Some Common Terms Used in Health/Nutrition: A to E

Have you come across some words/terms such as antioxidants, BMI, essential amino acids, Probiotics, omegas etc., while reading a topic on health/nutrition? The chances are; you have come across such words/terms, but could not understand clearly what the meaning of these words. To solve your problem of not understanding commonly used terms in nutrition/medicine/health I came up with this article.


The term alcohol usually denotes ethanol or ethyl alcohol, the commonly consumed alcoholic drinks, such as whisky, vodka, scotch, brandy, beer, wine etc. It contains high calories (7 calories per gram).

Amino acids:

These are smaller building blocks of proteins. A protein molecule is made up of several (a few to several hundreds or thousands) amino acids joined together in different sequences (which differentiate it from other protein). Proteins are made up of 20 different amino acids. A protein may have all the 20 amino acids or may not have all 20. Examples of common human proteins are albumin, globulin etc.

Essential amino acids: There are eight essential amino acids (out of total 20), which our body can not synthesize and must be consumed in diet.


These are molecules (such as vitamin E, vitamin C, some minerals etc.) which protect cells/tissues from damage by free radicals, which are free reactive electrons. They give away one electron and stabilize free radicals.

BMI or Body Mass Index:

This is a scale to determine if a person’s body weight is healthy for his height. A BMI of 18.5 to 25 is considered healthy. BMI below 18.5 is thin and BMI of more than 25 is overweight. BMI of more than 30 is obesity. BMI is calculated by dividing body weight in kilograms by height in meter square. For example if you have body weight or 70 kilo and your height is 1.75 meters, your BMI is 70/(1.75×1.75)= 22.85 (a healthy BMI).


This is a measure of energy expenditure by us. This is a measure of energy required to raise temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius (from 14.5 to 15.5 degree Celsius). In nutrition calorie indicate amount of heat (form of energy) released after combustion of food.

What we see in nutrition articles is actually kilocalorie (i.e. thousand calorie), for example if a healthy man need 2500 calorie per day, it actually means 2500 kilocalorie of energy requirement in a day.


One of the three major ingredients of nutrition (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) and made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Contain 4 calories (4 kilocalories, to be precise) per gram of carbohydrate.

Complex carbohydrates: they are large molecules of carbohydrates, formed by joining of hundreds of monosaccharide (glucose) or disaccharides (fructose). Examples are fibers, starch etc.


This is like a two edged sword. It is an essential nutrient and required for performing normal physiological functions. But excess of cholesterol leads to several serious and chronic cardiovascular health problems we all are aware of. Cholesterol is produce in liver from saturated fats. It is required for synthesis of hormones such as steroid hormones.

HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol: this is good cholesterol and help in removing excess cholesterol from bloodstream to liver.

LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol: this is bad cholesterol. LDL carries cholesterol to different parts of the body and deposit in walls of the arteries and cause atherosclerosis (major cause of cardiovascular problems). Intake of high amount of saturated fats can lead to increased cardiovascular problems.


Enzymes are protein in nature and they act as catalyst for different chemical reactions. For most chemical reactions, such as metabolism of food, enzymes are required. They are synthesized in our body.

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