It’s a cruel fact: Many of the foods that are potentially good for us also have names seemingly designed to trip us up. Who among us did not have the red-in-the-face moment of learning that quinoa wasn’t pronounced “kee-noah”? To spare us all future embarrassment in the aisles of the Health Food Hut, here’s a guide to several food words known to cause verbal stumbles.
What it is: This dark purple berry is now ubiquitous in health-food store products everywhere, thanks to its reputed superfood powers. It’s a storehouse of antioxidants and may help support the immune system.
How to say it: You’ll sound like a pro at the smoothie shack when you ask to have “ah-sah-EE” added to the mix.
Agar (also, Agar-Agar)
What it is: This gelatinous substance is derived from red algae and used as a thickener and gelling agent in foods like puddings, jelly candies, soups and sauces. Because it comes from a plant (unlike gelatin, which is derived from animals), it’s popular with vegetarians and vegans who can’t resist a good pudding.
How to say it: It’s pronounced “AH-ger,” which, beer lovers will note, rhymes with lager.
What it is: More commonly called celery root in the United States, celeriac is a somewhat unsung hero of the root vegetable family. Although the sweet, nutty root has a creamy, almost buttery, consistency when cooked, it’s low in calories and has decent stores of vitamin C and potassium.
How to say it: True, it’s related to celery — but avoid calling it “celery-ack.” The name is pronounced “se-LAIR-ee-ack.”
What it is: One of the so-called ancient grains, Kamut is actually a trademarked name for Khorasan wheat. The grain packs more protein than conventional wheat.
How to say it: Most people refer to this grain by its trademarked name, which is pronounced “kah-MOOT.”
What it is: This fermented milk drink is like yogurt on steroids, delivering impressive numbers of gut-friendly probiotics.
How to say it: Merriam-Webster suggests the proper Russian pronunciation, “keh-FEAR,” but many American fans of the drink prefer to call it “KEE-fer” (call it the Kiefer Sutherland effect).
What it is: A French lettuce with small leaves, mache is sometimes called corn salad or lamb’s lettuce. It has a unique nutty flavor and provides more iron than spinach, plus a hit of beta carotene.
How to say it: Remember mosh pits? Those concert flashbacks will now come in handy at the farmers market — “mosh” is how you pronounce this type of green.
What it is: The leaves from the South African roobois (or “red bush”) plant are traditionally used to make tea — one that is caffeine-free, naturally sweet and rich in antioxidants.
How to say it: When ordering your next chai latte spin-off, impress the baristas by using the correct pronunciation: “ROY-boss.”
What it is: Just call it wheat meat. For those who eschew animal products — but have no fear of gluten — this meat substitute made from wheat gluten can be used in a variety of vegetarian recipes, masquerading as anything from sliced deli turkey to Buffalo “chicken” wings.
How to say it: Just like the devil, but with a slight change in inflection — “SAY-tan.”
What it is: This herb, a member of the ginger family, is the primary spice used in Indian curry. Lots of research is being done on its anti-inflammatory properties, which means it may help protect against a variety of diseases, including arthritis, cancer, colitis and Alzheimer’s.
How to say it: Here’s one that’s actually as easy as it looks. Just say “TER-me-rick.”
What it is: You’ll find this popular type of Japanese seaweed in miso soup and seaweed salads (and you can also buy it dried to eat as a crunchy snack). It’s low in calories and rich in magnesium and potassium — but can also be high in sodium.
How to say it: Even if you’re not from Japan, you can still expertly say “wah-KAH-may.”
Sally Wadyka is a Boulder, Colorado-based journalist who writes about nutrition, health and wellness.