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For years, the Mediterranean "diet" has been touted by many nutrition experts as a way to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and more, but the advice had been loosely based on the results of "observational studies." People living in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, including Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey, tend to have a lower risk of those diseases. These folks consume a bounty of fresh and wholesome fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, beans, olive oil, nuts and seeds.
However, the evidence favoring a Mediterranean-style eating plan just got much stronger. A major clinical study published this week in The New England Journal of Medicine found that about 30% of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented with a Mediterranean-style eating plan. Test subjects for this experimental study were selected if they had risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as type 2 diabetes, smoker, hypertension, elevated LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, overweight or obesity, or a family history of premature heart disease. The scientists randomly assigned the 7,447 male and female subjects (ages 55-80) into one of three groups:
- Mediterranean diet plan plus 4 tablespoons olive oil daily
- Mediterranean diet plan plus a 1 ounce mixed nuts (walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts), or
- A low-fat diet plan
The results of this study now position the Mediterranean diet as a powerful eating plan when it comes to the prevention of heart disease. If you want to compare your daily diet to the Mediterranean plan used in the study, here’s the checklist: Read More ›
The latest, most thought-provoking healthy headlines…
How to Fix 17 Basic Cooking Mistakes
I'm an experienced cook who writes about food for a living, and even I learned a few things from this Real Simple slideshow.
People are focusing more on food quality over just calories
Calories might be king, but more of us are paying attention to the quality of those calories, SmartBrief tells us.
Adults gobbling fewer calories from fast food
Perhaps linked to the previous study, we're bypassing the drive-thru more often, according to USA Today.
Diet And Acne: For A Clearer Complexion, Cut The Empty Carbs
When your mom told you to lay off the junk food to get rid of zits, she might have been partially right, NPR's The Salt blog says. Read More ›
Pick up a copy of the March issue Health magazine (with Jillian Michaels on the cover) to read how SparkPeople member Megen Karlinsey (MERTNESS) lost 150 pounds! Find out how this Washington schoolteacher, who once weighed 300 pounds, beat her sugar addiction and broke the cycle of emotional eating.
Way to go, Megen! Read More ›
A roundup of the latest healthy living headlines that had us talking…
Bob Harper: "I Drank The CrossFit Kool-Aid" Find out what this Biggest Loser trainer really thinks about the popular workout. from Huffington Post Healthy Living
That Loving Feeling Takes a Lot of Work (Does that headline make anyone else think of Top Gun?) As most of us know, love takes work, far more than Hollywood romantic comedies would have us believe. This article offers great advice. From the NYT Well blog
How to Make Homemade Protein Bars: The Nutrition Bar Formula that Ended my PowerBar Addiction We can't wait to try this recipe at home! Protein bar lovers, take note! From Fit Bottomed Eats Read More ›
A prominent bioethicist is making headlines this week with his unconventional (and, some say, mean-spirited) plan to curb obesity rates and related health-care costs. Dr. Daniel Callahan recommends taking a tactic similar to one that was employed in the fight against smoking: attaching a social stigma to it. Callanan, who at age 82 is not overweight but was a smoker, proposed in a new report that strong social pressure could be brought against those who are overweight. He says that it worked for smoking and could work for obesity, too, but his opponents are calling it "fat-shaming" and bullying.
In the abstract of his report, he poses some heavy questions: "How far can government and business go in trying to change behavior that harms health, what are the limits of market freedom for industry, and how do we look upon our bodies and judge those of others?" We'd like to know what you think. Would that work? Did you ever feel shamed because of your weight? What was your reaction?
Read More ›
I've started blogging over at Huffington Post Healthy Living, where twice a month I'll write about the latest headlines in nutrition and weight loss.
This week I'm addressing the issue of downplaying the severity of the obesity epidemic in the media. I'd love it if you could read the blog and let me know what you think:
Why Downplaying the Obesity Epidemic, Even in a Single Story, is Hazardous to Public Health
Read More ›
I turned the corner and headed down aisle #6--the baking section of my local grocery store--eyes peeled for the "new kid" on the shelf. The new zero-calorie sweetener, Nectresse from the makers of Splenda. There it was, in canister and packet form. The label read: "100% natural" and "made from monk fruit." Really? 100% natural? Made from monk fruit?
