The SparkPeople Blog

Health Benefits of Sage

By: , – Edgar L., SparkPeople Contributor
8/30/2015  2:00:00 PM   :  2 comments   :  2,551 views

When it comes to healthy eating, most people tend to focus on eating more fruits and vegetables. However, herbs and spices can also provide astounding health benefits. Learn how herbs like sage can improve your health and delight your taste buds.
 

What Is Sage?

Sage belongs to the mint family of herbs, which includes rosemary, basil, thyme and lavender. Sage plants are distinguished by their grayish-green, spear-shaped leaves. Its edible flowers can range from blue to pink to white. For centuries, cultures around the world have used sage to treat a plethora of ailments including sleep disorders, colds and bacterial infections. In fact, its scientific name, Salvia officinalis, stems from the Latin salvere, meaning "to be saved."
 

Nutritional Properties and Uses of Sage

Sage contains a negligible amount of calories, making it an excellent weight-loss food. What it does contain is a collection of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, including:

  • Vitamins A and K
  • Volatile oils
  • Flavonoids
  • Phenolic acids including rosmarinic acid (named after rosemary)

These compounds work together to regulate metabolism and protect cells from free radicals. The acids and vitamins in sage help prevent inflammation and boost the immune system. Consuming sage is especially beneficial for people with chronic diseases such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and atherosclerosis. Herbal sage tea can relieve indigestion and dyspepsia. Studies also support sage's role in regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels in people with diabetes.

Apart from dietary uses, sage can also be used as a skin toner, mouthwash and an antibacterial. Though research is limited, the tannin compounds in sage may help relieve hot flashes in menopausal women.
 

Sage and Brain Health

It's not surprising that an herb synonymous with wisdom can promote a sharper mind. Studies conducted in the U.S. and the UK found sage helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer's Disease. Subjects who incorporated sage into their diets over several months showed improved recall and fewer disruptive symptoms. Sage can also improve brain function in people without cognitive disorders. A double-blind study found that even a small dosage of sage oil extract significantly boosted short-term memory among young adults compared to the control group.
 

Choosing and Storing Sage

Fresh sage beats out dried or powdered sage in both flavor and nutrition. Look for vivid grayish-green leaves free of yellow patches or dark spots. Farmers markets often have a fresher selection of sage, and even dried varieties provide substantial health benefits. If possible, choose organic sage, which retains more of its natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Like most herbs, sage is available year-round.

Fresh sage can last for several days when wrapped in a moist paper towel, placed inside a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator. Store dried sage in a sealed glass jar away from sunlight, heat and moisture. It should keep for about half a year.

Sage is also available as an oil extract, herbal supplement and an ingredient in topical products.
 

Cooking with Sage

Sage makes a flavorful addition to salads, sandwiches, soups, sauces, meat and poultry. Due to its low sodium content, sage makes a healthy salt substitute and can help lower blood pressure. Take care when cooking sage, as high heat and long cooking times can destroy its nutritional and medicinal properties.

Health Risks of Sage

While sage allergies are extremely rare, a few people may exhibit mild symptoms. The potential side effects of sage supplements and other derivative forms of sage vary depending on other compounds present in the product. Sage should not be consumed in excessive amounts, as high concentrations of volatile oils can be toxic. Topical application may cause mild irritation, especially from store-bought creams and lotions containing sage. As a precaution, pregnant and lactating women should consult their doctor before using sage.

Aromatic, heart-healthy, and brain-boosting, there are virtually no downsides to adding sage to your diet. However, it's important to eat a variety of foods and not focus only on the benefits of one. Ask your nutritionist or dietitian for more sage advice.

Done with the Excess Weight and Moving Forward!

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
8/28/2015  12:00:00 AM   :  8 comments   :  5,251 views

This blog is a featured "SparkStory", one of the classic posts from our members that provides support, encouragement and inspiration to the SparkPeople Community. 

POSTER: PORITA

I found SparkPeople in 2011 after weighing in at the doctor's office and realizing how out of control my weight had become. After lots of reading and finding encouragement here, I started to take steps to improve my life. By tracking everything I ate and starting with baby amounts of exercise, I lost 20 pounds. I was excited. I finally took a picture of myself to start tracking the progress.The reason I'm holding my hand in the shape of a "d" is because I was a part of a team called "done" girls.. women who are DONE with excess weight and all the problems it causes. 

