10 Important Health Definitions Everyone Should Know

Health Writer
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Energy expenditure

It’s the amount of energy that you use, which is measured in calories. You use calories for all physical activities including breathing, digesting food, maintaining your posture, and even to propel blood in your circulatory system.  Many exercisers overestimate their energy expenditure and consume more calories than they used, resulting in weight gain.


Carbohydrates provide significant sources of energy for your body. Your digestive system breaks down carbohydrates into blood glucose (sugar). Your body then uses this sugar to make energy for cells, tissues, and organs. Your body will then store leftover or excess sugar in your liver and muscles for when it’s needed.

Nutrient dense

When foods and drinks provide important vitamins, minerals and are low in calories, they are often classified as “nutrient dense” or nutrient-rich. These foods occur naturally (fruits, vegetables) and have not been processed or prepared in a manner that adds a lot of extra calories from refined starches, sodium, fats, or sugars.

Metabolic syndrome

A cluster of medical problems that, when they occur together, may increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. These problems are also sometimes classified as “risk factors” and include a large waist size, high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels (pre-diabetes and diabetes), high levels of triglycerides, and low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL).

Dietary sodium

Sodium helps nerves and muscles work properly. The kidneys are responsible for controlling how much sodium is in your blood at any given moment. Current guidelines recommend that you consume less than 2,300 mgs. of sodium daily.

Added sugars

Manufacturers add sugars, syrups, and other caloric sweeteners to make the foods taste better. This term does not apply to sugars like fructose in fruit or lactose in milk, which are naturally occurring. Names for added sugars include cane sugar, corn sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, glucose, dextrose, sucrose, maltose, malt syrup.

Body mass index (BMI)

BMI is a measurement that uses body weight relative to height via a formula that offers a score. 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.

Saturated fat

This type of fat is a solid at room temperature. You find saturated fat in many foods including butter, cheese, cream, lard, palm oil, red meat, and certain oils. Eating a diet high in saturated fat is considered a risk factor for higher cholesterol levels and increased risk of heart disease.

Trans fatty acids

This is the tasty fat used in many processed foods. Trans fat is produced when liquid fats or oils are turned into solid fats through a chemical process called hydrogenation. Eating a diet high in trans fats is associated with higher blood cholesterol levels, obesity, and risk of heart disease and strokes.

Calorie balance

The relationship between the calories you get from your diet and those you burn through physical activity and body processes like breathing, digesting foods, and, in children, growing.  People gain weight when the calories consumed are higher than the calories expended.