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Glossary

Angina is a temporary chest pain or discomfort caused because the heart is temporarily unable to get enough blood and oxygen to meet its needs.  Partial blocking of the heart arteries (atherosclerosis) is the most common cause.  Angina usually occurs on exertion.

Antioxidants are substances that defuse or combat free radicals (see below).  Several antioxidant examples include vitamin C, vitamin E, lycopene, carotenoids and selenium.  Fruit and vegetables are particularly rich in antioxidants.

Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease in the walls of the blood vessels (arteries) and is a major cause of heart disease and stroke. The term ‘atherosclerosis’ literally means ‘hardening of the arteries’. Healthy arteries are flexible and smooth-walled, allowing blood to flow through easily. Arteries affected by atherosclerosis become stiff, inflexible and narrowed by deposits of fatty cholesterol containing ‘plaque’.

This plaque destabilises the lining of the artery and can lead to the formation of blood clots within the blood vessel (atherothrombosis). These clots can then either block the artery and hence, blood supply, or break off and flow downstream in the blood, lodging in a smaller blood vessel (embolism). Either of these events (atherothrombosis or embolism) can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Blood pressure is the pressure of blood in the arteries as it is being pumped around the body by the heart.

Calcium is a mineral present in large amounts in dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt. It is also found in calcium-fortified soy drinks, canned salmon with bones, sardines, oysters, almonds, sesame seeds and tahini. Calcium is important for building strong bones and teeth. Having enough calcium during childhood and teenage years is very important in fighting against bone loss and osteoporosis,(a condition where the bones are weak and break easily) in later life.

Calorie (Cal) is a term used for the amount of energy released when a food is burned for fuel in the body.  The metric term for calories is kilojoule (kJ). One calorie equals 4.2 kilojoules.

Carbohydrates There are two main forms of carbohydrate: simple carbohydrates or sugars (such as glucose, fructose and lactose); and complex carbohydrates or starches (such as starchy vegetables, fruit, legumes, grains, rice, breads and cereals). Most carbohydrates are digested (broken down) into glucose (sugar), which is then absorbed into the bloodstream. As blood glucose levels rise, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin. Insulin is required to move the glucose from the blood into the cells where it can be used as a source of energy. Carbohydrates are digested and absorbed at different rates and foods that are absorbed slowly, such as those high in dietary fibre (e.g. wholegrains), are recommended to maintain a consistent supply of energy.

Cardiovascular disease is the largest single cause of death in Australia. It comprises heart, stroke and vascular (blood vessel) diseases.

Carotene is a substance found in some food, which is converted to vitamin A in the body.  There are three types: alpha, beta and gamma carotene.  Beta carotene has the greatest level of vitamin A activity.  The richest food sources of beta carotene include orange and yellow fruit and vegetables, such as carrots, pumpkin, mangoes, oranges, mandarins, pawpaw, rockmelons, apricots and yellow peaches.

Cholesterol may be one of two different types:
a) Blood cholesterol is a fatty substance normally produced by the body and carried by the blood. There are two different types: LDL cholesterol (the ‘bad’ cholesterol) and HDL cholesterol (the ‘good’ cholesterol). High levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol in the blood are risk factors for heart disease and atherosclerosis.
b) Dietary cholesterol is found only in animal foods (offal, fatty meats and poultry, eggs, full fat milk, full fat cheese etc.). A lot of dietary cholesterol may raise blood cholesterol, although it is the saturated fat  (see below) in food that has the most powerful effect on raising blood cholesterol.

Dietary fibre is only found in plant foods. It is the part of plants not digested in the stomach and small intestine. A lot of the dietary fibre consumed is digested by bacteria in the large intestine. There are two different types of fibre:
a) Soluble fibre can help lower blood cholesterol levels by removing cholesterol from the intestinal tract. Major sources of soluble fibre include fresh and dried fruits, vegetables, oats, legumes and psyllium husks.
b) Insoluble fibre acts as a stool softener and helps prevent constipation. It is found in breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds and nuts.

Energy is the amount of kilojoules or calories eaten or used. A high energy food is a high kilojoule or calorie food.

Folic acid (folate or vitamin B9) is found naturally in most plant foods, especially green leafy and other vegetables (such as spinach, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, leek, cauliflower and cabbage); fruit (such as oranges, strawberries and bananas); wholegrain breads, cereals and legumes (such as peas, dried beans and lentils); nuts; and yeast extract. It can also be added to products such as some breads and breakfast cereals. Folate helps the body make red blood cells and it is also needed to make DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid).

