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Nutritional Terms: Know What They Mean

With the deluge of low-carb products and diet supplements in the market, it is prudent that one knows what the various terms on food labels really mean. It also makes sense to know the properties of naturally found ingredients in fruits and veggies. From Aspartame to Xantham Gum, the following is a glossary of ingredients usually found in popular diet regimens.

Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener used in a variety of foods and beverages and as a tabletop sweetener. It is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. Aspartame is made by joining two protein components, aspartic acid and phenylalanine. It is known by the trade name NutraSweet.
Certain people should avoid products that contain Aspartame. They are people who cannot metabolize the amino acid Phenylalanine, which is an ingredient in aspartame; and people who are susceptible to headaches Heat causes aspartame to lose its sweetness, therefore, you can't bake with it. Unlike some sweeteners, it has no aftertaste. 

A type of carotenoid found in various fruits and vegetables which provide the health benefit of neutralizing free radicals that may cause damage to cells. Good sources of Beta Carotene include Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkins, Cantaloupes, Apricots, Spinach and Broccoli.

Canola Oil
Canola Oil is a good choice for bodybuilders seeking an oil low in saturated far. It has a fat profile of eight grams monounsaturated, four grams polysaturated, and only one gram of saturated fat per tablespoon. Monounsaturated fat contains Omega-3 fatty acids. At high temperatures, canola oil releases free radicals and loses its Omega-3 benefits.

There are two basic forms of carbohydrates: Simple & Complex. Simple carbs are usually devoid of fiber and include such foods as refined sugars, fruit juices, and apple sauce. The problem with simple carbs is that they promote a large insulin surge, which can lead to hypoglycemia. Complex carbs are absorbed more slowly, so they don't cause as great an insulin surge as the simple type. Primary macronutrient source of energy in the body; burned as glucose and stored in muscle as glycogen (excess stored as fat) and includes all sugars (1 gram yields 4 calories). 

Ephedra / Ephedrine
The active ingredient in the Oriental herb Ma Huang (Ephedra sinensis); this chemical has been proven to be both a powerful energizer and weight loss aid. Ephedrine is a powerful thermogenic agent: It releases norepinephrine, a brain neurotransmitter than exerts a stimulating effect. This same neurotransmitter signals the sympathetic nervous system, which is called into play during a 'fight or flight' response. Body temperature rises and promotes the breakdown of fat cells for fuel. Use ephedrine for short periods only. Cycling ephedrine can help you avoid side effects as well as improve results of your hard training. Ephedrine, taken with caffeine, can increase each other's ability to induce lipolysis (fat burning). Ephedrine acts at your body's nerve junctions, changing the release and activity of norepinephrine as well as acting on your beta-2 adrenergic receptors. 

The more insoluble the fiber is (fiber that does not dissolve in water), the better it is for you. Insoluble fiber reduces the risk of colon cancer and high blood pressure. Fruit fiber seems to be more beneficial then vegetable or cereal fibers, probably because fruits are loaded with Pectin, an insoluble fiber. As a rule, the higher the insolubility, the fewer the calories. Corn bran is the best, followed by wheat bran, and then oat bran. It is best to eat fiber after you work out to avoid intestinal discomfort.

Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseed is an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (an EFA). Supplementing with flaxseed oil has been shown to lower cholesterol, decrease heart disease, increase satiety and improve cell integrity.

Can be called the 'Stinking Rose'. Studies show that garlic may lower blood cholesterol levels, lower elevated blood pressure and offer a hedge against the onset of several types of cancer. Some studies show that garlic has enhanced fat breakdown coupled with an increased amount of brown adipose tissue (BAT), a type of specialized fat that is known to convert fat calories into heat, thereby dissipating excess calories.

Ginkgo Biloba
A herb shown to enhance mental acuity. Some research has shown that Ginkgo Biloba increases cerebral blood flow to the brain. Also, boost brain levels of adenosine triphosphate and scavenge free radicals. Combined with ginger, gingko has also been shown too reduce stress-induced anxiety. 

A family of herbs with adaptogenic properties affecting energy. There are different ginsengs (Asian, American, Siberian). Some ginsengs have shown to have mental enhancing effects. Studies show that an individual ginseng component called ginsenoside Rb acts favorably in reversing memory deficits by increasing he secretion of acetychilone. 

Green Tea
Perhaps more notable, recent research has shown that green tea reduces the risk of developing stomach cancer by 50% and esophageal cancer by 6-%. No one knows for sure, but scientists think that polyphenols in green tea protect health by combating free radicals. The main constituents of green tea are polyphenols, caffeien, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other nitrogenous compounds, it also contains small amounts of carbohydrates and lipids. Also, green tea contains polyphenols, theanine, and catechins. The greater the theanine content in green tea, the higher the price. 

Guar Gum 
A substance made from the seeds of the guar plant which acts as a stabilizer in food systems. Is found as a food additive in cheese, including processed cheese, ice cream and dressings. 

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
HFCS are formulations generally containing 42 percent, 55 percent or 90 percent fructose (the remaining carbohydrate being primarily glucose) depending on the product application. HCFS are used in products such as soft drinks or cake mixes. 

Sugar in milk which many people, especially adults, have an intollerance to (indigestion) to to a lack of the enzyme lactasein their bodies.

This is a sugar alcohol that is used as a sweetener. It has half the caloric value of sucrose because it is not completely absorbed by the body. 

A long chain of glucose molecules (carbohydrates) that provides sustained energy without sharply increasing insulin levels. Essentially a chain of molecules of the simple sugar glucose linked together. There are an average of seven glucose molecules linked together to form a maltodextrin molecule. 

Monounsaturated Fats
An essential fatty acid (EFA) that seems to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is considered a type of 'good' fat. Olive oil, and canola oil have this in them. You need approxiamately 2% of your daily calories as EFA's.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
An essential fatty acid (EFA) that seems to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is considered a type of 'good' fat. Sources include fish, salmon, mackerel, sardines. You need approxiamately 2% of your daily calories as EFA's.

An artificial sweetener. Approved by the FDA in 1998. It is 600 times sweeter than table sugar, it is is made from a process that begins with regular sugar. You can bake with it. Sucralose was discovered in 1976. Sucrolose is derived from sugar through a patented, multistep processes that selectively substitutes three choline atoms for three hydrogen oxygen groups on the sugar molecule. The tightly bound chlorine atoms create a molecular structure that is esceptionally stable and is approx 600 times sweeter than sugar. The body does not recognize it as sugar or another carbohydrate. The sucralose molecule passes through the body unchanged, it is not metabolized and is eliminated after consumption. Sucrolose has no calories. The acceptable daily intake for sucralose is 5 mg / kg of body weight per day. 
Sugar Alcohols
This group of sweeteners includes Mannitol, Sorbitol and Xylitol. Although found in fruit, they are commercially synthesized and not extracted from natural sources. Sugar alchohols provide a reduced glycemic response (no steep hikes in blood sugar). Sugar alcohols are absorbed slowly, but incompletely. This can cause diarrhea in some people. 

Xantham Gum
Xanthum gum is a polysaccharide (natural sugar) fermented from corn sugar. Often used in the food industry to thicken and stabilize products. It can be added to thicken a cosmetic product.