If you’re like many Americans, today doesn’t just mark the start of a new year, it marks the official start of your diet. But before you can walk the weight loss walk, you probably should master the weight loss talk. To help you in your journey to becoming a weight loss warrior, here are 25 terms you should know:
Added Sugars: Some foods, like fruits and milk, naturally contain sugar. Other foods (think processed items, fruit juices, candy and baked goods) have sugars, syrups and sweeteners added to them during the preparation process. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the reigning authority on nutrition recommends that sugar make up no more than 10 percent of daily calorie intake. The American Heart Association recommends that no more than half of daily discretionary calories comes from added sugars—that’s about six teaspoons or 100 calories for women, nine teaspoons or 150 calories for men. Healthy hint: Added sugars come in many forms. Some names for added sugars include brown sugar, cane sugar, corn sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose (when not in milk or dairy products), maltose, malt syrup, molasses, raw sugar and sucrose.
Body Mass Index (BMI): BMI is a calculation used to assess body weight relative to height that is used by many health professionals to determine if a person is underweight, a normal weight, overweight or obese. BMI is calculated using a formula that produces a score often used to determine if a person is underweight, at a normal weight, overweight, or obese. For adults, a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered healthy (or “normal”). A person with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and a person with a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.
Calories: Technically speaking, one calorie is the measure of heat needed to warm one kilogram of water by one degree Centigrade. Less technically, a calorie is a unit of heat energy. When foods are broken down in the body, they give off different amounts of energy as heat. This energy is quantified as calories. Carbohydrates and proteins provide four calories per gram, fat has nine calories per gram, and alcohol serves up seven calories per gram.
Calorie Deficit: You probably have heard that, in order to lose weight, you’ll need to create a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit is achieved by burning more calories than you consume. It’s commonly understood that to burn one pound, you’ll need to create a deficit of 3,500 calories.
Carbohydrates: These are macronutrients, or nutrients that the body uses in relatively large amounts. Carbs are a major source of energy for your body since they are broken down into blood glucose, which is used to make energy for cells, tissues and organs. However, if there is more sugar than the body can use, the liver may break the sugar down further and store it as body fat. There are two kinds of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbs are made of one or two sugar molecules. These sugars are digested quickly in your body, making them a fast source of energy. Some examples of simple carbs include candy, jams, jellies, soft drinks, honey and table sugar, and other sugars that may be added when foods are processed or prepared. Complex carbs are made from large strings of sugar molecules so they tend to be digested slowly. Complex carbs include legumes, such as peas or beans, starchy vegetables, and whole grain breads and cereals. On Nutrisystem, we encourage you to choose complex carbs over simple carbs because they are good sources of fiber and other nutrients your body needs.
Diabetes: When you eat, your body breaks carbohydrates down into glucose. At that point, your pancreas is supposed to release insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is supposed to help glucose enter your cells so your body can use the glucose for energy. In people with diabetes, this system does not work—either because the body cannot make enough insulin (type 1) or it does not use the insulin it does create (type 2). There are other forms of diabetes, including gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy.
Dietary Sodium: Also called “salt,” dietary sodium plays an important role in your body’s nerve and muscle function. Your kidneys control how much sodium is in your blood. They release it when it is needed, and dispose of it when you have too much. Consuming too much sodium is considered a risk factor for a number of health conditions, including high blood pressure (hypertension). Federal dietary guidelines recommend that most people limit their intake of sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams a day—that’s less than one teaspoon of salt. Considering the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that the average American eats about 3,300 mg of sodium a day, you may want to take a look at your sodium intake. Looking to shake off your salt habit? The Nutrisystem program falls within the recommendations for sodium intake.
Fat: Like carbs and protein, fat is a macronutrient. It is a major source of energy for your body that also plays an important role in the absorption of certain vitamins like A, D, E and K. There are several kinds of fats found in food, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats, found in nuts, avocado, olive oil and peanut butter, are often called the “good fats.” That’s because they’re associated with improved blood cholesterol levels, which can reduce your risk of heart disease. These fats may also play a role in stabilizing blood sugar, which may help keep your appetite in check and reduce your risk of developing diabetes.
Saturated fats are another type of fat commonly found in red meat, whole milk and cheese. Past research has suggested that diets rich in this type of fat are associated with an increase in total cholesterol, as well as the “bad” cholesterol (LDL), which can cause complications with the heart and other arteries. However, recent research has caused many experts to question the relationship between saturated fats and heart disease. While scientists continue to sort out the facts, you’d do well to swap saturated fats for those fats that serve up health benefits―like those explained above.
Trans fats are also present in some foods. This type of fat is created through a process used to turn healthy oils into solids, called hydrogenation. Experts agree that consuming foods high in trans fats can increase the amount of bad cholesterol (LDL) and reduce the amount of “good” cholesterol (HDL) in your bloodstream. Research has also established a connection between trans fats and inflammation, a condition linked to heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions. It’s no wonder the Food and Drug Administration estimates that phasing out trans fats could prevent up to 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 premature deaths each year. Looking to cut your saturated and trans fats?
