Melissa Rudy

A lifelong Cincinnatian, Melissa earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from University of Cincinnati before breaking into the online content field in 2000. As a Digital Journalist for SparkPeople, she enjoys helping others meet their wellness goals by writing about all aspects of healthy living. An avid runner and group fitness addict, Melissa lives in Loveland with her guitarist husband and three feisty daughters.


Read More of Melissa's Blogs:

Plateau Busters: Members & Experts Share Their Tips for Success

Who says losing weight is hard? Just a few weeks into your new, healthy lifestyle, you've already dropped a full pants size and your weight loss is in the double digits. You've come to love stepping on the scale, feeling as giddy as a kid on Christmas morning as you watch the pounds melt away. Clothes from the "too-snug" section of your closet are now in your regular rotation, and your goal weight no longer seems as realistic as scaling Mt. Everest.

Posted 9/18/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 22 comments   6,212 views

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Snack Smarter with These 30+ Healthy Ideas

You woke up early, got in a pre-dawn workout and ate the healthy breakfast you prepped the night before. At work, you park as far from the door as possible and turn a blind eye to the breakroom donuts. When lunchtime rolls around, you resist the urge to join the group for Chinese food and stick to the salad you packed. But then three o’clock hits. Lunch is a distant memory, your belly is growling, your energy is flagging and you’ve been working so hard—haven’t you earned a little treat? Before you know it, you’ve fallen prey to a bag of vending machine chips, your co-worker’s candy jar or [insert Bad Snack Choice here].

Posted 8/25/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 84 comments   12,634 views

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Should You Add Pond Scum to Your Diet?

When you see slimy, blue-green algae in a body of water, chances are you don’t think about grabbing a spoon. In fact, pond scum in its natural form is quite the opposite of appetizing—so it may seem strange that it’s become one of today’s top health food trends.

Also known as spirulina, the algae is composed of beneficial bacteria called cyanobacteria, which live on the surface of freshwater or saltwater lakes, ponds and oceans—it can even be found on moist rocks in the desert and in the Antarctic. It’s not new—many centuries before it broke onto the health scene as a trendy green, spirulina was a dietary staple of the Aztecs, who collected it from Lake Texcoco in central Mexico, and African natives, who harvested it from Lake Chad in west-central Africa.
 
Today, health food companies are adding this scummy staple to everything from coffee and iced tea to smoothies, energy bars and ice cream. You can also buy spirulina as a powder or pill from AmazonWalmartGNC and dozens of other supplement shops. With its brilliant blue hue, it is also approved by the FDA as a substitute for artificial food coloring.

Nutritional Makeup of Spirulina

A single tablespoon (7 grams) of dried spirulina powder contains the following nutrients:

  • 4 grams of protein (60 to 70 percent of its dry weight)
  • 2.0 milligrams iron (11%)
  • 0.167 milligrams thiamin, B1, (11%)
  • 0.257 milligrams riboflavin, B2, (15%)
  • 0.897 milligrams niacin, (4%)
  • 0.427 milligrams copper (21%)

The super powder is also a good source of magnesium, potassium and manganese. As an added bonus for those trying to lose weight, each tablespoon has only one gram of fat.

Potential Health Benefits of Spirulina

  • Protein Boost: The high ratio of protein in spirulina could help to boost energy, fuel your muscles and keep you feeling fuller longer.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Spirulina contains the powerful antioxidant phycocyanin, which helps to fight the chronic inflammation that can be a contributing factor in cancer and other diseases.
  • Reduced Cancer Risk: The super powder has been linked to reduced cancer risk, especially oral cancer. In one controlled study, farmers in India who had existing precancerous mouth lesions consumed one gram of spirulina per day. After one year, 45 percent of the participants saw a complete disappearance of the lesions. (More studies are needed to confirm this effect in other populations.)
  • Stronger Immunity: The blue-green algae has been credited with boosting the immune system, particularly in adults 50 and over, but again, more evidence is needed to confirm these claims.
  • Alleviation of Allergies: Some research has suggested that spirulina’s anti-inflammatory effects could help to alleviate allergies. In one controlled study, participants who consumed two grams of the algae each day noticed a dramatic improvement in nasal allergy symptoms, including nasal discharge, sneezing, nasal congestion and itching.
  • Improved Endurance: Other evidence indicates that pond scum could make you a better athlete—or at least enable you to maintain longer periods of exercise. One study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that participants who added spirulina to their daily diet for a three-week period experienced less muscle damage and were able to exercise longer than those who didn’t consume the algae.
  • Reduced Blood Sugar: In a controlled study, people with Type 2 diabetes experienced a significant lowering of blood glucose levels after two months of supplementing their diet with spirulina.
  • Lower “Bad" Cholesterol: Patients with high cholesterol levels who consumed just one gram of spirulina per day for 12 weeks saw a significant reduction in low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is the type that can raise the risk of heart disease and stroke. 

