The Real Food Glossary

The Real Food Living FAQ and reprints are provided as information only. The comments contained in the FAQ are the opinions of our readers. Before making any radical changes in your diet, please talk with your personal health care provider.

Compiled by Susie Wankerl

ACIDOPHILUS – Live bacteria that is beneficial in the intestines. Found in quality yogurts (not all grocery store yogurts will have live cultures) and also acidophilus milk, which is a cultured milk. Also available as a supplement in liquid or capsule form—good to use if you’ve been on antibiotics to help replace the natural intestinal flora that has been destroyed by the antibiotics.

AGAR-AGAR – Gelatin that comes from seaweed. It can be used like gelatin in molded foods or in place of pectin in fruit spreads. It comes in flake, powder, or stick form. Use 1 tablespoon flakes OR 1 1/2 teaspoons powder, or 7 inches stick to 1 3/4 cups liquid. Good source of minerals.

AGAVE NECTAR – Made from the dessert agave plant,which is also used in making tequila. The filtered juice is concentrated into a syrup similar in consistency to honey. The light agave nectar has been  demineralized and has a neutral flavor. Dark agave nectar has a molasses-like flavor. It is 42% sweeter than sucrose but fewer calories and has a very low glycemic index so that it is absorbed slowly by the body. Use it in beverages, baked products, cereals, fruit concentrates, condiments, desserts, candies, smoothies, fruit spreads, yogurts, granola bars, soft cookies, teas. When baking replace 1 cup sugar with 3/4 cup agave. Reduce recipe liquids 1/3 and oven temperature 25 degrees.

AMARANTH – A tiny seed belonging to the Amaranthus family. High in lysine content and protein. Adds a sweet moistness to baked goods when ground into flour.

AMASAKE – A delicate rice milk, made by fermenting cooked, sweet brown rice for several hours, with a cultured starter, before it is pureed into thick sweet milk. It can be used in making custards, puddings, frostings, thick creamy drinks, as well as used in baking to aid in the leavening of cakes,muffins and pastries. … Its fermented quality enhances leavening.

ARROWROOT POWDER – A natural thickener that comes from the root of a tropical plant. High in minerals. Not refined like cornstarch. Use in place of cornstarch to thicken gravies, puddings, etc.

BARLEY – Look for whole hulled barley that has had only the inedible hull and one hard outer layer removed leaving most of the nutritional value intact. Pearl barley has had the hull and two hard outer layers removed, putting it nutritionally in the class with white flour and white rice.

BARLEY FLOUR – Flour milled from barley. Can be used as a substitute for white flour, particularly in muffins, pie crust, cakes, etc. Can be used for those allergic to wheat but is not-gluten free.

BEAN FLOUR – Flour made from grinding dry beans, such as navy, pinto, etc. Use to add protein to baked goods or in Ezekiel bread. High in lysine, increasing its protein value.

BRAN – The outside layer of the cereal grain that is separated from the grain flour by sifting.

BROWN RICE FLOUR – Brown rice milled very finely. Those with allergies to wheat may find brown rice flour helpful.

BULGUR – Wheat that has been cracked by parboiling, then dried.

CAROB – Also called St. John’s Bread, carob is naturally sweet and high in calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, and magnesium. When roasted, it has a flavor somewhat similar to chocolate but unlike chocolate does not contain caffeine. To substitute for chocolate in recipes, use 3 tablespoons carob powder plus 2 tablespoons water for 1 square chocolate. To substitute for powdered cocoa, use same amount of carob powder as cocoa.

COCONUT – Use unsweetened. You can find this at health food/natural food stores.

COCONUT OIL – Coconut oil is unusually rich in short and medium chain fatty acids. Use only organic, virgin. A wonderful substitute for butter or non-dairy shortening, it is also touted as an anti-fungal, anti-microbial and anti-yeast food. The virgin organic oil has a mild coconut favor that enhances baked goods. It stays solid at room temperature and melts at 76 degrees and has an extremely long shelf life. There are interesting studies being done on the positive health properties of organic, virgin coconut oil. Daily consumption is recommended.

