Salmon is chock full of DHA, a category of omega-3 fatty acids. Photo of salmon with cherry sauce courtesy Washington State Fruit Commission.





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May 2005

Last Updated May 2012

Product Reviews / NutriNibbles

Organic Foods Definition

Glossary Page 3: Terms Beginning With D To F


This is page 3 of a 7-page glossary of organic foods definition. See also our Glossary of Antioxidant Terms and Eco Terms (Green Glossary). And, see our entire collection of food glossaries.

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Daily Value, a term found on food labels, is based on the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). Both have been established by the FDA to help consumers use food label information to plan a healthy diet. For example, the Daily Value for fat, based on a 2,000-calorie diet, is 65g (grams). A food that has 13g of fat per serving would state 20% DV on the label, or, the percent Daily Value for fat per serving is 20%.

See biodynamic agriculture.


DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is a category of omega-3 fatty acid—perhaps the most important one, according to the latest scientific research, along with EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). DHA helps support healthy function in brain and eye tissue, helps support cardiovascular functions, and has been linked to possible benefits in PMS and menopause. While Omega-3 DHA fatty acids are most commonly derived from coldwater fish such as mackerel and salmon, vegetarian, sustainable DHA is obtained from aquatic plants (vegetarians can take algae oil supplements). ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), the omega-3 fat found most abundantly in flaxseed, has not been proven to convey the same health benefits as DHA plus EPA.
Mackerel sushi, a delicious way to enjoy DHA.

Thus, if a label just says omega-3 and makes no mention of DHA and EPA, it likely has just ALA. See omega 3 fatty acids.



A product that as been certified by two different organizations, e.g. USDA Organic and Fair Trade, or Rainforest Alliance.



EGCG is the acronym for epigallocatechin gallate, a specific antioxidant compound found in green tea and elsewhere. Scientific research has associated EGCG with a reduced risk for age-related and chronic diseases including cancer and cardiovascular disease. Because of its ability to enhance the body’s use of calories to generate heat and energy, a process called thermogenesis, EGCG has also been associated with improvements in weight maintenance. See green tea.

Green tea. Note that not all green tea brews up to a greenish color. Depending on processing and other factors, it can look like black tea. Photo by Lekyu | SXC.


Essential Fatty Acids are necessary fats that humans cannot manufacture and thus must obtain from foods. These are the “good fats” that raise high density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good cholesterol.” EFAs support a number of vital body functions, including the cardiovascular, reproductive and nervous systems. They are needed to manufacture and repair cell membranes and in the production of prostaglandins, which regulate body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood clotting, fertility and conception. They play a role in immune efficiency by regulating inflammation and encouraging the body to fight infection. There are two families of EFAs: omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid or ALA) and omega-6 (linoleic acid or LA).
Walnuts are an excellent source of linolenic acid, an EFA. Photo by J. Eltovski | Morguefile.

The adequate intake per day for omega-3 fatty acids is 1.1g (1,100mg) for women and 1.6g (1,600 mg) for men, according to Dietary Reference Intakes, 2002. Lack of dietary EFAs plays an important role in the development of diseases such as heart disease, cancer and stroke. Why are these acids “essential?” Symptoms of EFA deficiency can include anorexia, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, dry skin, fatigue, gastrointestinal disorders, immune weakness and possibly attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A deficiency of linoleic acid produces a type of dermatitis with red, scaly, dry skin. Recent research from the National Institutes of Health suggests that omega-3 fatty acid deficiency may also be linked to depression and aggression. Depression and cardiovascular disease appear to be linked and low levels of omega-3 fatty acids may be the common factor. Modern food processing has had a large impact on the types of fat in foods. People now eat smaller amounts of EFAs and more refined and commercially refined fats and oils, such as toxic trans-fats. Refined fats may also prevent the body from using the EFAs which do remain in the diet. Food sources of linoleic acid include grains, legumes, nuts and seeds; alpha-linoleic acid is found in the green leaves of plants and in some legumes, nuts and seeds. Flax seed is the champion source of linolenic acid; canola, soy and walnuts are excellent sources.


EPA, eicosapentaenoic acid, is an omega 3 fatty acid found in oily fish such as herring, mackerel, salmon and sardine, and in cod liver oil. It is believed to positively impact mental conditions; alone or in combination with other omega-3 fatty acids, it is effective in a variety of important functions such as lowering inflammation.

Herring Canape

Enjoy your EPA in herring canapés: Pumpernickel, mustard, herring and a cornichon. Photo by Marta Sobo | SXC.



Fair trade certification allows farmers to receive higher prices than they would in the conventional market. It means that the farmers were paid a fair price for their product and were not exploited by middlemen who pay them less than their crop is worth. They are paid at least 5 cents more per pound, and are able to earn earn 3 to 5 times more, than conventional farmers. Coffee (the world’s second most traded commodity, after oil), cacao, and other farmed products are often produced under sweatshop conditions. Industrial workers don’t earn the legal minimum wage. Small farmers are paid less for their crop than it can cost to grow it, locking them into a cycle of poverty and debt and forcing them to keep their children out of school to work the farm.  Small farmers usually can’t get credit, and can easily lose their farms.
Fair Trade Certified logo.

Under Fair Trade, importers pay an established fair price regardless of the volatile market. Credit is provided at low rates; and small farmers who use traditional, sustainable techniques don’t have to lose their farms to industrial cooperatives that employ pesticides and aggressive deforestation. The program also prohibits forced child labor, ensures safe working conditions and encourages environmentally sustainable farming methods as well as other measures to improve farmers’ lives. Fair Trade is part of a larger movement that began in the 1940s, with churches selling crafts made by World War II refugees. Fair Trade certification began in The Netherlands in 1988 due to of plummeting prices in the world coffee market. Today, 20 countries have labeling programs using shared criteria under the umbrella of Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International in Germany. In the United States, there is certification for chocolate, cocoa, coffee, flowers, rice, fresh tropical fruits, sugar, tea and vanilla. The term Fair Trade Certified is registered and certification is administered by TransFair USA. For more information about Fair Trade, visit and Not all products can be Fair Trade Certified, so companies themselves are certified by the Fair Trade Federation (see next listing).


