Dictionary of sustainable and healthy eating

We have built a dictionary with dozens of relevant concepts on sustainable and healthy eating. And you can deepen your knowledge by consulting the related information on our blog Articles – EAT: LIFE or some other webpage or source. Let us begin!!!



As explained in depth in our relevant article, additives are substances normally not consumed as food, but used as one more ingredient with a technological purpose, usually in manufacturing, preparing, transporting or storing food. Additives are legally regulated in most countries and regions. Here is the case of Catalonia.


The Catalan Council for Protection of Nature, the Environment and Sustainability was the first institution to define what an agricultural park is: “an open and delimited space, the purpose of which is to facilitate and guarantee the continuity of agricultural use, preserving it from its incorporation into the urban process, promoting specific programmes that allow the development of its environmental and socio-cultural-economic potential, and protect the natural heritage of its surroundings”.


Agroecology is a type of farming based on organic farming practices, including both scientific and traditional knowledge. It is characterised by a socio-political vision of comprehensive food systems transformation. This is why agroecology is defined as a scientific discipline, a collection of farming practices, and a social movement.


The Welfair Certification is an independent certification based on the Welfare Quality Network and regulated in Spain by the Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology (IRTA). The certification is awarded after evaluations and controls that allow producers and slaughterhouse managers to know the welfare conditions promoted by their facilities and processes and make continuous improvements. This way, good practices on animal welfare are ensured that affect the sustainability, animal friendliness, and the quality of their results.


The human species has a dominant role on Earth, a fact that has led some scientists to identify our time as the Anthropocene, a new geological era defined by planetary changes mainly caused by the consequences of human activity. The 7.7 billion people that inhabit the world nowadays induce great changes that affect our own species and the living conditions of all the other living organisms.


Aquaculture, aquafarming or, less commonly, aquiculture, consists in growing aquatic organisms, that is fish, molluscs, crustaceans and plants by means of some kind of intervention in the breeding or developing process aimed at increasing production. For example, periodic storing, feeding, protection from predators, etc. Aquaculture provides more than half of the fish consumed worldwide.


An aquifer is a geological formation made up of permeable rock that stores or bears underground water. Aquifers allow water availability in areas devoid of natural surface waters or lacking connection to large supra-municipal supply networks. These water reserves may be at different depths and supply water wells all around the world. Here you will find information on the case of Catalonia.



A material is considered to be biodegradable when it can be broken down into its constituent chemical elements through the action of biological agents and different environmental conditions. In other words, biodegradability is the ability of something to decompose.


According to the Advisory Council for Sustainable Development of Catalonia, biodiversity is the variability of all living organisms in all ecosystems, terrestrial and aquatic and the ecological complexes of which they are parts. This includes biodiversity within each species, among species and within the ecosystem. Biodiversity is important for environmental, economic, cultural, emotional, and ethical reasons. It provides a collection of useful services and functions comprising the provision of food, fuels, fertile soils, clean air and waters, and raw matter. Biodiversity also contributes to human physical and emotional welfare and is a part of the natural and cultural heritage of each region.



A carcinogen is any substance, physical, chemical, or biological, with the ability to produce cancer in a living organism that has been exposed to it. Carcinogens are also known as ‘carcinogenic substances’. There are substances with potential carcinogenic effects in many chemical compounds in our environment, such as tobacco smoke, pesticides, etc. Carcinogens may also occur in food. For example, in 2015, WHO categorised processed meats as carcinogenic to humans. Experts have reached the conclusion that 50 g of processed meat consumed daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.


The migration of chemicals into food is a process of diffusion and contamination of particles derived from packaging materials and their manufacturing processes. Chemical migration is always a problem, but sometimes it may become a serious threat to health.


The European Parliament defines ‘circular economy’ as a production and consumption model that involves sharing, renting, reusing, repairing, renewing and recycling existing materials and products as often as possible to create added value. In this way, the life cycle of products is extended. It contrasts with the traditional linear economic model, based mainly on the “use and throw away” concept, which requires large amounts of materials and energy and is highly polluting.



  • The use-by date indicates the day or month after which consumption of a particular food item is not safe. Consequently, no food should be consumed after its use-by date independently of the state of its packaging. Some kinds of foodstuff can be consumed safely after the use-by date if correctly frozen before such date. In any case, consumers should follow the instructions on the packaging carefully.
  • The best-before-date informs the consumer of the latest date before which the producer recommends consuming the food while maintaining the quality and organoleptic properties expected at the time of packaging. Now, after that time food may still be safely consumed if it meets certain requirements, such as having been correctly stored according to the instructions of the packaging, etc.


Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, a compound commonly known as DDT, is an insecticide banned in virtually all countries due to its long persistence and bioaccumulation in the environment. DDT is extremely toxic and dangerous to most animals, including humans. For a long time it was mainly used to control insect populations carrying diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, encephalitis, etc.