Now, it was time to investigate.
What is monk fruit? Monk fruit (a dark-green, plum size fruit) comes from the plant, Siraitia grosvenorii, which is native to southern China and northern Thailand. The fruit also goes by the names Swingle fruit, Buddha fruit, luo han guo or luo han kuo. This fruit is noted for its intense sweetness, which comes from naturally occurring sweet constituents called mogrosides. In pure form, mogrosides are up to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. There are five different mogrosides, numbered from I to V, with mogroside V being the desired component. To remove the interfering components and aromas, manufacturers used an ethanol solvent solution.
How do they extract the sweetener? The end product is a powdered concentrate of mogroside V which is about 150 times sweeter than table sugar (depending on the mogroside V concentration). This non-nutritive sweetener is calorie-free and diabetic-safe, as it does not raise blood sugar levels. The powdered concentrate is very soluble in water and ethanol, heat stable, and can be stored for long periods of time without changes in taste, smell, or appearance.
Is it safe to eat? It is classified by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). Therefore, it can be used as a tabletop sweetener, as a food and beverage ingredient (gums, baked goods, snack bars, candy, drinks, etc), or as a component in other sweetener blends (since it may have an aftertaste at higher levels on its own). There is very preliminary research investigating possible health benefits—anti-cancer properties, antioxidant activities, benefits for diabetes with insulin production. However, much more research is needed before any health claims can be made.
What is in Nectresse? And is it 100% natural? Read More ›
The wassailers arrived on stage during the local production of the Boar’s Head Yule Log Festival. Their voices boomed, yet blended beautifully.
Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wand'ring
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year.
Sitting in front of me was a little girl. She turned to the woman sitting next to her: “Mommy, Mommy,” she asked. “What’s a wassailer?”
Back in the day, the Christmas season made the rich a little more generous. Therefore bands of peasants and beggars would dance and sing their way through the streets of England in hopes of obtaining drinks from the wealthy's wassail bowls, which contained a hearty combination of hot ale, beer, apple slices, and spices. 'Twas a perfect brew to warm a frozen nose and tingling toes, and these singers would head from home to home searching for more.
Since those carolers were walking door-to-door, they probably expended the wassail calories and didn't worry much about packing on the pounds. Today however, this is probably not the case. Not only can we blame alcohol for our weight gain, but many of us are drinking our calories instead of reaching for nutrient-dense foods.
A recently released data brief from the National Center for Health Statistics reported on the calories consumed from alcoholic beverages by 11,000 U.S. adults from 2007-2010. This information was obtained from adults, ages 20 and older, using 24-hour dietary recall interviews. The results are shocking! Read More ›
Our nation faced an unthinkable tragedy on the morning of December 14. The school shooting in Newtown, CT, instantly became something that we could not wrap our brains around. We try, but the answers that we seek do not come. We struggle to comprehend it as adults and as parents, to choose the right words when speaking with our children, and to figure out how we can protect those around us who are more precious than anything on earth.
On the one hand, it seems an impossible task to try to write anything that can even remotely address people’s needs in response to the horrific news that has been plastered on our television and computer screens, our mobile devices, and the black and white print around us. On the other hand, it feels inappropriate to write about anything else at this time. (I began writing this less than 24 hours after the event.)
In the aftermath of a tragedy that is beyond our comprehension, people’s initial shocked reactions include the questions: "How could this happen?" "Why?" "Who would do something like this?" Even those in the news media, visibly shaken by the event as they reported on it, asked those questions.
With time, we can come up with intellectual answers to these questions that focus on the identification of the perpetrator, realization of the individual’s background and history, and a piecing together of the events that led up to the incomprehensible. And with time, an increasing amount of the factual details will come together to tell a (perhaps fateful, and definitely tragic) tale.
The emotional dealings with the aftermath are a much different matter. Read More ›
Thanks for making the first month of SparkPeople Radio such a successful one! If you've been listening regularly, thank you! (And please share your feedback with us.) If you haven't tuned in yet, what are you waiting for?