DATE SUGAR – Made from ground dried dates. It can be used in cinnamon rolls, granola, on cereals. To use in recipes, dissolve first.

DURUM WHEAT – A hard wheat used especially in pasta. Buy whole grain durum, not durum semolina which is the refined flour of durum (the same as white flour is the refined flour of whole wheat).

ENER-G EGG REPLACER – Egg substitute made from potato starch, tapioca flour, leavening (calcium lactate, calcium carbonate and citric acid), and carbohydrate gum. The calcium lactate is not dairy-derived and does not contain lactose. For each egg in your recipe use 1 1/2 tsp. Egg Replacer mixed thoroughly with 2 Tbs. water. For more information, call Ener-G Foods, Inc. at 800-331-5222.

FOOD YEAST FLAKES – Also called nutritional yeast; a yeast grown specifically for use as food, high in B vitamins and used as a flavoring. Often confused with Brewer’s yeast, which is a by-product of beer-brewing and has a somewhat bitter taste. Many manufacturers call their nutritional yeast “brewer’s yeast”.
Modern Products makes a good nutritional yeast which they call Brewer’s Yeast. It has a nice flavor, not bitter.

FLAX SEED – Small brown (or golden) seeds containing soluble fiber which assists in regulating cholesterol levels. Only purchase organic flax seeds. qThey contain lignin which is an anti-cancer agent. Flaxseed is the highest known source of linolenic acid (LNA), the omega-3 essential fatty acid that is commonly lacking in the diet of most Americans. Whole flaxseeds can be stored at room temperature 2-3 months or up to 1 year in the refrigerator or freezer. To use, grind the seeds and add to baked goods, sprinkle on foods, or put in shakes.

FLAXSEED OIL – Flaxseed oil is pressed from flaxseed. One tablespoon provides 5,500 I.U. (International Units) of beta carotene (provitamin A) and 7,300-8,500 mg. omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed oil has been found helpful in arthritis, in asthma relief, in preventing colon and breast cancer, in improving moods, in PMS, in producing healthier skin, in diminishing allergic responses, and in increasing vitality and energy. Flaxseed oil must be kept refrigerated. It will stay fresh in the refrigerator up to 3 months from pressing date. Once opened, it is best to use within 3-6 weeks (longer if kept in freezer). Some uses include adding to smoothies or shakes, putting on popcorn instead of butter, in salad dressings.

FRUCTOSE – Fruit sugar, usually extracted from corn. It is highly refined but releases less insulin into the blood stream. Use sparingly. Keep it tightly stored, away from moisture.

FRUIT CONCENTRATES – Thick liquid fruit concentrates available from health food stores. (Not to be
confused with frozen fruit juice concentrates.)

FRUIT JUICES – Real unsweetened fruit juices are available without added sugars. Read labels. Look for 100% real fruit juice, not “juice drinks” or “juice beverages,” which have added sugars.

GLUTEN – A tenacious, elastic protein substance, especially of wheat flour, that gives cohesiveness to dough and allows dough to rise.

GRANOLA – A mixture of grains, dried fruits, nuts, and/or seeds, toasted and eaten as cereal or snack.

GRAPEFRUIT SEED EXTRACT (GSE) – Made from grapefruit seeds and pulp, it is a highly potent extract that has antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, and antiparasitic properties. It can be used to help fight disease and infection in humans and animals, as well as for use household use such as disinfecting surfaces and cleaning purposes.

HONEY – Buy raw, unfiltered honey. Local bee keepers are a good source. There are many flavors of honey. The darker the honey, the stronger the flavor. Choose lighter honey for baking. If honey crystallizes, place jar in a pan of hot water to liquefy it. (Large containers can be placed outside in the sun.)