Deforestation is the process of the disappearance of forests and woodlands, mainly caused by human activity. According to Deforestation Fronts, a WWF study, the principal causes are commercial agriculture and excessive meat consumption on a global scale. This second reason leads to a continuous need to clear forest areas to create space for soybean crops, which will serve as feed for pigs and cows all over the world. Another crop causing the most deforestation is oil palm (Elaeis guineensis and E. oleifera) because of the palm oil contained in many processed and ultra-processed foods.


  • The central aim of the planetary diet is to provide good health while preserving planetary health by tackling climate change and pollution. It recommends the consumption of 2500 kcal/day and is based on an increased intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts and pulses, along with small portions of meat and dairy.
  • Traditional food cultures, with a high content of quality plant-based foods, have transitioned throughout the 20th century towards a globalised dietary model: the Western pattern diet. The reasons for this dietary change are associated with changes in habits and the environment: promotion and marketing of cheap hypercaloric foods by the food industry, urbanisation, lack of physical activity, etc. Take a look at our website Menjar canvia el món [Eating changes the world] to learn more about the Western pattern diet and its effects on sustainability and health.


According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), dioxins belong to the ‘dirty dozen’, a group of chemical compounds classified as ‘persistent organic pollutants’ (POPs). More than 90% of human exposure to dioxins occurs through food, in particular meat and dairy products, fish and seafood. Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, affect the immune system, interfere with hormones and even cause cancer.



És el consum d’insectes com aliment. Entre els humans, es practica en molts països, però sobretot a l’Amèrica Llatina, l’Àfrica i l’Àsia. Els insectes són molt rics en proteïna, nutrients i greixos saludables. La ingesta d’insectes, actualment, complementa la dieta d’aproximadament 2.000 milions de persones i té una gran quantitat d’avantatges ambientals, per a la salut de les persones i també a escala social i econòmica.



  • Organic farming is an agricultural method that aims to produce food using natural substances and processes. It involves criteria and techniques bearing on choices related to the environment and surroundings of the exploitation, the species and varieties of crops used, fertilisation, plant health, weed control and the harvesting of wild plants. By way of example, the choice of species and varieties to be cultivated, among other factors, has to be made based on maintaining the health of the crops, choosing those most resistant to pests and diseases and best adapted to local conditions.
  • Organic livestock farming is a method of animal husbandry in which livestock are born and reared according to specific criteria for housing, reproduction, feeding, cleanliness or health. Among other requirements, organic farms must provide the livestock with organically produced feed, sufficient space and living conditions for freedom of movement and adequate air renewal, lighting and temperature. Organic farming facilities must also meet other particular needs of each type of livestock and refrain from using any kind of growth promoters or amino acids.


  • When we talk about industrial fishing, we refer to the fishing activity carried out for commercial purposes through massive captures of fish. The aim is to sell the captures to fish markets. Environmental organisations denounce that industrial fishing exploits more than 55% of the ocean’s surface. Greenpeace describes that the fishing industry has fallen into overfishing and other harmful fishing practices that are destroying the oceans and marine biodiversity.
  • Sustainable fishing means leaving enough fish in the sea, and avoiding overfishing so that fish stocks can reproduce adequately, continually renew themselves, and remain healthy and productive. For fishing to be considered sustainable, it is also essential to respect marine ecosystems’ structure, productivity, function and diversity. It is also necessary to minimise the impact on non-target species, paying careful attention to protected, threatened or endangered populations, and having good enough management that allows fisheries to adapt to changes in the marine environment and comply with local, national and international law.
  • Spanish traditional fishermen define traditional fishing as one that cares about the marine and terrestrial environment. It uses passive fishing gear so that its impact on the marine environment is minimal. Artisanal fishing is daily and generates benefits for local communities. Because it fishes close to the coast, it does not consume as much fuel as industrial fishing, so the CO₂ emissions it generates are very low. Moreover, since it is a practice, it allows for higher quality and fresher products.


Flexitarianism is a type of diet based on the consumption of plant-based foods but also allows the consumption of meat and other animal products, sporadically and in moderation. It is therefore, more flexible than vegan or vegetarian diets.


