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Key Terms

This resource provides explanations of the key concepts encountered when exploring Food Function and Structure – the ‘basics’ that every student should understand.

Page links to Key Term definitions

  1. Organic chemistry
  2. Nutrients
  3. Macronutrient
  4. Micronutrient
  5. Fats and oils
  6. Proteins
  7. Carbohydrates
  8. Vitamins
  9. Minerals
  10. Dietary fibre
  11. Phytochemicals
  12. Antioxidants
  13. Functional food

List of Key Term definitions

  1. Organic chemistry key term.

    1. Organic chemistry

    Organic chemistry is the study of the compounds of carbon, excluding the oxides of carbon, the bicarbonates and carbonates of metals and the metal cyanides.

  2. Nutrients key term.

    2. Nutrients

    Nutrients are substances needed for growth, energy provision and other body functions.

  3. Macronutrient key term.

    3. Macronutrient

    Macronutrients are those nutrients required in large amounts that provide the energy needed to maintain body functions and carry out the activities of daily life. There are 3 macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

  4. Micronutrient key term.

    4. Micronutrient

    Micronutrients are substances such as vitamins and minerals that are necessary dietary components. Although needed in only small amounts, they are essential for health and wellbeing.

  5. Fats and oils key term.

    5. Fats and oils

    Fats and oils are the fatty acid esters of glycerol and are an important source of energy in the diet. They are also referred to as triglycerides.

  6. Proteins key term.

    6. Proteins

    Proteins are complex organic macromolecules composed of one or more chains of amino acids. They are essential dietary components providing the body with essential amino acids.

  7. Carbohydrates key term.

    7. Carbohydrates

    Carbohydrates are organic compounds containing carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. The best-known carbohydrates are sugars and starches, which can provide the largest single source of energy in the diet.

  8. Vitamins key term.

    8. Vitamins

    Vitamins are complex carbon compounds found in very small quantities in the foods we eat. They are essential for health and wellbeing, and their absence from the diet causes a specific deficiency disease.

  9. Minerals key term.

    9. Minerals

    The foods we eat contain small amounts of inorganic compounds as well as metal and non-metal ions. These ‘minerals’ are involved in a large number of chemical reactions in the body. Amounts needed vary from milligrams (macrominerals) to micrograms (trace minerals).

  10. Dietary fibre key term.

    10. Dietary fibre

    Dietary fibre is the portion of fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains we eat that is resistant to digestion and absorption in the small intestine. It is an important ingredient of a healthy diet.

  11. Phytochemicals key term.

    11. Phytochemicals

    Phytochemicals are biologically active compounds that are found in small amounts in fruits and vegetables. These compounds have been linked to human health by contributing to protection against degenerative diseases.

  12. Antioxidants key term.

    12. Antioxidants

    Antioxidants are chemical substances that prevent oxidation by chemical means. Dietary antioxidants present in foods, like vitamins A, C and E, can assist the body to resist the damaging effects of reactive free radicals produced by the body’s metabolic processes.

  13. Functional food  key term.

    13. Functional food

    Functional food is any processed food claimed to have a health-promoting or disease-preventing property that goes beyond the basic macronutrient and micronutrient functions.

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