New nutritional buzzwords are popping up every day. Find out what they actually mean here. 

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9 Nutritional Buzzwords and What They Actually Mean

February 04, 2019

As more and more people are becoming aware of the effect certain foods have on their bodies and overall health, new nutritional buzzwords are popping up every day. Just like with deciphering the latest food trends, it can be challenging to keep up. Here are nine nutritional buzzwords and what they actually mean.


Organic carrots in a rainbow of colors

#1 Functional

There is no set legal or governmental definition for functional foods, so consumers are left to evaluate a food’s health claims on their own. As a good rule of thumb, functional foods can be considered whole foods, fortified foods, enriched foods or enhanced foods that can potentially have a positive effect on overall health, especially when consumed as part of a varied diet. Although functional foods do not have a set legal definition, they are regulated by the FDA under the authority of the Federal, Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Tip: When grocery shopping, pay attention to the nutrition facts label and ingredients list on the back of the food package than the claims you see on the front.

#2 Probiotics and Prebiotics

Probiotics are living organisms that balance out our body’s natural microbiome. Depending on a probiotic’s intended use, the FDA may regulate it as a dietary supplement, a food ingredient or a drug.Some foods that naturally contain probiotic properties include raw, fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut and yogurt.

On the other hand, prebiotics are non-digestible substances that act as food for gut microbiota. Prebiotics essentially stimulate growth of certain healthy bacteria that live in your body. Some foods that naturally contain prebiotics include asparagus, berries, chicory, garlic, leeks and onions.

Organic carrots in a rainbow of colors

#3 Plant-Based

Plant-Based foods are minimally processed, whole foods that are derived from plants. This means plant-based foods contain pure, unadulterated ingredients that are in their original form. Foods like fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, tubers, vegetables and whole grains are all plant-based foods.

#4 Nutrient Dense

Nutrient dense foods are foods that are high in nutrients and relatively low in calories. Nutrient dense foods contain one or more of the following: antioxidants, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, lean protein, minerals and vitamins. Some examples of nutrient dense foods include eggs, fruit, lean meats, nuts, seafood, seeds, and vegetables.

 Organic beets are nutrient dense food helpful in detoxifying the body

#5 Detoxifying

Most people are probably familiar with the concept of detoxing, especially after the holidays when many of us are abstaining from all of the celebratory food and beverages that are synonymous with the month of December. However, certain foods are thought to help the body detox itself. Some people consume foods like beets, cabbage, dandelion and lemons for their perceived detoxifying properties, but other people enjoy eating them simply because they just taste good!

#6 Grass-Fed

The USDA has mandated that grass-fed labeling can only be applied to livestock that have consumed grass their entire lives once they have stopped drinking their mother’s milk. In order to earn the label of grass-fed, the livestock must have continual access to pasture during their growing season and their diet must primarily come from foraging.  

Half of an avacado is a nutrient dense food that increases brain health

#7 Superfoods

Just like functional foods, there is no standard definition for the term superfood, but a superfood is known to be especially beneficial for health and well-being. Foods like blueberries, cacao, chia seeds, flax seeds, goji berries, kale, maca, turmeric and quinoa are just a few of the many superfoods available to us today.

#8 Organic

Organic produce is grown without the use of genetically modified organisms, ionizing radiation, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or sewage sludge. Organic dairy, eggs, poultry, and meat are produced without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones. The FDA does not regulate the use  of the term “organic” on food labels, instead, the National Organic Product (NOP) is the federal regulatory framework that governs organically produced crops and livestock. The NOP is governed by the USDA.

#9 Certified Transitional

A certified transitional crop is a crop grown on land that is in the process of converting from conventional farming to an organic certification. This is no easy process and takes a total of three years of consistenting meeting USDA Organic standards. After this three year process is complete, farmers can apply for an official organic certification.

It’s easy to get caught up in the confusion of nutritional buzzwords, but now that you know more about each of these nine nutritional buzzwords, you will be better prepared the next time you go grocery shopping!

Tag us @SimpleMills so we can see how you navigate nutritional buzzwords.
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