Who Should Avoid Spirulina?

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s best to avoid spirulina, as its effects on the fetus are still unknown. People with autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, should also steer clear of the scum, as it could stimulate the immune system and intensify symptoms. If you have a genetic disorder called phenylketonuria, spirulina could worsen the condition. Hand points out that spirulina supplements could possibly be unsafe for children, as they can lead to the accumulation of heavy metals like lead and mercury. 

Although spirulina is packed with nutrients and there is some encouraging evidence of potential benefits, more research is needed to confirm just how much it could boost your health.

Posted 8/18/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 96 comments   11,805 views

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5 Ways Grocery Stores Are Helping You Get Healthier

These days, grocery stores are more than just food and beverage repositories. In addition to housing all the ingredients you need to eat, drink and snack, they can also help you lead a healthier lifestyle. With the ongoing rise in obesity rates, more supermarkets are stepping up and implementing initiatives to help consumers make better choices about what they’re putting in their bodies.

Of course, there are still plenty of pockets of temptation, and not all stores are stepping up to the extent of these 10 healthiest grocery chains. While the end caps and checkout counters will always try to tempt you with prepackaged treats, it’s comforting to know that some stores are making headway toward some of these health services.

Posted 8/15/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 91 comments   12,600 views

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What Do You Wish People Knew About Being Overweight?

If you've never been overweight, it's impossible to know what day-to-day life is really like. And it's easy to assume that an obese person has made poor choices that led to their situation—they must eat a lot of unhealthy food and never exercise, right? And beyond the more obvious issues, like low self-esteem and ill-fitting clothes, a slimmer person likely has no concept of the daily challenges of obesity.

Posted 8/7/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 127 comments   28,057 views

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40 Things to Do Instead of Eat When You're Bored

After a long day at work, at school, in carpool lanes or {insert daily obligation here}, your energy reserves and brain power have been thoroughly zapped. You manage to squeeze in a quick workout, grab dinner, knock out some laundry and maybe answer a few emails—and then before you know it, you find yourself halfway through a bag of chips, a pint of ice-cream or maybe just a few too many crackers with hummus. You're not quite sure how or why you started eating in the first place…after all, dinner was just an hour or two ago, and you're certainly not hungry. It's just that for the first time all day, you finally have some down time, your phone has stopped ringing, no one is clamoring for your attention, your mind is wandering aimlessly and the food is just right there…

Posted 8/3/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 109 comments   31,975 views

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20 Amazing Zumba Songs to Kick-Start Your Dance Workout

Since strutting onto the fitness scene in the mid-90s, Zumba has become a worldwide workout phenomenon, spreading dance fever to more than 15 million people of all shapes, sizes and ages. Inspired by Latin music and dance, this heart-pumping cardio workout uses choreographed routines to get participants moving, grooving and sweating off hundreds of calories per class.

Posted 7/24/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 67 comments   17,393 views

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300 Pounds and Counting: Greg's Two-Year Transformation

Imagine carrying around three large Labrador dogs, nine cinderblocks or 36 gallons of water—constantly, for many, many years. Think about how difficult (or downright impossible) it would be to walk, run, play with your kids or grandkids, or even just climb a few stairs. Now, imagine finally being able to set down that weight, and how light and free you would feel.