Fiber: Fiber is an essential nutrient that plays a major role in digestive health. Eating enough fiber can also help keep your blood sugar within a healthy range, lower your cholesterol and help provide fullness after meals, making it an important part of your weight loss plan. Despite all of the benefits of fiber, most Americans are not even getting close to the recommended daily amount in their diets—women should aim for 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should target 38 grams (or 21 and 30 grams daily, respectively, for those over the age of 51). To make sure you’re getting enough fiber, pile on the whole grains, beans, fruits and veggies.
Glucose: Glucose is a major source of energy for the body that is produced when carbohydrates are digested. After digestion, glucose is transported to cells, which either use it for energy or store it for later use.
Glycemic Index: The glycemic index (GI) measures how much a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose. A food with a high GI raises blood glucose more than foods with a medium or low GI.
Heart Disease: Heart disease is a broad term used to describe a number of cardiovascular problems, including heart attack and stroke. Many heart diseases are rooted in atherosclerosis, a condition that develops when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup narrows the arteries, causing blood flow to be restricted. If a blood clot forms, blood flow can stop completely. When blood flow to the heart is becomes blocked, a heart attack can occur. An ischemic stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off.
Hypertension: Otherwise known as high blood pressure, this condition occurs when blood flows through the blood vessels with a greater force than normal. Hypertension can cause damage to the heart and blood vessels, and can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney issues and even death.
Insulin: Insulin is a hormone produced by beta cells inside the pancreas. When we eat, and food is broken down to glucose, the beta cells release insulin to help the body use or store the glucose. In type 1 diabetes, is not able to produce insulin. The body requires insulin shots in order to use the glucose from foods. People with type 2 diabetes make insulin, but their bodies don’t use it as effectively as they should. Some people with type 2 diabetes need insulin shots to help their bodies use glucose for energy.
Metabolism: Metabolism is a broad term used to describe all the reactions in the body that keep the organs and cells functioning properly. There are two major metabolic processes, anabolism and catabolism. Anabolism is the process of building compounds needed by the body. Catabolism is the process in which compounds are broken down to provide molecules for energy.
Nutrient: A nutrient is anything that provides nourishment for growth or metabolism. Macronutrients (carbs, fats and proteins) are those compounds that are required by the body in large amounts. Micronutrients, like most vitamins and minerals, are essential compounds that are needed in small amounts.
Nutrient-Dense: Nutrient-dense foods provide substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals and relatively few calories. Fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains are great examples of nutrient-dense foods. Foods that are low in nutrient density are foods that supply calories but relatively small amounts of micronutrients, like cakes, cookies, soda, etc.
Organic: According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the term ” can only be used to describe foods that have been produced through “approved methods that integrate cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.” To be considered organic, a food product cannot have been exposed to synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation or genetic engineering.
Physical Activity:Any body movement that works the muscles and requires more energy than resting is considered physical activity. Physical activity doesn’t just happen at the gym. Walking, running, dancing, swimming, yoga and gardening are all examples of physical activity.
Plateau:In weight loss, “plateau” is used to describe stretches of time when weight loss slows or comes to a halt. This happens to many people as they get closer to their goal weight. There are many ways to overcome a plateau, including increasing exercise intensity, mixing up meals and cutting back on sodium.
Protein: Informally referred to as the building blocks of the body, proteins are large, complex molecules that are necessary for proper structure, function and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. Proteins are made up of huge chains of smaller units called amino acids. There are 20 different types of amino acids that can be combined to make a protein. Dietary protein is found in foods like beans, dairy products, eggs, fish, meat, nuts, poultry and tofu.
Refined Grains: Grain products are any foods made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal or barley. Grains are divided into two subgroups, refined grains and whole grains. Refined grains have undergone a process that removes certain parts of the grain to give it a finer texture and improve its shelf life. Unfortunately, this process but also removes dietary fiber, iron and many B vitamins, which is why whole grains tend to be more nutritious. You can usually distinguish grains by their color—refined grain products tend to be white (think white rice and white bread) and whole grains have a browner color.
Serving Size: A serving is the amount of food that is recommended. This is not to be confused with a portion, which is the amount of a food you choose to eat (which may be more or less than a serving).
Waist Circumference: This is a measurement that can be helpful in estimating your potential risk for disease. Excessive abdominal fat may be serious because it places you at greater risk for developing obesity-related conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. If you are a man whose waist circumference is more than 40 inches or a non-pregnant woman whose waist circumference is more than 35 inches, you may have a higher risk of developing obesity-related conditions. Although your waist circumference can be used as a screening tool, it doesn’t necessarily give a full picture of your health. Therefore, you should visit a trained healthcare provider in order to determine your health status and risks.
Whole Grains: Unlike refined grains, which have had parts of the kernel removed, whole grains contain the entire kernel―the bran, germ and endosperm. Examples of whole grains include whole-wheat flour, bulgur (cracked wheat), oatmeal, whole cornmeal, and brown rice.