This radio show is available anytime, anywhere, and you can listen to all the episodes whenever you want. No matter where you live, you can always tune in to SparkPeople Radio! We launch a new episode each Tuesday--and you get SparkPoints for tuning in. (Find details at the end of this blog or at www.sparkpeople.com/radio)
Here's what we've been talking about on SparkPeople Radio in the last few weeks: Read More ›
If you recently thought you heard some strange, frantic scream coming from the direction of southeastern Indiana, you were right. Your ears were not deceiving you. It was me, Dietitian Becky, mourning the death of my dear friend, the Ho-Hos. I am not the only one in mourning. In fact, nutrition professor and food activist Marion Nestle is doing the same.
It was actually my teenage son who informed me recently of this crisis. He keeps me up-to-date on most of the tragedies of the world. ''Hey, Mom,'' he asked, ''What are you going to do without your Ho-Hos?''
''Without my Ho-Hos? What the heck are you talking about?'' I responded.
If you haven’t heard, Hostess Brands is in deep financial trouble, closing plants, and wants to sell off its brands. It has been reported that more than 18,500 people will lose their jobs and full liquidation is expected since mediation with the striking bakers’ union has failed. Bye-bye Twinkies, so long Ho-Hos, sayonara Sno Balls!
While there isn’t a package of these Hostess products currently in my pantry and I didn't storm the supermarket the way others have, they have been known to appear from time to time.
While I was never a fan of the golden sponge cake with creamy filling known as Twinkies, I adored those cylindrical, frosted, cream-filled cakes. As a child, these Ho-Hos were not found in my Flintstones lunch box often--mom said they were too expense and she made cookies weekly for my school lunch treat. However, on special occasions, those Ho-Hos would show up to brighten my school day. Heck, yes, I would get requests to trade, but nothing was worth giving up my Ho-Hos. Except when I entered fourth grade and would share one (just one!) of the Ho-Hos with my beau, Terry.
Today, as a Registered Dietitian, I really can’t report much nutritional value of these Hostess goodies. But they do teach perhaps another lesson (or two)! Read More ›
As you might have seen--or heard--by now, SparkPeople has launched our own radio show!
We're excited to share with you SparkPeople Radio, a premium on-demand radio show that lets you listen to our latest and greatest content anytime! This is unlike anything we've done before, though we have done radio interviews in the past. This time, we have our OWN SHOW, designed with you in mind! WooHoo!
Here's what people are saying so far:
"I listened yesterday and LOVED it. I am addicted to podcasts, so this one will definitely go on my playlist. Thanks."
"I'm excited about this! The SparkCoach videos have really been helping me to keep motivated every day and my daily work commute is just about an hour long. It'd be perfect to stick this broadcast on my iPod and listen on my way to work.
Cool idea! I look forward to the 10 minute segments (good call on that, I'd never be able to do the full hour at once)."
"I tried this last night. I love their upbeat talk and information! Thank you SP."
"I had never been very interested in talk radio as most "talk shows" cover very dull topics, are filled with trivial nonsense, or have such monotone, dry commentators that I can't keep the peepers open.
NOT SO WITH SPARKRADIO!!! I really enjoy listening to Lily and Karen - what great ladies!!! I have a little over an hour commute - just the perfect time to fit in a show (or most of one at least).
I love that the episodes are broken into smaller segments for the times that I don't get to hear the entire show, I can just pick up at the last segment. The downside, now I want more than once a week programming - the upside, at least as a digital version I won't be wearing out the tape re-listening to my favorites!! ;-)
Lily and Karen -- Welcome!!! Thanks for being so positive, energetic, sincere, and enthusiastic while presenting relevant, important topics!!
SparkPeople -- Thank you for adding such a wonderful element to your great program!!!"
About the Show
We have paired with some of the best in the business--this is a partnership with ERN (Entertainment Radio Network), where we are working with veteran TV and radio host Alan Taylor and the former head of ABC Radio, John McConnell, who launched ESPN radio! Plus, we have brought on two fantastic hosts who are also SparkPeople members.
