Nutrition Buzzwords Explained
Ever read a health article or see an amazing reel about the newest wonder food and think; well that all sounds great, but… what does it actually mean?
Here’s some of our top buzzwords in nutrition to help you;
The adage; “you are what you eat” is only part of the story. In truth, “you are what you absorb”. If your digestion is compromised, you could be eating highly nutritious food but not gaining the benefits if your digestive system isn’t delivering these nutrients to your bloodstream. Optimal digestion with a nutritious diet is the gold standard - from mouth to well.. the end. But, when it comes to supplements, there’s also a way to give your body a helping hand. Highly absorbable nutrients, like collagen peptides, mean that they have been broken down, pre-digested if you will, into such small parts that the body can easily take it up into the bloodstream - delivering nutrition with ease, potentially even with a compromised digestive system.
The term adaptogen is relatively new in terms of popularity, however Chinese and Eastern traditional medicine practices have used them for centuries. Adaptogens are specific herbs and mushrooms that improves the body’s adaptability and resilience to stress, avoiding reaching a point of burnout or over-stressed states - preventative nutrition if you will.
A unique feature of adaptogens is their ability to upregulate or downregulate actions in the body dependent on the need, a true balancing action, restoring homeostasis. When we experience chronic stress or are unable to cope with too many stressors and stimulation, it has internal repercussions in many aspects of our health. Adaptogens appear to help us increase our threshold of resistance to the damage this can cause, giving support to key systems from the adrenals to our immune system.
Inflammation gets a bad rap. Yes, it’s often at the root of many diseases and health issues, but it is actually a natural part of the body’s defence system. Inflammation is crucial and can be a positive thing when it is in balance. In simple terms (although it's a complicated process) your immune system becomes activated when your body recognises anything that is foreign —such as an invading microbe, chemical or even food in some cases. This then triggers inflammation. Bouts of intermittent inflammation protect your health. Issues arise when the body is overrun with inflammation without resolution. Chronic inflammation is when inflammation persists for a long period of time. It can cause changes across the body that can lead to a host of health problems.
What we eat can be one of the most impactful levers we have when it comes to driving or reducing inflammation. Some foods and nutrients are known to have anti-inflammatory effects on the body - taming the inflammation. The top players are natural antioxidants and polyphenols—protective compounds found in plants such as turmeric and ginger.
Antioxidants are compounds that stabilise molecules called free radicals (or pro-oxidants) which, if left unchecked, would cause damage to the body’s cells and tissues over time and contribute to the ageing process.
Free radicals are unstable, highly reactive and potentially toxic but it’s important to understand that free radicals are created during important everyday processes, like making energy from the food we eat and exercising, so we can’t completely avoid them. . Free radicals also come from things that are deemed unhealthy to the body such as exposure to air pollution, junk food, cigarette smoke, pesticides, and other toxins. Fats and proteins in the body are the most vulnerable to free radical damage where they interfere with your cells’ membranes and the DNA they contain.
Oxidative stress is a state where an overproduction of free radicals or a lack of antioxidants overwhelms your body’s ability to fix the damage caused by these reactive molecules.
Antioxidants are the antidote - they work by preventing oxidation and neutralising the free radicals so they cannot cause damage to the body. Ever drizzled lemon juice over an apple to keep it from turning brown? You were actually slowing oxidative damage to the fruit. Antioxidants can protect their body in a similar way. Your body produces some antioxidants itself as well as getting some from the food you eat. To be healthy, we need a balance between pro-oxidants and antioxidants in the body.
Most of the natural antioxidants in our diet are from plants, such as vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, nuts, and seeds. Phytonutrients such as polyphenols and flavonoids which give plants their colour, smell and taste are often potent antioxidants. Some vitamins, including A, C and E, are also antioxidants.