Heart attack occurs when an artery in the heart becomes blocked by a clot, which reduces blood flow to the heart muscle beyond the clot. As a result some of the heart muscle may be damaged or start to die.

Hydrogenation is a chemical process which makes liquid oils more saturated and solid. This process not only increases the amount of saturated fat in the oil, but also produces trans fats.  Hydrogenated fats are commonly used by food manufacturers, such as in the production of biscuits, pastries, snack foods and convenience foods.

Hypertension is another word for high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease.

Iron is a mineral present in food in two main forms:
a) Haem iron is found in red meat, poultry and seafood. Haem iron is much better absorbed by the body than non-haem iron.
b) Non-haem iron is found in cereals, fruit (especially some dried fruits such as raisins and apricots), vegetables, legumes and soy foods. Some flours, cereals and grain products have iron added to them (i.e. are fortified with iron). Absorption of the iron found in these foods can be increased by adding a vitamin C rich food to the meal, like fresh orange juice, or by adding a food rich in haem iron, such as lean beef or lean lamb.

Iron helps red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. An insufficient intake of iron can lead to a condition called iron-deficient anaemia, with symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, light-headedness and shortness of breath.

Kilojoule (kJ) is a metric term for the amount of energy produced when a food is burned in the body (see calorie above).

Legume (or pulses) is the term that covers dried beans, peas and lentils. Examples include kidney beans, chick peas, split peas and baked beans.

Magnesium is a mineral found in whole grains, wholegrain breads, nuts and seeds, wheat bran, green leafy vegetables, potatoes, beans, avocados, bananas, milk, chicken, meat, and fish. Magnesium helps the body make protein and create energy. It also helps nerve and muscle function, steadies heart rhythm and helps keeps bones strong.

Monounsaturated fat is a type of fat that lowers total blood cholesterol and LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol when eaten in place of saturated fat. Sources include margarine spreads and oils from olive, canola and peanut oils; avocado; nuts and seeds.

Niacin (vitamin B3) is found in canned tuna, fish, chicken, rabbit, turkey, beef, pork, game meat, liver kidney, peanuts and peanut butter, wholegrain food products and yeast extract. Niacin helps the body convert food into energy. It is also important for nerve function and helps maintain healthy skin.

Omega-3 fats (or omega-3 fatty acids) can be divided into two groups:
a) EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) are types of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats found predominantly in fish, particularly oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, trevally and tuna.
b) ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid) is a different type of omega-3 polyunsaturated fat. Canola and soybean oils, linseeds (flaxseeds) and walnuts are high in ALA.
Omega-3 fats are particularly important in heart health, as well as in the normal development of children’s brains and nervous systems.

Phosphorus is a mineral commonly found in many foods, including  dairy foods, meat, nuts, legumes, and oats. Phosphorus helps form strong bones and teeth and also helps the body make energy.

Phytoestrogens are plant chemicals that have a similar structure to that of the human hormone oestrogen and which behave like weak oestrogens in the body.  They are found in a variety of foods including soy drinks, soy yoghurt, soy flour, soybeans, roasted soy nuts, lentils, tofu, tempeh, miso, textured vegetable protein (TVP), chickpeas, broad beans and linseed meal.

Polyunsaturated fat is a type of fat that lowers total blood cholesterol, LDL (‘bad’) blood cholesterol and triglycerides when eaten in place of saturated fat. Sources include margarine spreads and oils made from, sunflower safflower, soybean and corn oils; oily fish; shellfish; and nuts and seeds.

Potassium is a mineral found in a lot of foods. Good sources include leafy green vegetables, vine fruits (such as tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant and pumpkin), and root vegetables (such as potatoes with skins). Potassium is also moderately abundant in beans and peas, tree fruits (such as apples, oranges and bananas), milks and yoghurts, and meats. Potassium helps with muscle and nervous system function. It also plays a role in helping the body maintain the balance of water in the blood and body tissues.

Protein is a major component of food. Good sources of protein include lean meat, fish, dairy products, eggs and legumes.  Proteins are made up of smaller units called amino acids. There are 23 amino acids, eight of which are known as ‘essential amino acids’, meaning they cannot be made in the body and must be derived from food. Proteins are essential for building, maintaining and replacing body tissues. Your muscles, immune system and organs are made up mostly of protein.

