The SparkPeople Blog

All Entries For nutrition

How Fasting Affects Your Health


Many religions recommend fasting for both spiritual and/or health benefits. All religious fasts are different: Some restrict certain foods, while others only restrict the times of day in which one can eat. Few religious fasts involve a long-term or complete abstinence from food, but no matter what the nature of the fast is, you may wonder just how it really impacts your health.
 
Three religious fasts have been studied the most:
  • Islamic Ramadan: During the holy month of Ramadan, which varies according to the lunar calendar, Muslims abstain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset.
  • The 3 annual fasting periods for Greek Orthodox Christians:  The Nativity Fast (40 days prior to Christmas), Lent (48 days prior to Easter), and The Assumption (15 days in August).
  • Biblical-Based Daniel Fast:  This fast typically incorporates a 21-day fasting period.
 
Read on to find out how these fasts impact your health and weight-loss efforts.
Posted 3/27/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 1 comments   4,542 views
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How to Prevent Muscle Loss When Losing Weight


When starting a weight-loss plan, most of us hope to lose body fat, specifically—not muscle mass. But when we lose weight, a large percentage of the total weight lost can be muscle. Is there any way to reduce that muscle loss?
Posted 3/22/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 2 comments   8,292 views
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You Asked: Can You Really Eat Too Much Protein?


For a healthy adult, eating more protein than your recommended daily range once a week or so won't have any major impact on your long-term health or weight loss (assuming you still eat approximately the same amount of calories for the day). Based on your food selections for that day, if you consume a larger-than-normal amount of protein you may notice:
  • A change in bowel habits in the next 24-48 hours (due to a lower fiber intake)
  • A sluggish or light-headed feeling (if you also ate very few carbs)
  • Some abdominal discomfort if your fat intake sky-rocketed
  • No noticeable changes at all
However, you may be wondering how a long-term high-protein diet affects your health in the long run...
Posted 3/21/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 19 comments   53,964 views
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Why Fruits & Vegetables Are So Good for You


The 2010 U.S. dietary guidelines recommend that all Americans eat more fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. Government guidelines aside, you surely grew up with your mom telling you to eat your vegetables. Or maybe you even hear it now from your doctor.  
 
When you're new to adopting a healthy diet, you may wonder: What's so good about fruits and vegetables anyway? What kind of benefits will I see if I eat more?  Here are four good reasons to be like Bugs Bunny and chomp away on more fresh produce.
Posted 3/9/2014  12:00:00 PM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 2 comments   4,486 views
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You Asked: Are 'Negative Calorie' Foods Real (or Too Good to Be True)?


You might have heard that you can eat as much of you want of certain foods because it takes more energy to burn them than they actually contain. But is it true? Can eating more of these foods really help you lose weight?
Posted 2/28/2014  6:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 2 comments   9,262 views
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The Healthiest Choices at Panera Bread


These days, it can be really tough to find a bite to eat on the go that won't break the calorie bank. Fast food chains are convenient, but most options are loaded down with excess calories, fat and sodium. Panera Bread has emerged in recent years as a healthier choice in a sea of burger joints. Although some of its menu items aren't the greatest (720 calories for a bowl of clam chowder, anyone?), we've scoured the menu to find some decent choices the next time you find yourself in a pinch for food—right now.

Panera has stepped up their nutritional game recently with their Power Menu, a selection of high-protein, low-carb entrees with some seriously impressive nutritional stats. We've included some of them in our top six favorite healthy Panera entrees below, followed by 10 more of our honorable mentions. (Note that salads do not include dressing nutritional information.) 
Posted 2/23/2014  10:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 208 comments   74,708 views
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The 15 Worst Foods of the Year


Each year many people make food-related New Year's resolutions or goals. Figuring out how to make dining out fit in with those goals can be a big challenge. Over the years, we've highlighted many of the healthier options in our Diet Friendly Dining series. Last year we were encouraged by the increased number of nutrition conscious restaurant options that were available.

This year, we've seen all sorts of new foods hit the market. Some, like the recently invented Cronut, throw nutrition caution to the wind. Others, like Satisfries, are an attempt to create tasty lower-calorie favorites. We scoured restaurant menus to find the biggest nutrition disasters so you'll know what to avoid when eating out in the new year.  
Posted 12/27/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 31 comments   69,944 views
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16 Seasonal Supermarket Treats Worth Trying


Which flavors come to mind when you think about fall? Apple, caramel, cinnamon, ginger? Probably no flavor is more popular or ubiquitous right now than pumpkin. While Starbucks is celebrating 10 years since they first offered their famous Pumpkin Spice Latte, it seems like every food company and restaurant under the sun is offers limited edition pumpkin delights these days—everything from yogurt to granola bars to tea.

But just like the aforementioned sugary latte, many pumpkin-flavored treats are high in calories, fat and sugar (or all three). (Check out our list of fall's most fattening foods here.) In many cases, you'd be better off having a slice of pumpkin pie, than that "innocent" impulse item tempting you from the checkout line!