JAMS/JELLIES – Look for those sweetened with 100% fruit concentrate, or honey; often called fruit spreads.

KAMUT – A rediscovered 6,000 year old ancient wheat, it can be used in any recipe calling for wheat. It is 20-40% higher in protein than whole wheat; has a lighter texture than whole wheat; those sensitive to wheat can often tolerate Kamut. No adjustments are needed in recipes substituting Kamut for wheat. It’s great in pasta, pancakes, and just about everything else AND is the prettiest grain I’ve ever seen!

KASHA – A Rushian dish of cooked buckwheat; also, whole, husked buckwheat groats before cooking.

KEFIR – A cultured milk which contains beneficial bacteria for the intestines, helping to promote health. For more information, see

KELP – A seaweed commonly used in powdered form as a seasoning in place of salt.

KNEAD – To make dough smooth and elastic by pressing, folding, stretching it, either by hand or mixer.

LECITHIN – Naturally occurring in soybeans, available in liquid or granule form; used to lightly coat baking pans to prevent sticking (use 1/3 part liquid lecithin with 2/3 part oil); it is a fat emulsifier and can be added to smoothies, in Better Butter recipes, in bread dough and other baked goods.

LEGUME – A food family that includes beans, peas, and peanuts, and provide high-quality protein.

LENTIL – Disc-shaped, flat legume containing high levels of protein and carbohydrates; good source of vitamins B and A. Use in soups, stews, loaves, patties, etc. Does not need soaking before cooking, and cooks in a short time.

LIQUID AMINOS – An unfermented soy sauce substitute made from soybeans; high in amino acids and minerals and also 30% lower in sodium than regular soy sauce. Has wider use than soy sauce (in my opinion).

LOW-METHOXYL PECTIN – A type of pectin that sets up with calcium salts instead of sugar.

MALT – A grain softened by steeping in water and being allowed to germinate.

MAPLE SYRUP – Use pure maple syrup instead of refined maple-flavored imitation syrup. We prefer Grade B (less processed).

MASA HARINA – lime- treated cornmeal marketed by Quaker, used to make corn tortillas.

MILLET – A versatile grain. It is the only alkaline grain, usually tolerated well by those with allergies.

MISO – A fermented seasoning made from soybeans, used as a condiment.

MOLASSES – A by-product of refining sugar cane to produce white sugar. Contains the nutrients that were removed from the sugar cane. The darker the molasses, the more nutrients. Blackstrap has the most.

NUT BUTTERS – Made from ground nuts—almond, cashew, peanut butter and tahini (sesame butter) are the most common. If choosing peanut butter, choose natural peanut butter with no hydrogenated oils or sugars added.

NUT MILK – Ground nuts or nut butter blended with water or milk.

OAT FLOUR – Flour ground from whole oat groats or by blending rolled oats in blender until powdery.

OILS – Purchase cold-pressed or expeller pressed oils, preferably olive oil or safflower oil. Oils are subject to rancidity so refrigerate oils. Olive oil can be stored at room temperature or in refrigerator but refrigeration is recommended as with all oils; if stored in refrigerated, it will solidify but reliquify at room temp.

OKARA – The fibrous, insoluble by-product of soymilk and tofu, left after the soymilk has been extracted from the ground soybean puree.

PEANUT FLOUR – Made from ground peanuts.

POTATO FLOUR – Used as a thickening agent.

POTATO WATER – Water in which potatoes have been boiled; often used as liquid for activating yeast because of its starch content.

QUINOA – (KEEN-wah) A member of the goosefoot family (Chenopodicum quinoa), quinoa cooks up
quickly in 15-25 minutes into a light fluffy yellow grain. It is high in protein and lysine. A substance on the grain’s surface called saponins requires rinsing before cooking or quinoa will be bitter. Rinse the seed in a
strainer 1-2 minutes the evening before using it, soak it in a bowl of water overnight, drain it, rinse again for about 1 minute.