Greg Palmer (GPALMER) knows a thing or two about shedding that type of heavy burden. In just a little over two years, he has lost more than 300 pounds. Since his amazing transformation, Greg has become a motivating presence here at SparkPeople, as he shares his inspiring messages and photos on our Community Feed.

Posted 7/20/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 156 comments   35,820 views

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36 Easy, Breezy No-Cook Summer Recipes

When stepping outside is like walking into an oven, the last thing you want to do is turn on the one in your kitchen. But mealtimes don't stop for summer, and all those hot days spent swimming, playing, working and driving here, there and everywhere tend to work up quite an appetite. When dinner looms and the family is headed to hangry-town, skip the stove and throw together one of these insanely easy, no-cook dishes—and save the sweating for the pool.

Posted 7/13/2017  12:00:00 PM By: Melissa Rudy : 60 comments   22,800 views

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Concert Pianist Gets the Spark She Needs to Play Carnegie Hall

Although many people join the SparkPeople community with the goal of losing a significant amount of weight, that's not true for all of our members. Jeanne (HAYBURNER1969) hasn't been overweight a day in her life—in fact, she's spent much more time focusing on the scales in her piano solos than the one in her bathroom. But as this accomplished concert pianist prepared for the biggest performance of her musical career, she didn't feel strong or fit. Jeanne turned to SparkPeople for the boost she needed to take the stage with confidence.

Posted 7/11/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 73 comments   11,967 views

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21 Ways Alexa Can Help You Lead a Healthier Life

Move over, Siri and Google Assistant, there's a new A.I. in town and her name is Alexa. Well, not new, exactly (the Amazon Alexa has actually been around since November of 2014) but the digital personal assistant is quickly transitioning from a rare novelty to a more mainstream technology. Surveys have found that ownership of Alexa has grown by more than 70 percent in less than a year.

Alexa, which powers devices like the Echo, Echo Show, Tap and Dot, is a woman of many talents. Not only can she track sports stats, adjust your home's thermostat and manage your Google calendar, but she can also help you get and stay fit. While you can't instruct her to do your workout for you (pity), Alexa offers plenty of fun, futuristic ways to stick to a healthy diet and exercise plan.

Posted 7/10/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 60 comments   20,595 views

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25 Delicious Ways to Use Your Spiralizer for Dinner Tonight

If eating veggies is the opposite of your idea of a good time or if you're spending more time with pasta than with your gym membership, allow us to introduce your new best friend. The spiralizer is a super simple kitchen tool that's nothing short of miraculous. With very little effort and in just a matter of seconds, it turns fresh produce into noodles. Simply place a firm vegetable into the grinder, turn the crank and watch the long, ribbon-like "noodles" magically appear.

Posted 7/6/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 76 comments   24,477 views

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10 Calorie Comparisons That May Surprise You

When you're trying to say “see ya” to some stubborn pounds, you’ll want to sidestep extra calories whenever possible. As you fine-tune your strategy to burn more and consume less, you'll likely be on the hunt for lower-calorie foods to help you stay within your target range.

Posted 6/26/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 111 comments   25,425 views

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Does Hypnosis for Weight Loss Really Work?

Weight loss might seem like a purely physical pursuit—eat healthier foods, adjust your calorie intake, move more and the pounds come off, right? But the brain can also be a powerful tool for weight loss. Having the right mindset can help you achieve the kind of long-term, sustainable success you've been working so hard to achieve. If you have trouble summoning the willpower and mental focus to stick to a diet and exercise plan, you might have considered trying hypnosis—but does it really work?

Posted 6/22/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 74 comments   19,504 views

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What to Serve with Stuffed Peppers: 16 Scrumptious Ideas

If you're a stuffed pepper addict, we feel you. Peppers are quite possibly the perfect foundation for a scrumptious snack or even a hearty meal. In addition to the beef, rice, cheese or whatever yummy ingredients they're stuffed with, bell peppers also serve up plenty of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and are chock full of vitamins C, A and E. Plus, with only 45 calories per cup, they're a diet-friendly choice (as long as you choose sensible stuffers, of course).

Posted 6/21/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 37 comments   28,417 views

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