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) is found in liver, kidney, dairy products, eggs, meat, legumes, almonds, broccoli, asparagus, yeast extract and fortified breads and breakfast cereals. Riboflavin is essential for converting carbohydrates into energy, producing red blood cells and for healthy vision.

Saturated fat is a type of fat that raises total cholesterol and LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Sources include full-fat dairy products, cream, butter, copha, lard, ghee, pastries, cakes, biscuits, fatty meat and many takeaway foods and convenience packet foods.

Soy protein is the protein found in soybeans including miso (soybean paste) and soy products, such as soy milk, soy yoghurt, soy sauce, tempeh (which is like a soy cake made from soybeans) and tofu. Soy can also be added to foods, such as breads, cereals and meat products, or used as a meat substitute in vegetarian and vegan products such as soy burgers. Foods that contain whole soy are good sources of protein for those people who do not eat animal products as they provide all the amino acids required by the body to stay healthy. Including soy protein in a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

Stroke occurs when an artery in the brain becomes blocked or bursts. Any disability caused by a stroke will depend on where the blockage occurred.  Steps taken to reduce heart disease, such as reducing high blood pressure and / or high blood cholesterol levels, will also reduce the risk of stroke.

Thiamin (vitamin B1) is a B vitamin found mainly in cereals such as wholemeal pasta and bread, brown rice, rolled oats, bulgar or cracked wheat, yeast extract and fortified breakfast cereals and bread. It is mandatory for baking flour in Australia to be fortified with thiamine, but not in New Zealand. Thiamin plays an essential role in converting carbohydrates into energy and is necessary for the muscles, heart and nervous system to function properly.

Trans fats (or trans fatty acids) are a type of fat found naturally in small amounts in meat and some dairy products. However, the main sources of trans fats are found in foods made using processed (partially hydrogenated) vegetable oils, such as baked goods like commercial cakes, pastries and biscuits. Hydrogenation is used by a lot of food manufacturers to solidify liquid vegetable oils to make products such a margarines and shortenings. Trans fats behave like saturated fats in the body by increasing total and LDL (‘bad’) blood cholesterol levels. They also have the added negative effect on health of lowering HDL (‘good’) cholesterol. All of these changes increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Triglycerides are a type of fat carried in the blood.  Too many triglycerides in the blood can increase the risk of heart disease.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin found in milk, eggs, liver, fortified cereals, dark coloured orange or green vegetables (such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and kale), and orange fruits (such as apricots, peaches, mangoes, cantaloupe melon and papayas).Vitamin A is essential for the growth and development of cells, vision and for fighting infections (healthy immune system).

Vitamin B6 is a B vitamin found in a wide range of foods including fish, lentils, beans, pork, poultry, beef, lamb, nuts, bananas, avocado and a variety of other fruit and vegetables. Vitamin B6 is important for normal nerve and brain function. It also helps the body break down proteins to make red blood cells.

Vitamin B12 is a B vitamin found mainly in animal foods, particularly liver and kidney. It is also found in rabbit, duck, pork, lamb, turkey, chicken, oysters and fish. Vitamin B12 helps make red blood cells and is also essential for nerve cell function.

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin found in fresh fruit (especially citrus fruit, kiwifruit, guava, pawpaw and strawberries) and vegetables (especially capsicum, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower). Vitamin C is an antioxidant (see above), which means that it helps protect the body’s cells from damage by free radicals. Vitamin C has a number of other functions such as helping the body absorb iron and calcium from the food we eat and heal wounds.. It is essential for healthy bones, teeth, gums, and blood vessels and is needed to help form collage, a tissue that helps hold our cells together.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is found in small amounts in egg yolks, fish oils and fortified foods such as milk. Most of the vitamin D that our body needs is manufactured by our body when we get sunlight on our skin. Vitamin D is important for strong bones and teeth, as it helps the body absorb bone-building calcium.

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant mainly found in vegetable oils such as sunflower, safflower, canola, corn, soybean and olive oils, as well as nuts and seeds. Wheatgerm, whole grains, and avocados are also good sources of vitamin E. 

Zinc is a mineral found in many foods. Good sources include oysters and other seafood, meats, fish and poultry, dried beans, nuts, oats, bran, rice, wholemeal bread and fortified breakfast cereals. Zinc is important for normal growth and development, a healthy immune system and healing wounds.