There are typically two ways a product and/or company is certified Fair Trade. TransFair, which provides the Fair Trade Certified label, certifies actual products, i.e. a tea, chocolate or coffee. The Fair Trade Federation, a separate organization, certifies actual companies, stating that their purchasing methods, employment practices, sourcing, etc. complies with what would be termed “Fair Trade.” Some products do not have a definition for “fair trade,” because the products are relatively new on the market and the process to decide on standards is long and bureaucratic.  
Fair Trade Association logo.

Yerba maté is one example of this: No yerba maté product currently carries the “Fair Trade Certified” seal because the Fair Trade standards have not yet been defined. However, maté products may carry the Fair Trade Federation seal because the companies that produce them are certified by the Fair Trade Federation, even though the product itself is not Fair Trade Certified by TransFair.  


Flavonoids are a group of chemical compounds naturally found in certain fruits, vegetables, teas, wines, nuts, seeds, and roots; that have a number of positive biological effects. Most act as antioxidants and some have anti-inflammatory properties. They also modulate the destruction of cancer cells and support a healthy vascular system. Tea provides more than 60% of the flavonoids available in the U.S. diet. Flavonoid-rich foods include apples, apricots, black beans, blueberries, cabbage, onions, parsley, pinto beans, pears, raspberries, strawberries, and tomatoes. Read more about flavonoids and high-antioxidant foods.
Berries are an excellent source of flavonoids. Photo courtesy California Strawberry Commission.


A person who eats mainly vegetarian food, but makes occasional exceptions for social, pragmatic, cultural or nutritional reasons. Flexitarians may occasionally eat meat and/or other animal products. According to the Vegetarian Research Group, about 3% of American adults are true vegetarians who say they never eat meat, fish or poultry. But at least 10% of adults consider themselves vegetarians, even though they eat fish or chicken occasionally.

A flexitarian will occasionally eat meat or fish. Photo courtesy

Free radicals are atoms or molecules with unpaired electrons; unpaired electrons are usually highly reactive, so free radicals are likely to take part in chemical reactions. Free radicals play an important role in a number of biological processes, some of which are necessary for life and they can attack disease-causing organisms. However, because of their reactivity, these same free radicals can be destructive, participating in unwanted side reactions that result in cell damage. Many forms of cancer are thought to be the result of reactions between free radicals and DNA; some of the symptoms of aging are also attributed to free radical-induced oxidation of many of the chemicals making up the body. In addition, free radicals contribute to alcohol-induced liver damage; the free radicals in cigarette smoke have been implicated in the development of emphysema. Others are suspected in Parkinson’s disease, senility, deafness, arthritis, diabetes and the aging process itself. Because free radicals are necessary for life, the body has a number of enzymes and antioxidants to minimize free radical-induced damage and to repair damage which does occur. Antioxidant vitamins A, C and E, polyphenol antioxidants and others are credited in this area.


Free range refers to poultry that has access to a barnyard, as opposed to chickens who spend their lives caged. However, they don’t necessarily spend their lives strutting around the Old MacDonald’s barnyard. According to U.S.D.A. regulations, the birds must have access to the outdoors throughout their lives, whether they chose to go out or not. Most free-range producers have little portholes along the side of the henhouse which are open during the day, and the hens can walk into a fenced-in yard. However, some producers may just open the chicken house door for several hours a day.
Free range chickens. Photo courtesy


Freegans are extreme environmentally-conscious citizens who strive to minimize impact on the environment by consuming food that has been or is about to be thrown away by someone else (e.g., dumpster diving at supermarkets), using handkerchief instead of paper tissues, and an overall philosophy of not working as a wage slave to buy consumer goods that only pollute the environment anyway. The website explains that “...scavenging or working your self-sufficiency skills to get the food and stuff you need to be content, while treading lightly on the earth, eliminating waste, and boycotting everything” is a way to help slow down landfills and lead a happy life while “revealing human over-consumption and waste.” Some might see it as the hippie movement of the 21st century. Because many freegans are also vegans, the word originated as a combination of “free vegan.”
  The Art & Science Of Dumpster Diving
Dumpster diving is so popular, there are at least four books on the topic. Check out this one.



Functional foods are everyday foods enhanced with supplements that serve a helpful effect on the body beyond normal satiation and nutrition. The effect can be long term (“added calcium prevents osteoporosis”) or short-term (“the electrolytes in sports drinks help the body re-hydrate more quickly”). There are actually two kinds of functional foods. Category 1: Naturally occurring foods, e.g. cranberries, which help with urinary tract health; cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc.), which contain elements which may increase activity of enzymes that help to detoxify carcinogens. Category 2: Modified foods, where an added ingredient imparts the functionality. Examples include calcium added to orange juice or water for bone strength, or the aforementioned electrolytes and minerals added to flavored beverages to create “sports drinks.”
Orange juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D is an example of a functional beverage. Photo courtesy Tropicana.

In the case of a coffee-soy beverage, both components happen to be naturally-occurring Category 1 functional foods—coffee for its caffeine stimulus and soy for its cancer-fighting isoflavones and other attributes. Coincidentally, by mixing them, they are formulated into a new Category 2 product, “wellness coffee.” Functional foods do not yet have a regulatory status or legal definition.


Continue To Page 4: Terms Beginning With G To K

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