  • A person is food insecure when they don’t have regular access to safe and nutritious food sufficient for normal growth, development and active and healthy life. This situation may be due to a lack of food availability or a lack of the resources necessary to obtain it. Food insecurity can be experienced at different levels of severity.
  • Food loss is the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by food suppliers in the chain, excluding retailers, food service providers and consumers.
  • As stated by FAO, food sovereignty consists of six main aspects: (1) food is more than a commodity; (2) food providers have value; (3) reducing the distance between producers and consumers; (4) placing control at the local level; (5) promoting knowledge and skills, and (6) compatibility with nature.
  • The Spanish law determines that fresh food products are those that, due to their natural characteristics, retain qualities suitable for marketing and consumption for less than 30 days or require regulated temperature conditions for marketing and transport.
  • Processed foods are those to which sugar, fats, salt, starches or others have been added to prolong shelf life, change texture, give them more intense flavours or make them more attractive. Most of them have 2 or 3 ingredients and are preserved or cooked, as in the case of canned vegetables, pulses and fruit, salted nuts, cured and smoked meats, canned fish, cheese, bread, etc.
  • As explained in the article Ultra-processed foods by the Health Channel of the Agency of Public Health of Catalonia, ultra-processed foods often have very long lists of ingredients, with little or no basic raw materials and the components used in processed foods: sugar, oils and fats, salt, antioxidants, stabilisers and preservatives. In addition, they contain substances and additives which, although safe, serve only to enhance or modify the taste and sensory aspects of the product. The processes involved in manufacturing these products are industrial, designed to be ready-to-eat, pre-cooked or only need to be heated. They tend to have intense flavour, attractive packaging, and strong and aggressive marketing campaigns. They also have a high economic return for the manufacturer and are often owned by large companies and corporations.
  • Did you know that, according to the Health Channel, a third of the calories consumed daily in our region comes from ultra-processed foods? The Agency of Public Health recommends reducing the consumption of ultra-processed to a minimum.


  • The carbon footprint is an indicator of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) associated with the life cycle of a product, service or organisation. It is quantified in CO2 equivalent emissions that are released into the atmosphere.
  • CO2 equivalent emissions: GHGs other than carbon dioxide, i.e. methane, nitrous oxide or hydrogenated fluorocarbons, among others, are converted to their carbon dioxide equivalent value based on their global warming potential.
  • The ecological footprint is an indicator of the land area that each person, city or territory needs to obtain the resources it consumes and assimilate the waste it generates. It is similar to the “carbon footprint” concept but estimates the productive area necessary to produce resources.
  • The water footprint is the total volume of freshwater used to create products or provide services. The water used may be due to consumption, pollution or evaporation.



Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms whose genetic material has been modified using modern genetic engineering techniques to give them a particular property. When the modification procedure involves the introduction of genes from another species, the resulting organisms are called transgenic.


We use the term ‘globalisation‘ to describe diverse economic, cultural, social and political changes that have shaped the world over the last 50 years. The increasing homogenisation of consumer tastes, the consolidation and expansion of corporate power, the sharp increase in wealth and poverty, and the growing presence of liberal democratic ideas are all attributed to globalisation.


The Great Acceleration refers to the most recent period of the Anthropocene in which the rate of impact of human activity on geology and terrestrial ecosystems increases significantly. It goes from the period after World War II to the present day.



It is an uncomfortable or painful physical sensation caused by insufficient food intake. It becomes chronic when a person does not consume enough calories (food energy) regularly to lead a normal, active and healthy life.



Liquid manure is the mixture of animal excrement and urine with the water used to clean the animal cages, stalls or pens. It consists of several polluting or environmentally harmful components, mainly a significant excess of nitrate and phosphate. Both nitrogen and phosphorus are macronutrients essential for plant life, so their excess causes the uncontrolled proliferation of life. In Catalonia, the amount of water affected by excess nitrates is alarming, especially considering the trend has worsened in recent years. These polluted waters are no longer drinkable, as the nitrates can go on to form nitrocomposites, which in many cases are carcinogenic.



A macrofarm is a factory farming facility in which the density of animals is extremely high, ranging from tens of thousands of units of pigs or cattle to as many as one million in the case of macro farms dedicated to chicken farming. Improvements in technology over the last decades, coupled with rapid population growth on a global scale, have led to an explosion in meat production. Macro farms can supply the meat market but at high environmental and animal welfare costs.


The factors that make it difficult to follow a healthy diet and contribute to malnutrition are diverse: lack of availability and access to healthy foods, poverty, unhealthy and superfluous food supply, dietary behaviour and the effects of climate change, among others. When we talk about malnutrition, we are talking about deficiencies, excesses and imbalances in a person’s caloric and nutrient intake. It comprises three broad groups: Undernutrition, which includes wasting (insufficient weight for height), stunting (insufficient height for age) and underweight (insufficient weight for age). Micronutrient malnutrition comprises micronutrient deficiencies (lack of important vitamins or minerals) or micronutrient excess. Overweight, obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases (such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers).


  • The farmers’ markets and stalls make fresh and healthy food accessible to the public, who can obtain organic, local and seasonal products directly from local producers. Here are some examples of farmers markets in Catalonia.
  • The main goal of the Green Markets is to promote the supply and consumption of local products and to increase the presence of fresh organic produce to guarantee a healthier diet. Barcelona offers at least eight such markets.