Best friends, authors and empowerment experts Lily Hills (above, right) and Karen Hudson (above, left) are the energetic and inspiring hosts of SparkPeople Radio—and SparkPeople members. This lively duo delivers a weekly mental tune-up as they bring you an hour of SparkPeople Radio that is enlightening, empowering, and entertaining. Learn more about Lily and Karen (those links go to their SparkPages, so leave them some comments!). They are fun!
Here's a quick video that they taped to share with all of you: Read More ›
What we're reading this week:
Power Up With These Healthy Pomegranate Recipes: This Fall favorite is an antioxidant powerhouse — we're talking superfood status — and not too shabby when it comes to vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. --FitSugar
25 Of The Healthiest Herbs And Spices Ever: The aromatic flavorings can transform a dish without adding calories or fat (for the most part). But many of the roots and seeds and leaves and flowers pack surprising additional health benefits of their own. --Huffington Post Healthy Living
Can Exercise Protect the Brain From Fatty Foods? In recent years, some research has suggested that a high-fat diet may be bad for the brain, at least in lab animals. Can exercise protect against such damage? --New York Times Read More ›
Just about everywhere you look someone is using technology. I find it's actually difficult to go out and not see people texting or playing games on their cell phones. It seems that using our phones and other mobile devices (iPads, tablets, laptops, etc.) is such a common thing now. According to this article, the National Sleep Foundation found that "more than 90 percent of Americans regularly use a computer or electronic device of some kind in the hour before bed." With the use of electronic devices like that, researchers are finding that the "exposure to light from computer tablets significantly lowered levels of the hormone melatonin, which regulates our internal clocks and plays a role in the sleep cycle." This can cause disturbances in our sleep, along with increasing our risk of obesity and diabetes.
Read More ›
Whenever friends or family see me running around our neighborhood, they know it’s me right away. I have a very distinct run, or as I like to joke, a distinct “shuffle”. Over the years I’ve tried to adjust the way I run, because I think it could help me get faster. So far, that has been totally unsuccessful. I blame my dad for the problem because he runs exactly the same way I do. It must be genetic.
My problem is that all of the movement in my legs comes from the knee down. My feet don’t come very far off the ground and I don’t have any lift in my knees. I know if I could get my knees up and my quads working a little more, I’d have additional power and potentially, additional speed. I’ve worked with a running coach to try and correct the issue, but at this point, it’s hard to change something I’ve been doing for so long. Perhaps if I would have tried much earlier in my running career, I would have had more success. A new study proposes that people naturally become better runners, just by running more. Although I can’t say the same applied in my case, the results are pretty interesting.
The study, published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, followed 10 women on a 10-week, self-paced program for new runners. Each woman visited a lab before started the program to have their aerobic capacity, running form and running economy assessed. “Running economy, also known as running efficiency, is a measure of how much oxygen a person uses to run at a particular pace — in essence, how hard it is to run at that speed. Efficiency is considered one of the determinants of running success. A more economical runner requires less energy than others and presumably should be able to run farther or faster.” It’s no surprise that the new runners were not very economical in the beginning, but that improved as the 10-week training program progressed.
Additional tests over the 10-weeks found that the women improved their speed and endurance, and also improved their running economy (their ability to use oxygen increased by about 8.5%.) There were also changes in running stride which ended up making running easier. For example, their legs became more flexed as they left the ground which allows for a quicker turnover and increased speed. They also increased stability in their feet as they struck the ground, which indicates becoming more comfortable with the movement of running.
This study was done on a very small, specific group of people. The results won’t necessarily translate to all runners, but the study’s author feels it can lead to some important takeaways: “You can optimize your gait naturally,” she says, “by becoming more conscious of your running movement and how it feels.” Your body, at least in the early stages of becoming a runner, can be a fine and knowledgeable coach.”
My advice is to stick with what feels comfortable. I know I’ll never have the long stride and leg lift of an Olympic sprinter. But as long as I can stay injury-free and enjoy what I’m doing, that’s what is most important to me.
Have you considered becoming a runner but don’t know where to begin? Check out SparkPeople’s Running Center, where you can find articles, training programs, virtual races to join and much more!
What do you think?
Read More ›