Common Terms of Nutrition/Health: F to Z

When you read a topic on nutrition/medicine/health, you might come across some terms, the meaning of which you may not understand (and it is normal not to understand some terms which are used in the field of medicine/health/nutrition frequently). In the following post I tried to make the complicated terms, simple for readers to understand any article on nutrition/health/fitness. The terms are explained alphabetically for easy browsing and searching a term. Hope you (reader) will find this post useful. If anybody finds this post useful I will think my effort has given some results.


Several fatty acids joined together in a glycerol backbone to form fats. If any fat is liquid in room temperature it is called oil. Fats are energy reserves and have 9 calorie per gram. Fats are required for transport (and storage) of fat soluble vitamins, producing certain hormones, nerve functions and many more physiological functions. Fats are of two types, saturated and unsaturated fats. Presence of one (mono unsaturated fat) or more (poly unsaturated fat) double bond between two carbon atoms of fat makes it unsaturated. Foods rich in fats include cooking oils, nuts, butter (mostly saturated fats) etc.

Essential fatty acids (EFAs): they are unsaturated fatty acids which our body can not synthesize and must be consumed in diet. Example of EFA is omega 3 fatty acids (such as alpha linolenic acid).


Fiber is the indigestible part of food, e.g. cellulose in vegetables. We can not digest fibers because of lack of enzymes required for its digestion (which are present in grass eating animals). Fibers form roughage and bulk of our stool and essential for maintaining optimal health. Fibers are also essential for prevention of bowel problems such as constipation. Fibers are of two types soluble and insoluble fibers and found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains etc.

Free radicals:

These are atoms or molecules which are extremely reactive as they carry uncharged electrons. Free radicals are required for several physiological/biological reactions, but they can also damage normal cells and cause chronic diseases, heart disease and cancers. Smoking, radiation, ultraviolet light etc. can create excess free radicals. Antioxidants are used to neutralize free radicals.


These are inorganic substances, such as iron, calcium, sodium, zinc, potassium etc.

Obesity and overweight:

These two terms are not synonymous. If BMI (body mass index) of an individual is 25.1 to 30 it is considered overweight and BMI of more than 30 is obesity. Normal BMI is 18.5 to 25. Obesity is associated with several health problems.


Proteins are the most important macronutrients. They are made up of amino acids. They are essential for repair, growth, synthesis of enzymes. Proteins supply 4 calorie per gram. Rich food sources of proteins are fish, meat, egg, pulses, grains, milk, nuts etc.

Trans fat:

You might have seen “no trans fat” mark in labels of a food product. They are artificially produced polyunsaturated fats, not good for health as they can increase cholesterol level in blood.


They are organic substances and essential for normal functioning of body. Vitamins are required for several important physiological functions and important chemical reactions. We need vitamins in small amounts but they are vital for health. There are two types of vitamins, water soluble vitamins (e.g. vitamin B-complex group and C) and fat/lipid soluble vitamins (e.g. vitamin A, D, E and K). Water soluble vitamins generally have no store in body and we need to take them frequently. Fat soluble vitamins are stored in fatty tissues and we do not need to take them frequently. Water soluble vitamins may be destroyed (a major part of it) during cooking (heat) and storage and eating fresh fruits (raw) and vegetables is better.

Check the common health/nutrition terms:A – E here.

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