RAPADURA SUGAR (TM) – Made from whole, dried juice of the sugar cane. It has a mild, caramel-like flavor and can be used to replace refined sugar in recipes 1 for 1. See for more information.

RICE – There are many different varieties of rice, although they are prepared basically in the same way with general rice/water ratio of 1 cup rice to 1 3/4 – 2 cups water. They do vary in texture. Choose brown rice over white for nutritional value, but brown rice can go rancid so store in refrigerator or freezer. The primary difference between short, medium, and long grain rices is their cooking characteristics. As a general rule, the shorter the grain, the more moist and tender and clingy. Long grain typically is dry, separate and fluffy. Here are some varieties of rices:

  • ARBORIO – Originally grown only in Italy, develops a creamy texture around a chewy center. Ideal in dishes requiring a slow, gentle cooking, such as risotto, pudding and paella.
  • BASMATI – An aromatic rice, native to Pakistan and India, similar to jasmine. Cooks up dry, separate and fluffy. Swells lengthwise only, resulting in thin long grains when cooked. Ideal for flavored rice dishes and absorbing sauces.
  • DELLA – A cross between long grain and basmati. Also Delmont and Delrose. Similar to basmati but not as long and slender. Ideal for pilafs, curries, salads, and often substituted for basmati rice in recipes.
  • JASMINE – An aromatic long grain native to Thailand. Fragrant, has a scent similar to that of roasted popcorn or nuts that intensifies during cooking. Similar in size to long grain but cook soft, slightly sticky and moist, like a medium grain. Ideal for Asian cuisines and rice desserts and a good choice for Thai curries, stir-fry, fried rice and rice pudding.
  • SUSHI – Short grain rice also called koshihikari; a Native to Japan and prized for its sweet, subtle flavor and soft, yet firm grains. Texture is somewhat chewy with a slight springiness to the bite and appears glossy. A good choice for sushi and other Japanese dishes as well as rice cakes and rice salads.

RYE FLOUR – Made from finely ground whole grain rye. Rye works best in combination with whole wheat flour. Light rye flour is comparable to white flour in nutritional value; dark rye flour includes more of the whole grain. We recommend using the whole grain – freshly-ground 100% rye flour.

SESAME SEED – An excellent source of calcium – 1 cup contains 1,125 mg. calcium; high in amino acids.

SORGHUM – Also called milo, sorghum is a cereal grain, a major feed grain in the Southwestern U.S. It is low in gluten. Its seeds, somewhat round and smaller than peppercorns, can be ground into flour.

SORGHUM SYRUP OR “MOLASSES” – Made from sweet sorghum, which is a cereal grain, also called milo. It is called a “molasses” because its texture and color is very similar to blackstrap or Barbados molasses. High in iron with a tart fruity taste. It is produced in the same manner as cane syrup.

SOYBEANS – Very high in protein. Very versatile. There is a great deal of controversy concerning the health benefits / risks of using soy in one’s diet. If one’s choice is to include soy, we recommend using ONLY organic, whole food soy and not processed isolates. Consider homemade soy milk from organic beans, only organic tofu, miso, tempeh, yogurt – some of these which can be made at home, We don’t recommend the non-organic forms of soy and the highly processed “frankenfoods” made with soy isolates and soy proteins.

SPELT – An ancient grain, spelt is closer to our bread wheat than Kamut but similar in nutritional content. Those allergic to wheat can often tolerate spelt. Spelt requires less liquid (or more flour) than whole wheat in recipes. Use approximately 1 1/4 cups spelt flour in place of 1 cup of whole wheat flour or decrease the liquid from 1 cup to 2/3 -3/4 cup.

SPROUTS – Seeds and grains can be sprouted. High in enzymes, vitamins and minerals.

