Keep this glossary of nutraceutical compounds and ingredients as handy reference list for the wellness ingredients you need..
Alpha-linolenic acid – an omega-3 fatty acid important for brain and cardiovascular health. (See "Omega-3.")
Alpha-lipoic acid – an antioxidant coenzyme that also may enhance insulin function and counteract insulin resistance.
Anthocyanins – powerful antioxidants responsible for the red, blue and purple coloring in berries and other plants. (See “Flavonoids.”)
Antioxidants – chemical compounds that scavenge reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are by-products of the oxidative reactions that can cause cell damage. (See "ORAC.")
Beta-carotene – see “carotenoid,” below.
Carnitine – a compound derived from the amino acid lysine; aids fatty-acid metabolism, energy and growth.
Carotenoids – class of a group of flavonoid vitaminic compounds, such as beta-carotene, related to vitamin A. Found in red, orange, green and yellow vegetables, fruits and plants, plus a number of other food sources. Carotenoids are well-studied and have strong antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, antitumorigenic and anticataract abilities.
Choline – a saturated amine compound essential for cardiovascular and brain function, and cell membrane structure and repair. It also helps the body utilize B vitamins and lower levels of homocysteine, helping to prevent heart disease.
Chromium – a mineral that, in its trivalent form, is considered nutritionally essential although in trace amounts (25-35 micrograms per day). Chromium has been shown to contribute to glucose metabolism by enhancing the effects of insulin.
Cinnamide – an active chemical compound from cinnamon shown in some studies to increase insulin response and help management of blood sugar for persons with diabetes.
Coenzyme Q-10 (CoQ-10) – is a vitaminlike molecule critical to energy production in every animal cell that also acts as an antioxidant. Found mostly in meat, poultry and fish with smaller amounts in plant sources, specifically nuts and seeds.*
Curcumin – an active compound in spices such as turmeric and cumin, which has shown a strong ability to help regulate blood sugar.
DHA – Docosahexaenoic acid; one of the polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids (oils) important to brain and cardiac health (see omega-3, below).
EPA – Eicosapentaenoic acid; an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid important to brain and cardiac health (see omega-3, below). Ellagic acid – a polyphenolic acid found in berries, grapes and walnuts with high antioxidant capacity.
Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) – EGCG is a natural polyphenolic compound and the most active component of green tea. It’s a natural antioxidant that helps prevent damage to healthy human cells and the vascular system.
Fiber – any of a group of indigestible plant polysaccharides, including cellulose, lignin, pectins, beta-glucans, inulin and oligosaccharides. Fibers promote intestinal health by normalizing transit time, decreasing exposure of the gut wall to carcinogens, and promoting the growth of healthy bacteria.
Flavonoids – the larger class of plant polyphenols, which includes such compounds as anthocyanins, flavanols, flavones, flavonols and isoflavones. They act as antioxidants and are believed to also contribute to genetic expression and cell-signal regulation, suggesting a second level of cancer protection.
Folate – a B vitamin also known as folic acid; helps prevent neural tube defects during fetal growth and development. Also helps prevent cardiovascular disease and is needed to build and repair DNA and RNA, the building blocks of cells. Found in whole grains and nuts.
Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) – also known as oligofructose, FOS is a short-chain polysaccharide (oligosaccharide) used as a low-calorie sweetener. Also has been shown to be beneficial for gut health by promoting probiotic bacteria (see inulin, below). Also may help increase absorption of certain minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
Inulin – a soluble, short-chain fiber that has been shown to help limit hunger and energy intake by fermenting in the colon, helping to modulate the release of hormones that influence appetite, and promotes probiotic bacteria.
Isoflavones – flavonoid phytochemical compounds, also classed as phytoestrogens (see below) such as daidzein and genestein, found in soy. Highly studied for possible effectiveness against certain cancers, heart disease and osteoporosis. Involved in gene expression and cholesterol management and possibly cognitive function.
Lignan – an antioxidant phytoestrogen found in high amounts in flax seed and other seeds. Converted in the gut to estrogenlike compounds enterodiol and enterolactone by intestinal bacteria.
