Diana Nelson

Terminology In Our Nutrition Articles

A small guide to terminology and meanings in articles about products.

nutrition terms and values bell pepper

You may have come across the following terms in our articles that you may not have known. This article will guide you through some of the meanings and terms for a better understanding.

What is food energy?

Food energy is defined as the energy released from carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and other organic compounds. When the three major calorigenic nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) in food are burnt entirely with sufficient amounts of oxygen, it releases energy or food calories that are expressed in kilojoules (kJ) or kilocalories (kcal). Food energy is usually measured by a bomb calorimeter based on the heat of combustion.

What are the macronutrients?

Macronutrients are nutrients that the body needs in large quantities to function optimally.

The three main macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. These are considered essential nutrients, meaning your body either cannot produce them or produces them in sufficient quantities.

For example, proteins contain essential amino acids and fats contain essential fatty acids. Your body uses these components to carry out certain functions. Macronutrients also contain energy in the form of calories. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy, but your body can also use other macronutrients for energy when needed.

What are the micronutrients?

Micronutrients are one of the main groups of nutrients your body needs. These include vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are essential for energy production, immune function, blood clotting and other functions. At the same time, minerals play an important role in growth, bone health, fluid balance and several other processes.

Your body needs smaller amounts of micronutrients compared to macronutrients. That is why they are marked as ‘micro.’

Vitamins are organic compounds created by plants and animals that can be broken down by heat, acid or air. Minerals, on the other hand, are inorganic substances, they exist in soil or water and cannot be broken down.

What is fibre?


Dietary fibre – also known as ‘roughage’ or ‘bulk’ – is a type of carbohydrate.

Fibre is one of the main reasons why whole plant foods are beneficial to you. Simply speaking, dietary fibre is a non-digestible carbohydrate found in foods. It is divided into two categories according to its solubility in water:

1. Soluble fibre: soluble in water and can be processed by ‘good’ bacteria in the gut.

2. Insoluble fibre: insoluble in water.

It is vital that our diet contains enough fibre as it helps to support healthy digestion, control weight, regulate blood sugar levels and much more.

What is the glycemic index?

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of the increase in the level of blood glucose (blood sugar) caused by eating a specific carbohydrate (food that contains sugar) compared with eating a standard amount of glucose.

Foods with a high glycemic index release glucose quickly and cause a rapid rise in blood glucose.

Foods with a low glycemic index release glucose slowly into the blood.

What is the source of values in our articles?

In our articles, where appropriate, we use information from an American USDA source, the American system.

What is USDA?

USDA is the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It is a federal agency and one of its key areas of focus is regulating food quality and safety, and nutrition labelling.

Values and names

Values and Names

The USDA database not only includes a wide range of products and their nutritional value but also provides us with the necessary understanding of the nutrient content of standard portions of food and supplements. On the labels of products and supplements, you can find values such as DV, RDA, and RDI.

The use of food labels by consumers has been positively associated with dietary quality. Specifically, regulated nutrition labels on packaged foods and beverages enable consumers to compare the nutrient contribution of standardized food serving sizes, which the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has defined as the Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACCs).

The RACCs on food and beverage products are used to generate the ‘% Daily Values’ (%DV) on the Nutrition Facts Label, which helps consumers know how much a serving contributes to the total amount they need per day.

Reference Daily Intake

The Reference Daily Intake (RDI) used in nutrition labelling on food and dietary supplement products in the U.S. is the daily intake level of a nutrient that is considered to be sufficient to meet the requirements of 97–98% of healthy individuals in every demographic in the United States. While developed for the US population, it has been adopted by other countries, though not universally.

The RDI is derived from the RDAs, which were first developed during World War II by Lydia J. Roberts, Hazel Stiebeling and Helen S. Mitchell, all part of a committee established by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences to investigate issues of nutrition that might ‘affect national defence.’ The committee was renamed the Food and Nutrition Board in 1941, after which they began to deliberate on a set of recommendations for a standard daily allowance for each type of nutrient.

Daily Value

The RDI is used to determine the Daily Value (DV) of foods, which is printed on nutrition facts labels (as % DV) in the United States and is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. The labels ‘high,’ ‘rich in,’ or ‘excellent source of’ may be used for food if it contains 20% or more of the RDI. The labels ‘good source,’ ‘contains,’ or ‘provides’ may be used on food if it contains between 10% and 20% of the RDI.

A brief takeaway

Understanding the terminology of macro and micronutrients, fibre and glycemic index opens up the veil to what foods you eat and how they will benefit you.

The recommendations, in turn, help not only the general public but also doctors to have an understanding of the consumption of foods and supplements. The guidelines help doctors to understand the dosage of supplements and to design the right diet for their patients so that it is balanced, nutritious and able to cover the deficiencies of the body.

Want some more information? Here you go!

If you don’t know about USDA Food Data Central, you definitely should watch this video. This a quick guide for those who want to understand what they eat. John Hoff, a guy who helps people all around the world lose weight by reaching beyond dieting and tapping into their minds to discover how to actually stick to a weight loss plan they can follow, will explain how to use this particular platform and to find the information you need about products.

Healthypedia FAQ

Macronutrients are nutrients that the body needs in relatively large amounts to function properly. The three macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Micronutrients are essential nutrients that the body needs in smaller quantities but are still important for proper growth, development, and overall health.

Examples of USDA values include the Daily Value (DV) for nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, also, the USDA grading system for meats, and the USDA Organic label for produce and other agricultural products.

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