All plastic waste, regardless of size, is harmful to the environment, but microplastics pose a particular challenge given their minuscule size (some are 150 times smaller than human hair) and their ability to enter the food chain. They find their way into the rain, arctic ice cores, fish we eat and fruit and vegetables.



Neonicotinoids are a class of pesticides that are highly toxic to insects. They are systemic and end up in the pollen and flower nectar of treated crops, poisoning pollinators. Moreover, they are persistent and leach into streams, ponds and rivers, where they destroy aquatic life.


Overweight and obesity are linked, together with a lack of physical activity (sedentary lifestyle) and other unhealthy habits, to the development of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). NCDs include chronic health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and some cancers, responsible for 71% of premature mortality worldwide.



A wide range of factors -environmental, biological, economic, psychological and social- determine an obesogenic, i.e. obesity-supportive, environment. Among those factors, lack of physical activity, a sedentary lifestyle and a high-calorie diet are especially important.



Permaculture (or Permanent Agriculture) is the conscious design and maintenance of productive agricultural ecosystems with diversity, stability and resilience similar to natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people sustainably producing food, energy, shelter and goods for non-material needs.


A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances whose purpose is to control pests and transmitters of diseases, such as mosquitoes, ticks, rats and mice. In agriculture, they are used to control weeds, insect infestation and diseases. Pesticides include insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, algaecides, fungicides, etc. Using these products on crops involves the risk of exposing consumers to harmful chemicals through residues left after animal husbandry or crop processing. In addition, these substances are a danger to biodiversity. Bees, essential for producing a large part of human food, suffer greatly, and many species are becoming extinct because of pesticides.


More than a decade ago, a group of scientists proposed boundaries for nine environmental processes within which humanity could continue to develop for generations to come. Unfortunately, as we explain in this article, four of these processes have already exceeded the danger threshold: climate change, biodiversity loss, land use and biogeochemical cycles.


  • Locally grown food can be an environmentally friendly option, but only if we choose food that is in the season where we live. The energy cost of producing and storing food outside the natural growing seasons can be higher than transporting seasonal food further afield. Here you will find a seasonal calendar by month.



Recycling is a process in which used or refused objects are transformed into new raw materials ready for reuse. The benefits of recycling are: (a) using fewer raw materials and, therefore, fewer natural resources; (b) saving energy; and (c) generating less waste and fewer greenhouse gas emissions, among others.


Giving another life to the objects or packaging we acquire is key for several reasons: (1) It reduces the volume of waste each person generates. (2) It makes it possible to manufacture new objects from materials without any production cost (neither economic nor environmental). (3) It helps to change consumption habits and how we see the world, changing the “buy, use and throw away” cycle to introduce reuse into our lives.



  • It is the sale made directly by producers or groups of agricultural producers to the final consumer without the intervention of any intermediary.
  • It is the sale made by producers or groups of agricultural producers to the final consumer, with the intervention of a single intermediary.


Sustainable development meets people’s needs without compromising the possibilities of future generations. It encompasses three fundamental elements that must complement each other in harmony: environmental, economic and social sustainability.



  • Fair trade is an alternative kind of trade that aims to achieve more equitable trade relations between countries deemed rich and those considered developing. It rests upon ethical and environmental considerations, as opposed to the exclusively economic criteria of traditional trade.
  • Local trade encompasses all seasonal products grown or produced a short distance from their final selling place. According to the Generalitat de Catalunya, local-trade foods are agri-food products acquired directly from the producers or through one intermediary.



Donald Watson was one of the people who laid the foundations of veganism in 1944. He founded the Vegan Society and stated that: Veganism is “a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude —as far as is possible and practicable— all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” Vegans are critical of clothing made from animals (such as fur and wool), zoos, aquariums or circuses with animals. They do not accept their use in technological or scientific studies nor endorse cosmetic products or medicines tested on animals.


The vegetarian diet excludes food of animal origin to a greater or lesser extent. Its basis is foodstuffs of plant origin, including cereals, vegetables, fresh fruit, nuts, pulses, tubers, seeds, and vegetable oils and fats. The vegan or strict vegetarian diet excludes all types of meat, fish, seafood, eggs and dairy products, while the lacto-ovo vegetarian option admits eggs, milk and other dairy products. 

Did you know all the concepts in our dictionary? Did you find the glossary useful? If you did and you want it to be known by other people, we encourage you to share it on social networks and promote sustainable and healthy eating with us!

We also invite you to visit the Menja, Actua, Impacta [Eat, Act, Impact] exhibition and deepen your knowledge of these concepts. Join the commitment to take care of the planet and your health through food! Commit you too to taking care of our planet and your health through eating! We need you!!!