Lutein – an antioxidant and anti-cataract carotenoid found in eggs, dark leafy greens and red and orange fruits, vegetables and plants. Critical to eye health.
Lycopene – carotenoid antioxidant found in tomatoes, watermelon and other red vegetables. Known primarily for cancer-protective effects, especially prostate cancer, but also may help regulate blood pressure, reduce risk and effects of emphysema.
Nutraceutical – a chemical compound, natural or synthesized, that is a part of a food or added to a food in order to provide health benefit or help prevent or treatment a disease or physical condition.
Omega fatty acids – any of several classes of unsaturated fatty acids (i.e., omega-6, and omega-3) including the essential fatty acids linoleic acid (omega-6) and linolenic acid (omega-3).
Essential fatty acids are vital to the structure and function of tissues, especially nerve and brain tissues and cell membranes. Research has shown omega oils contribute to memory, cognition, lung health, skin integrity and health and cardiovascular health while protecting against Alzheimer’s, depression, asthma, ADHD and even certain cancers.
Phytochemical – although literally “plant chemical,” usually refers to any compound from a plant source that may be efficacious to health. Used interchangeably with “phytonutrient.” About 10,000 have been identified to date, and perhaps as many more remain unidentified.
Phytoestrogen – also called “plant estrogens,” these phytochemicals show mild estrogenlike ability. Soybeans are a major source of these highly studied compounds. They may help regulate cholesterol and reduce the risk of some cancers. They might help maintain bone density post-menopause and could be mildly helpful at reducing menopausal symptoms.
Phytosterol – also called plant sterols, phytosterols are steroid alcohols naturally occurring in plants. In addition to antioxidant capacity, they have shown strong ability to help reduce serum cholesterol and protect against cardiovascular disease.
Polydextrose – a fiber made up of dextrose, sorbitol and citric acid. A lower-calorie sweetener, polydextrose acts as a prebiotic fiber to promote gut health.
Polyphenol – antioxidant flavonols which have been shown to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and the onset of Alzheimer’s. Found in high levels in grape seeds and skins, as well as in black currants, pomegranates, yerba maté, green tea, dark chocolate, red wine and virgin olive oil. Prebiotic – compounds that can promote the growth of healthful bacteria in the digestive tract, especially the colon.
Probiotic – any of a number of beneficial bacteria or yeast, such as lactic acid bacteria. They convert carbohydrates (such as the milk sugar lactose) into lactic acid, aiding digestion and lowering gastrointestinal pH. See “yogurt cultures.”
Quercitin – a highly bioactive and antioxidant flavonoid compound in tea and grapes (especially red wine), apples and cranberries. Acts as the base for number of other flavonoids. Shows strong anti-inflammatory activity and inhibits the manufacture and release of histamines.
Resistant starch – starch, such as high amylose corn, that resists digestion in the small intestine while helping to form butyrate and encourage healthful flora in the large intestine. Has proven valuable in weight management and cancer prevention.
Resveretrol – a polyphenolic compound found in grape seeds and skins; studied for its antioxidant and anticancer effects.
Selenium – a mineral unique in having antioxidant properties; found in nuts and whole grains. Sterol – see “phytosterol,” above.
Tocopherol – a natural form of vitamin E with strong antioxidant capacity. Found in nuts, whole grains and other plant sources, tocopherols are critical to cellular health and protect against cardiovascular disease and other diseases.
Tocotrienol – an isomer of vitamin E found in palm oil and other plant sources which has strong antioxidant capacity.
Xanthine – an isomer of caffeine found in plants such as yerbamaté; although it has a stimulating effect it is reported to trigger fewer enervating side effects than caffeine and be less irritating to the digestive system.
Yogurt cultures – live, active microbes, specifically lactobacteria, that help foster a healthy colon, help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of colon cancer. Include Lactobacillus bulgaricus, S. thermophilus, L. acidophilus and L. bifidus and L. reuteri.
Zeaxanthine – an antioxidant and anti-cataract carotenoid found in eggs, dark leafy greens and red and orange fruits, vegetables and plants. Critical to eye health.