STEVIA – An herb used in low sugar cooking and baking. It is highly concentrated. Growing stevia (green leaf) is gaining in popularity and is easy to do. Stevia is available as white extract powder, clear and flavored liquids, green leaf powder and in packets. Be sure to check for fillers such as maltodextrin when choosing a granulated or powdered stevia. We prefer the pure stevia (no fillers). Stevia can leave a bitter taste, so it is recommended that you try several brands (we prefer NuNaturals and Sweetleaf brands) and start out with only a miniscule amount, adding very slowly to taste. Stevia has no calories or carbs or fat and has been shown to lower blood glucose levels. It is not an “artificial” sweetener such as Splenda, but rather stevia is an herbal, natural sweetener that does not raise blood sugar levels.

SUCANAT – Originally, this was organically grown, evaporated cane juice containing all the nutrients of the whole sugar cane. However, new evidence shows that it is now more refined and not whole sugar cane. (See Rapadura Sugar) Choose only organic, unrefined sucanat.

SUNFLOWER SEEDS – A good source of vitamin D; high in protein. Can be sprouted.

SWEETENERS – Natural, less refined sweeteners include: agave nectar, barley malt syrup, brown rice syrup, date sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses, sorghum, stevia, Sucanat,

SOBA – Thin buckwheat noodles.

TAHINI – Nut butter made from sesame seeds.

TEFF – A very tiny seed with high nutritional rating, high in minerals, especially in calcium
and iron. Low in lysine. Low in gluten.

TOFU – The most digestible form of soybeans available in refrigerated section of grocery stores or health food stores. Also available in aseptic packages (Mori-Nu). It comes in soft, firm, or extra firm. Used in salads, scrambled, meatless dishes, baked, browned, in smoothies, in stir-fry. We only recommend buying organic tofu. Tofu can be made easily at home using organic soybeans or soy milk.

TRITICALE FLOUR – Comes from grain that is a cross between rye and wheat. Produces a heavier bread than wheat but lighter than rye. The gluten is softer, necessitating gentle kneading and only one rising of the dough. Use triticale alone or 1 part triticale to 2 parts whole wheat.

TURBINADO SUGAR – Sometimes called “raw” sugar (although true raw sugar is illegal in this country), turbinado sugar has been refined once. (Note that this is the last information I had on turbinado sugar, which is some years old now. Considering that Sucanat has changed to be more refined, it is highly possible that Turbinado sugar also has. its inclusion is not an endorsement as a “real” food but only as an explanation of what it is.) Read the packages carefully.

WHEAT GERM – The raw embryo of the wheat.

WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR – Ground from hard wheat. Because the germ has not been removed, it can spoil easily. It is best to grind your own flour but if you are unable to do so, try to purchase fresh whole wheat flour and keep it refrigerated or frozen. Use for bread baking, etc.

WHOLE WHEAT PASTRY FLOUR – Ground from soft wheat. This is a lighter flour than whole wheat and can be used in pastries, cookies, cakes, etc. It has a low gluten content so is not suitable alone in recipes using yeast. Keep refrigerated or frozen.

WILD RICE – Not a true rice or grain, wild rice is an aromatic grass native to northeastern North America. It can be used in place of or in combination with brown rice. Wild rice needs more water for cooking – 3 to 4 cups water to 1 cup wild rice.

YOGURT – A custardlike, tangy, cultured dairy product; it can be used as a substitute for sour cream in recipes. Be sure to purchase yogurt containing live cultures and no refined sugar. Better yet, make your own!

© 1995-2013 Vickilynn Haycraft and Real Food Living. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this review may be copied, stored or transmitted in any medium, for any reason without prior written permission of the author.

About Vickilynn Parnes

A student of health and nutrition for 40+ years, Vickilynn Parnes has over 30 years of actual hands-on experience reviewing and personally using different tools of the homemaking vocation, focusing on the areas of health and nutrition. Vickilynn is a magazine columnist, product reviewer, cookbook author and radio talk show host, as well as being full-time mom to 5 children.