron from them to replace their missing one. This leads to damage to cells which may in turn lead to serious chronic diseases. Oxygen is the essence of life. But, surprisingly enough, it can also be your worst enemy. Too much oxygen is as harmful and destructive to your body. Oxygen damage (oxidation) to your cells results when there are too many free radicals present inside the body. Antioxidants help prevent this and also are thought to destroy free radicals and slow oxidation, reducing allergies, heart disease, cancer and aging effects. 

Research has already identified dozens of antioxidant nutrients found in nature, and there are likely many more. Many vitamins have antioxidant effects, including a group of vitamins, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A (beta-carotene), etc. and nutrients like selenium, lutein, and lycopene.

The list of health benefits of antioxidants are quite long – here’s a few benefits of antioxidants:

  • Slow down the aging process by neutralizing free radicals.
  • Lower cholesterol level and lower the risk of atherosclerosis or development of plaques in the blood vessels, thus protecting against heart disease and stroke.
  • Reduce the risk of cancer by suppressing tumor growth.
  • Protect against environmental pollutants, carcinogens.
  • Protect vision and the eye against cataract and macular degeneration.

As we get older, the body’s natural production of antioxidants declines, thus allowing free radicals to accumulate. As a result, our health declines and aging takes its toll. Fortunately, you can easily replenish antioxidants by eating healthy foods, vegetables and fruits, and by taking natural supplements.

Carotenoids – Alpha & Beta-carotene These are the pigments that protect dark green, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables. Beta-carotene is the best known – it is converted in the body to vitamin A essential for growth, immune system function, vision, and may reduce the risk of heart attack. Other famous carotenoids — there are dozens — are lycopene and lutein. 

Sources : orange and green fruits and vegetables such as apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, carrot juice, collard greens, mangos, oranges, papaya, peaches, prunes, pumpkin, red bell pepper, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, and yellow squash

Cruciferous Vegetables These vegetables contain more phytochemicals that may strengthen the immune system and thereby help the body to build resistance against viruses and diseases than any other known food. Cruciferous vegetables are rich in the antioxidant vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene, and are a good source of dietary fiber.

These compounds appear to stop enzymes from activating cancer-causing agents in the body, and they increase the activity of enzymes that disable and eliminate carcinogens. It is known that cruciferous vegetables contain compounds that increase the liver’s ability to neutralize potentially toxic substances – a detoxifying process.

Flavonoids High in antioxidants and is a subgroup of the broader class of polyphenols, as well as having its own subgroup, flavonol. Relatives are anthocyanins (which give blueberries their fame). 

  • May protect against damage done by cholesterol
  • May help prevent blood clots
  • May have cancer fighting properties
  • May positively affect mechanisms involved in the maintenance of cardiovascular health

Sources : apples, black tea, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, broccoli, citrus fruit, cranberries, dark chocolate, green tea, hot peppers, kale, onions, oranges, raspberries, red grapes, red wine, some nuts, spinach, strawberries

Folate This B vitamin is believed to keep heart and blood vessels healthy and to aid in tissue growth and the production of red and white blood cells. 

Sources : dark green leafy vegetables, beans, dried peas, liver

Glucosinolates This is another category of nutrients that act “indirectly” to activate the body’s detoxification systems. These are known as glucosinolates and are found in broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower. Such foods work to stimulate the body’s own antioxidant systems. This cascade of antioxidant activity actually cycles over and over within the physiology, continuing to protect your system as many as 3 to 4 days after the glucosinolate-containing food has been consumed.


  • May help lower levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL)
  • May help lower triglycerides

Sources : Dried beans, miso, soy beans, soy cheese, soy milk, tofu


  • May block many cancer causing agents in a wide variety of cancers
  • May detoxify potential carcinogens such as environmental toxins

Sources : arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale kohlrabi, mizuna, mustard greens, rapini, turnip greens, watercress

  •  Lutein Aa natural pigment, it’s an important antioxidant that helps maintain healthy eyes.

Sources : collard, broccoli, kale, spinach, turnip greens

Lycopene One of the most potent antioxidants among natural pigments, lypocene may be associated with a decreased risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Sources : red fruits and vegetables such as guava, pink grapefruit, tomatoes, watermelon

Omega 3 These good fats are known to improve mental function and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Sources : ground flaxseed, non-hydrogenated soybean, canola oils, salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout and herring

Organosulfurs (allyl sulfides, Allium) 

  • May have beneficial effects on cholesterol level
  • May protect against stomach cancer
  • May protect against colorectal cancer

Sources : chives, garlic, leeks, onions

Phytic acid or Phytosterols There is increasing evidence that phytosterols may improve good cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Sources : All plant foods, with the highest concentrations in legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and olive oil.

Phytonutrients Plant-derived compounds that are believed to improve your health, but aren’t essential to your health. This includes many antioxidants.

Plant estrogens (daidzein, equol, enterolactone) 

  • May help reduce the risk for breast cancer
  • May help reduce the risk for prostate cancer
  • May inhibit the proliferation of existing cancer cells

Sources : berries, flaxseed, soy beans, whole wheat


  • May protect against cardiovascular diease
  • May fight tumor promotion and progression

Sources : blueberries, cranberries, grapes, huckleberries, mulberries, wine


  • May block the effects of carcinogens and suppress the growth of tumors

Sources : bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale kohlrabi, mustard greens, turnip greens

VITAMINS Nutrients considered essential to health; a shortage of vitamins can create health problems.

Vitamin C 

  • May help to maintain the flexibility of blood vessels therefore benefiting blood pressure
  • May boost immune response to cold and/or flu

Sources : broccoli, black currants, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit (citrus fruits), green bell pepper, kiwi, oranges, papaya, red bell pepper, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes

Vitamin E 

  • May prevent blood clots
  • May prevent the formation of fatty plaques and cell proliferation on the walls of arteries
  • May protect against stroke caused by blocked arteries
  • May reduce the risk of cancer by preventing cancer cell proliferation and causing cancer cells to die
  • May protect against cataracts

Sources : almonds (various nuts), broccoli, corn oil, dandelion greens, kiwi, mangos, safflower oil, soybean oil, spinach, turnip greens, wheat germ oil


  • May help prevent macular degeneration

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