Glossary of terms

Here you will find definitions of terms used in resources on the Foodsource website. You will also find these definitions on the right-hand side within chapters. If you have any suggestions for new glossary items, let us know here.

2 (1) | A (12) | B (5) | C (16) | D (4) | E (8) | F (12) | G (4) | H (3) | I (6) | L (5) | M (12) | N (6) | O (4) | P (9) | R (8) | S (9) | T (1) | U (2) | W (4) | Y (1) | Z (1)


A livelihood is a person’s, household’s, or group of people’s means of making a living. It encompasses people’s capabilities, assets, income, and activities that are required for securing the necessities of life, such as food, water, medicine, shelter and clothing.


Fats, proteins and carbohydrates (starch, fibre, sugar) that are needed for a wide range of bodily functions and processes.


Deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in the energy, macronutrients or micronutrients that a person obtains, either because their diet is lacking or because their body is not able to fully absorb the nutrients from the foods eaten, e.g. due to illness. Malnutrition is an umbrella term that includes overnutrition (an excess of food energy), undernutrition (a lack of food energy and macronutrients such as protein), and micronutrient deficiencies (insufficient micronutrients such as iron, vitamin A or iodine).


A mangrove is a salt tolerant tree or shrub that grows in tidal and coastal wetlands and swamps, typically in tropical and sub-tropical regions. They typically form mangrove forests and are globally important for biodiversity and carbon storage, and also for their role in coastal protection.

Market liberalisation

Market liberalisation means that there is a lessening of government restrictions and regulations to the market, such that the market is primarily controlled through supply and demand

Mediterranean diet

A Mediterranean diet is an idealised dietary pattern that has commonalities with the diets traditional to many Mediterranean countries. It is a diet that is primarily based on vegetables, fruits, pulses, nuts, cereals, olive oil, and fish, with moderate consumption of dairy and low to moderate amounts of meat. Mediterranean type diets are considered to have health conferring benefits.


Microalgae are microscopic algae typically found in freshwater and marine ecosystems

Micronutrient deficiencies

Micronutrient deficiencies result from a diet lacking the essential vitamins and minerals that humans require in small amounts for proper growth, development, and bodily functioning. These include iodine, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins A, B, and C, among others. Micronutrient deficiencies are the cause of a range of diseases affecting physical and mental development, and can increase susceptibility to infectious diseases.

Micronutrient deficiency

Not getting enough of one or more micronutrients. This can happen even if a person is getting sufficient energy from their diet.


Micronutrients are minerals (e.g. iron) and organic compounds (e.g. vitamin A) found in food, which the body requires in very small amounts to produce substances such as enzymes and hormones. They are essential for proper growth, development and bodily functioning. Essential micronutrients are those that cannot be synthesised by the body and so must be obtained through diet.

Minimally processed food

Minimally processed food is a category of foods in the NOVA classification that have not been processed (e.g. fresh fruits and vegetables) or that have been modified only minimally by processes such as drying, roasting, boiling, freezing, and the removal of inedible parts. Advocates of NOVA understand minimally processed foods to be processed to extend their lifetime, enable their storage, make them easier to prepare, or to increase the number of ways they can be consumed. Examples include fresh meat and vegetables, whole wheat grains, wholemeal flour, ground coffee and pasteurised milk.


is a mammal with a single-compartmented stomach. Examples of monogastrics include humans, poultry, pigs, horses, rabbits, dogs and cats. Most monogastrics are generally unable to digest much cellulose food materials such as grasses. Herbivores with a monogastric digestion system (e.g. horses and rabbits) are able to digest cellulose in their diets through microbes in their gut, but they extract less energy from these foods than do ruminants. A major proportion of the feed given to monogastrics reared in intensive systems comprises human edible grains and soybeans.

Multiple burden of malnutrition

The simultaneous presence of more than one form of malnutrition in an individual, household or population.

Non-communicable diseases

Non-communicable diseases are diseases which are not passed from person to person. They are often long lasting and generally progress slowly. Examples include cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. Unhealthy diets are one of the major risk factors for non-communicable diseases.

NOVA food classification

The NOVA classification is a system of food classification created by a team of nutrition and health researchers at the University of São Paulo led by Carlos Monteiro. NOVA categorises food products by the ‘extent’ and ‘purpose’ of food processing on the grounds that today this is the main determinant of a food’s nutritional and environmental characteristics. NOVA has four categories: minimally processed food; processed culinary ingredients; processed foods; and ultra-processed foods. Introduced as a framework to measure the impacts of processed foods on human health, NOVA has also been promoted as an alternative to traditional government-approved dietary guidance such as the US MyPlate, the UK Eatwell plate or the Chinese Food Pagoda. While criticised, NOVA is increasingly used as a framework in nutrition science, especially in nutritional epidemiology. The dietary guidelines of Brazil (2014), Uruguay (2016), Ecuador (2018) and Peru (2019) and some reports from the PAHO-WHO have drawn upon the NOVA classification while the French (2019) dietary recommendations advise to reduce the consumption of ‘ultra-transformed’ foods.