Glossary of terms
The glossary of key terms related to nutrition, diet and body functioning
The body mass index is calculated by dividing the body mass expressed in kilograms by the square of the body height (expressed in metres). Here you can find the LightBox Calculator, which will calculate your BMI and help you find out whether your weight is correct.
TM – Total Metabolism
It is the person’s daily energy expenditure – Daily Energy Requirement. The Total Metabolic Rate (TMR) informs you how much energy (kcal) should be provided with your food. The Total Metabolic Rate (TMS) is the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) plus the extra energy needed for daily activities, work and food absorption. This extra energy may account for 30% to 50% of total metabolism, depending on the type of activities performed during the day, their duration, condition and muscular effort. It therefore has a big impact on your TMR.
Daily Energy Expenditure (see: TM)
WHR (Waist to Hip Ratio)
The ratio of the circumference of the waist to that of the hips indicates how fatty tissue is distributed in the human body and defines the body shape (pear-shaped or apple-shaped) and the type of obesity (abdominal or gluteal-femoral).
Macro- and microelements
Macroelements are chemical elements the daily requirement for which in the human diet is more than 100 mg. They are essential for proper functioning of the body. The examples include phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, sulphur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, chlorine.
Microelements are elements found in very small (trace) quantities in plant and animal organisms. The human daily requirement for those elements is less than 100 mg. They include: iodine, iron, fluorine, boron, cobalt, copper, chromium, zinc, manganese, molybdenum and selenium. Deficiency or excess of macro- and microelements may lead to physiological disorders. Mineral ingredients are essential for the body’s building purposes (particularly in bone tissue) and are present in body fluids, some enzymes, high-energy compounds etc. They also have impact on the regulation of organ and body activities.
Protein is a polymolecular compound built of amino acids linked together by covalent peptide bonds. There are 20 amino acids which build protein in living organisms and 8 of them, called essential or endogenous, are found mainly in protein of animal origin. Protein has to be part of your daily diet as it is essential to support life. It is a basic building block of all human body tissues and several compounds such as enzymes, hormones and antibodies. Protein regulates metabolic processes and a number of body functions, ensuring its proper functioning. Adequate amounts of protein are key to human growth and development as well as the regeneration of excreted or damaged tissue.
They are essentially a source of energy, but they also play a number of other useful roles in the body. They enable the transport of vitamins A, D, E and K, they are needed to produce several enzymes and hormones and are key to a number of metabolic processes. They also support the immune system and enable proper functioning of the brain. The only problem is to choose the right fats in adequate amounts.
- Saturated fats
They are found mainly in fat of animal origin and hard margarines. High consumption of them is unhealthy. They contribute to obesity, raising bad cholesterol levels and the risk of developing heart diseases and arteriosclerosis.
- Unsaturated fats
They take the form of either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids. There is a sub-category of unsaturated fatty acids called essential fatty acids (EFAs), which have to be present in our diet as the human body is unable to synthesise them on its own. With adequate consumption they have a positive impact on our body. They reduce bad cholesterol levels and diminish the risk of developing heart diseases. A number of our internal organs are largely made of fats and need them to function properly. Unsaturated fats are found in nuts, fish, vegetable oils, olive oil and soft margarines.
- Trans fats
They are created as vegetable oils get “hardened”. This technological process is commonly used in the food industry. This is the way to make hard margarines and fats found in cookies, confectionery, chips, crisps, fast food, chocolate bars and even corn flakes. Why are they dangerous?
They make you put on weight fast and cause your fatty tissue to move to the abdomen area, attack brain tissue (affecting your memory), increase the risk of ischaemia and are a common cause of diabetes. Consumption of even small amounts of fats in the form of trans isomers increases the risk of developing a heart attack much more than consumption of saturated fatty acids.
They are essential to ensure proper course of biochemical processes in the body, including transformations of fatty acids and amino acids. In the case of absence or insufficient amount of carbohydrates in a diet fatty acids are burnt in an improper way and ketone bodies are formed that acidify the body. Hence the saying that "fats are burnt in the flame of carbohydrates". From the nutrition physiology perspective, complex carbohydrates are the most beneficial, particularly starch found in wholemeal grains (for instance in wholemeal flour and brown rice), peas, beans, lentils and potatoes. You can eat all of them being confident that you will be well-nourished and supplied with energy released in a gradual and controlled way and that they will have a positive impact on your overall well-being.
It is the sum of biochemical transformations and related energy transformations in the body. Those transformations make it possible for all other life processes in the body to take place. See: TM.
Thermal energy units. By defining the amount of calories in food products you express the average amount of energy that the human body absorbs when a given product is consumed.
It is produced mainly in the liver from saturated fatty acids and also supplied with food. It plays a number of useful roles – forms cellular membranes, is used to produces hormones, for instance gender or steroid ones. The amount of cholesterol that the body produces is enough to make all organs function properly. The excess amount gradually builds up in artery walls leading to arteriosclerosis. You can substantially reduce cholesterol levels by cutting down on consumption of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol in foods. Daily cholesterol intake for a healthy person should not exceed 300 mg.