So which pumpkin treats are worth trying this fall? We scoured supermarket shelves to discover seasonal offerings that will let you indulge—without breaking the calorie bank.
Posted 11/1/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Megan Patrick : 25 comments   21,829 views
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Is the Junk-Food 'Addiction' Study Junk Science?


"I'm fat because of Oreo cookies!" screamed the woman as she entered the weight-loss class I was coaching last week. In hand, she waved the press release from Connecticut College, which blared the warning, "Oreos are just as addictive as drugs!" 
 
 
"I am addicted to certain foods, just like those rats were addicted to Oreo cookies," she continued on.  "It's supposed to be worse than being addicted to cocaine. How am I ever going to be successful with my weight loss?"
Posted 10/23/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 65 comments   16,461 views
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Join the 30-Day 'Fit Food' Challenge!


Now is the perfect time to kick off a brand new challenge to help you get on your way to your healthiest, fittest self yet: 30 Days of Fit Food. It's a great way to kick the season and head into the holidays (just around the corner!) feeling your best.
Posted 9/26/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Melinda Hershey : 26 comments   85,060 views
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We Tried It: Frozen Greek Yogurt


Greek yogurt is all the rage because of its high protein content and versatility. It can be eaten like traditional yogurt (sweetened with fruit or honey, if you like), whirled into smoothies or used in place of sour cream in recipes. It's become so popular and has such a good reputation as being "healthy," that it's even showing up outside of the yogurt tub. You'll find the buzz words "Greek yogurt" outside of the dairy case these days in some unusual places like coating packaged granola bars, inside cereal boxes, mixed with store-bought hummus and even in frozen desserts.
 
We decided to take a look at this trend and see whether frozen Greek yogurt desserts offer any health benefits when compared to regular frozen yogurt. Plus, we wanted to answer the most important question of all: How does it taste?!
Posted 8/21/2013  8:00:00 AM By: Megan Patrick : 45 comments   38,761 views
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Food Showdown: How Sweet is Your Tea?


As temperatures continue to climb this summer, sitting out on the porch with a tall glass of iced tea might sound like the perfect way to relax and refresh. Iced tea certainly isn't new on the beverage scene, but we have been slowly increasing our consumption of the warm-weather staple; last year, a national consumer survey reported that 10% of U.S. consumers are purchasing more iced tea than they did in 2009. The survey also revealed that 73% of tea drinkers prefer green tea for its antioxidants and health benefits. Drink companies have taken note of America's love of green tea and have produced dozens of flavored varieties over the past few years; however, many of those varieties pack a mean sugar punch that rivals the most sugary soft drinks on the market.

Between two popular flavored green tea varieties, Arizona Georgia Peach Green Tea and Snapple Peach Green Tea, which one should you choose if you're watching your sugar intake?
 
Posted 6/20/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Melinda Hershey : 73 comments   26,972 views
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The Healthiest Leafy Green--and How to Eat It


We all know it's a good idea to eat leafy green veggies. They're chock-full of nutritious vitamins and minerals, and they're low in calories to boot. But if you can only stomach so much green in your life, which leafy green should you choose for the maximum nutritional benefits: Spinach, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard, or collard greens?
Posted 6/6/2013  9:00:00 AM By: Melinda Hershey : 85 comments   49,036 views
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To Beef or Not to Beef?


Red meat gets a bad rap sometimes. Criticized for its high levels of fat and cholesterol, it's been avoided in the diet world for years. However, not all red meat is created equal; when choosing the right cuts in moderation, beef can be a great source of iron, protein and zinc. Between 3 ounces of cooked flank steak and 3 ounces of cooked 80/20% ground beef, which is the leaner choice?
Posted 5/30/2013  10:00:00 AM By: Melinda Hershey : 65 comments   40,653 views
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In the News: 6 Things You Don't Know About Your Muscles


A round-up of the most interesting and thought-provoking stories of the week.

Advice on Practicing Yoga in Middle Age, Part 1
Dr. Loren Fishman, a back-pain and rehabilitative medicine specialist who studied yoga under B.K.S. Iyengar, answers readers questions about how to safely practice and alleviate pain in the first of three segments. A must-read for anyone who practices yoga, anyone who wants to, or anyone with back or nerve pain. NYT.com

6 Things You Don't Know About Your Muscles
Our muscles do more than most of us realize. Tip #1: Think of them like “scaffolding for your entire body.” Don't miss the rest... Shape.com

Best Road Races for Beginners
If you’re a new runner interested in road races, you’ll want to check out this list of events known for their crowd support, good swag, and non-competitive vibe. Self.com

Frank advice from Star Jones
A decade after weight-loss surgery and three years after open-heart surgery at age 44, the former View star shares her thoughts on healthy living. Philly.com
 
What 100 Calories Look Like: Frozen Treats
Craving something cool and creamy? Look before you lick. FitSugar.com


Posted 5/18/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 11 comments   18,835 views
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