Do you remember the days when we talked about losing weight, the only diet terms we really needed were low fat and low calorie? My how times have changed! Let alone the whole hassle of even thinking about losing weight, there’s an absolute minefield of diet terminology to negotiate, if we want to understand which type of diet we should be following. Do they think they can bombard us with science in the hope that fancy words will endear us to their product? Maybe so, so let’s undermine them. Let’s understand what they are talking about. Here are 8 diet terms explained.
This has to be the most common of diet terms and one that we use constantly, but do you actually know what it is? The reason we use the term ‘burn calories’ is because basically in scientific terms, a calorie is a unit of energy. It is equivalent to 4.180 joules. It represents the energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree C. The calories from the food we consume provide the energy to keep our bodies functioning. If we eat more calorific value than we consume, the excess gets stored as fat. Simple hey?
BMI is the abbreviation for Body Mass Index. It does NOT measure % of body fat. It is essentially a simple calculation that tells you whether you fall in a healthy range of height and weight. You can use an online calculation tool or do it yourself. Here’s a link to a great online BMI calculator nhlbisupport.com
Another diet term that has become common is Gi. Gi stands for Glycemic Index which is a measurement of how the level of blood sugar (aka glucose) changes relative to carbohydrate consumption. It’s actually a pretty simple formula: High Gi foods are those that break down easily on digestion and raise blood sugar levels quickly; Low Gi foods are the opposite. Gi diets are based on the principle of a higher consumption of low Gi foods – slower digestion = fuller for longer = less hunger pangs.
Possibly a couple of the easiest diet terms to be confused about. In case you are wondering these are not interchangeable; dietitians and nutritionists perform different roles. A dietitian will most often be found in a clinical setting, dealing with diet in a complementary medical role – dealing with patients with eating disorders, disease and recovering from illness. A dietitian will also in most cases have a recognized qualification. A nutritionist will provide advice on healthy eating, help work out meal and diet plans and is more focused on prevention than cure.
It would certainly make our weight loss efforts easier if we could eliminate fats, but we need fats as part of a healthy balanced diet The dietary guidelines issued by the US Government recommend that fats should make up 20%-35% of a normal calorie daily allowance – that evens out to roughly 10% of all our calories being derived from fat – BUT – it should be good fat. Fats become confused in diet terminology because of the idea of good fat and bad fat. Bad fats are the guilty party involved in weight gain and associated health problems such as clogged arteries and heart disease - these are saturated fats and trans fats. Good fats are polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and omega 3s. I’ll not try and explain them all here but instead give you this helpful link helpguide.org
This is an oddity in the lexicon of common diet terms. It is actually separately demisable from dieting to lose weight as a context, but it is also a symptom of an unhealthy diet so, if you are overweight, you may also suffer from high cholesterol – not good as this has a major link to heart disease. Cholesterol is a waxy substance made in the liver, but it also occurs naturally in many foods. Your liver should actually produce the exact amount of cholesterol you need so any you consume can be seen as being superfluous. Again, we find ourselves delving into diet terminology that determines the good and the bad stuff. In this case we are talking of HDL (good) cbased cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein is the term for lipids (molecules of fat within the body) that remove cholesterol from the blood vessels. Low-density lipoproteins do the opposite – increasing the number of lipids, clogging up the arteries and reducing blood flow.
Obese is one of the most common diet words these days. It tends to be used for anyone who is overweight but there is actual a specific definition and it is based on the BMI calculator. If your body mass index is 30 or more, you will be classified as being obese. To be considered for bariatric (weight loss) surgery you have to record a BMI of 40+ (or 35+ if you have related medical issues).
Surely the most common diet terms we hear have to be those three little ones – well balanced diet. I think most of is all assume we know what it is, but if asked could you explain it specifically? I found this great definition on the Internet – it actually comes from the University of Maryland Medical Center – they say “A well balanced diet means getting the right types and amounts of foods and drinks to supply nutrition and energy for maintaining body cells, tissues, and organs, and for supporting normal growth and development." In practical terms and relating that definition to what you should eat, the best way to work it out is to use the food pyramid.
I hope I’ve helped demystify some of the common diet terms. A better understanding should help make better dietary choices.
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