Protein is one of the main macronutrients crucial to many roles in the body from tissue structure (part of organ tissues, muscle, hair, skin, nails, bones, tendons, ligaments), metabolism, hormones, immune and brain function. All proteins are built from chains of small molecules called amino acids, of which there are many, but the human body requires around 20 different types.
Essential amino acids are exactly as they sound - there are 9 of these and they’re essential to us because our bodies can’t create them, so we have to get them through the food we eat. We need a daily supply of these and a constant topping up to keep our amino acid pool full for our body to take what it needs for all the different body systems.
We also have ‘nonessential’ amino acids which (as you’ve probably guessed) our body produces some amounts all on its own, although we also need to obtain some through food too to get to optimal levels. Now we’re getting technical. There are also some ‘conditionally essential’ amino acids. These are essential only within certain times of our lives or in special circumstances, for example during pregnancy more of the amino acid glycine is needed through our diet and so glycine becomes conditionally essential in this time.
Whichever category these fall into, each amino acid does something different for the human body, so we require the full spectrum of them in differing amounts. If you are getting your protein intake right, you’ll be checking off all the boxes in terms of the amino acids in all the amounts your body needs
Key to nutrition is whether or not you are actually able to absorb the nutrients you are taking in. Rather than ‘you are what you eat’, more true to optimal health is ‘you are what you absorb’. For you to do that, you have to be able to break compounds down. Hydrolysed collagen peptides are a great example of a highly absorbable nutrient as they have already been broken down into a bioavailable form.
Bioavailability refers to the amount of nutrients that your body is able to absorb. There are also many different forms of nutrients and some are simply much easier for the body to absorb and use than others.
Hydrolysis is the process of ‘unchaining’ the long protein strands which collagen is made of, into smaller chains of amino acids called ‘peptides’, so we can absorb them more readily. This process is like having them ‘predigested’, making them more bioactive so we can take them up and absorb them to build our important tissues.
Peptides are smaller chains of two or more amino acids connected to one another by peptide bonds.
Much like other amino acids and proteins, peptides perform a number of fundamental processes in the body. One role is to serve as signaling molecules. This means they are able to communicate with our cells and “tell them what to do” - such as repairing tissues, producing certain hormones, sending out anti-inflammatory compounds or create new collagen.
This is a relatively new umbrella term for supplements which specifically intend to boost cognitive ability, memory, focus, motivation and creativity. One mechanism in which they are reported to work is by increasing blood flow to the brain, providing important nutrient and increased energy and oxygen flow. There are two different types of nootropics; synthetic nootropics created in labs or natural nootropics - created by mother nature - including herbs such as Ginkgo Biloba, Ashwagandha and Bacopa Monnieri. In fact several foods and drinks can also come under this category given their purported benefits to the brain; coffee and MCT for example.
Advocates of nootropic foods maintain that these foods and nutrients help to optimise brain health, protect the brain from ageing and as such improve cognitive performance. Botanicals such as cacao and turmeric are seen as brain protective in this sense.
The term nutraceutical was coined by the founder of the Foundation for Innovation in Medicine, Stephen De Felice in 1989. It describes nutritionally functional foods or supplements - using food as medicine. De Felice defined a nutraceutical as a “food, or parts of a food, that provide medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease”
Here in the UK the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food developed their own definition of a functional food as “a food that has a component incorporated into it to give it a specific medical or physiological benefit, other than purely nutritional benefit” however a nutraceutical is a more concentrated or isolated form of this.
Optimal daily wellbeing
We hear this term a lot - and it can mean different things to different people, which is actually the whole point. For us, it's not just the absence of disease - it’s a dynamic, ever changing balance between nutrition, movement, rest + joy. Finding health within our social, emotitinal, cultural and spiritual wellbeing. Living on purpose and as part of nature. That’s no mean feat - but if this is the blueprint for wellness then it has to look unique to all of us.
So whether you know you need to work on your gut health, or tinker with your physical performance or you want to improve your brain health or feel that beauty glow from within, Ancient + Brave aim to support you whatever your priority.