Nutrition Glossary

   

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Pectin

Pectin occurs naturally fruit and it is often added to foods to thicken or stabilize them. Pectin is also used in throat lozenges because of its soothing properties.

Phytochemical

Phytochemical or phytonutrient in broad terms means any chemical or nutrient derived from a plant source. There are hundreds of phytochemicals in plants and it is believed many are yet to be discovered. Phytochemicals are thought to be beneficial for general health. Some commonly talked about phytochemicals are antioxidants such as flavonoids in fruit and vegetables, lycopene in tomatoes and polyphenols in coffee and cocoa beans. Plant sterols (see phytosterols) are another type of phytochemical.

Phytoestrogens

Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring plant chemicals that are similar in structure to the human hormone oestrogen. The most common phytoestrogens are the isoflavones found in soy beans and lignans from linseed. Phytoestrogens behave similarly to oestrogen in the body and are thought to help relieve some menopausal symptoms and potentially have other health benefits.

Phytosterols

Phytosterols are compounds that have a structure like cholesterol and are found naturally in small amounts in foods such as vegetable oils, fruits, legumes and nuts. When consumed regularly in concentrated products such as phytosterol-containing margarines, they can help to lower cholesterol levels by reducing cholesterol absorption.

Polyphenols

Polyphenols are naturally occurring plant chemicals, including flavonoids, catechins, isoflavonoids, lignans and anthocyanins. They are antioxidants which may help protect against oxidative damage and are most commonly found in some fruits and vegetables, tea, coffee, soy, seeds, lentils, some dark chocolate and red wine.

Polyunsaturated Fat

Polyunsaturated fats are ‘good fats’. There are two main types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in sunflower oil, some margarines, some nuts (e.g. walnuts), some seeds (e.g. sesame, sunflower) and legumes. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna as well as canola and soybean oil.

Potassium

Potassium is a mineral that plays an important role in our nervous system and is found in fruits, vegetables, milk, and meat.

Prebiotic

A prebiotic is a substance that promotes the growth of the beneficial bacteria in the intestine. Prebiotics work by providing food for the intestinal bacteria. Examples of prebiotics are inulin and fructooligosaccharides.

Preservatives

Preservatives are a type of food additive used to help prevent the deterioration of food by micro-organisms and preserve the food quality over an extended period of time.

Probiotics

Probiotics are bacteria that help replenish the beneficial bacteria in the intestine. Common foods that contain probiotics are yogurt and fermented milk drinks. Maintaining a balance of healthy bacteria in the intestine is beneficial for a healthy digestive system.

Protein

Protein is an essential nutrient that is used in the body for the growth and repair of cells and to provide energy. Protein is found in both plant and animal foods. Sources of protein include meat, eggs, dairy foods, nuts and seeds, dried beans and lentils.