There were other things in my life contributing to problems. For one, I was an alcoholic. It took me another 2 years to get the courage to find help for this problem. I was also in a very troubling marriage situation and didn't know how to get out. In the fall of 2012, I left my husband. My weight loss continued some, but came to an abrupt halt once my alcohol consumption went up. In the fall of 2013, I finally realized that it was time to get help. I went to rehab, and am almost 2 years sober. 

In the fall of 2014, I realized it was time to start focusing on my weight again. Although I had kept most of my initial 70 pounds off, I still wasn't eating as well as I should and I wasn't getting much exercise aside from my work (I'm a server, so I walk a ton). I started making lifestyle changes again, and the weight started coming off. 

It's now 2015. I'm down over 90 pounds, I'm active, I quit smoking so I could run faster, and I'm sober. I have SparkPeople and the great resources here to thank for my success, along with my friends and family. When people ask me how I did it, my biggest advice is to "eat less, move more", but more importantly, to never give up, no matter what life throws at you. You're gonna mess up a lot. It's ok, just keep stepping forward. And take pictures! I wish I had started before that first 20 pounds were gone. 

The weight off my shoulders is not only literal, but figurative as well. I might be 30, but my life is just beginning. 

Click here to read more and share your thoughts on this post!

Click here to read more SparkStories!  

 

The Best Running Songs of All Time (Volume Two!)

By: , – Alicia Capetillo
8/28/2015  12:00:00 AM   :  0 comments   :  5,143 views

A great running song needs three elements: Lyrics that bring out the champion diva inside, infectious beats that propel you forward every time the bass drops and that little extra something that makes you look forward to--or distracts you from--all those miles ahead. Now, imagine a playlist comprised of a mix of songs, all containing these three important elements. Imagine what a playlist like that could do for your workout. 

Imagine no more! We teamed up with Yes! Fitness Music to create "The Best Running Songs of All Time (Volume 2)" playlist, just for you. After hundreds of fitness fans shared their favorite running songs with us, Yes! Fitness Music combined the top choices with their diverse music library to develop an all-new playlist that is sure to make your run more enjoyable and keep your pace competitive, too. The list has something for everyone, whether you like to have a little dance in your step with Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift, prefer jamming with The Boss or need a bit of rock 'n roll to keep you moving.

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6 Ways to Fit in Exercise at Work

By: , – Edgar L., SparkPeople Contributor
8/27/2015  2:00:00 PM   :  4 comments   :  6,235 views

Having trouble staying fit while managing your career? A good workout doesn't require fancy machines or hours of free time. Lose weight, boost your metabolism and increase your energy with these six smart office exercise tips.

NOTE: To avoid injury, consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.
 

Take Advantage of the Commute

For many, the morning commute conjures up images of congested roads, angry drivers and fickle stoplights. If your office isn't too far, why not leave the car keys behind and rev up your lungs? A refreshing morning jog or bike ride has numerous health benefits. While it may be a struggle at first, a cardiovascular routine reduces bad cholesterol, improves stamina, and cuts down on the risk of heart disease. It will also leave you feeling energized and focused throughout the day. If your workplace is too far, consider taking public transit part of the way and jogging the rest. Still on the fence? Even small changes like parking further away or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can make a difference.
 

Use Your Lunch Break Wisely

Instead of squandering your one hour browsing the web, use it to get in shape. If your office has a fitness center, sneak in a quick session of weight training or work up a sweat on the elliptical machine. If you missed your morning jog, now's your opportunity to make it up. If it's raining or there are no gyms close by, do some calisthenics (bodyweight exercises) at your desk. These include push-ups, sit-ups, squats, and jumping jacks. Studies also show that a midday workout refreshes the brain, keeping you productive through the rest of the day.


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Check Out SparkPeople's New Challenges and Start Page!

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
8/26/2015  9:00:00 AM   :  56 comments   :  6,848 views

Hi, Everyone! 
 
This morning, we rolled out a new version of our member Challenges feature, which is available from both your Start page and the Challenge Central dropdown in our Community header. (If you remember, we gave you a sneak peek about a month ago.) We are very excited about this new Challenge format! We took what members loved most about our older challenges--including daily and weekly guidance on working toward a particular goal--and added in an easier-to-use interface, plus new features like a Team Wall. You can take any of the following Challenges to start with (we will be adding plenty more after launch!): 

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Cinnamon Health Benefits

By: , – Jason V., SparkPeople Contributor
8/25/2015  8:00:00 AM   :  9 comments   :  8,441 views

Cinnamon awakens the senses and makes people think of pumpkin pie, spiced coffee, and the aroma of the holidays. However, cinnamon doesn't just have a pleasing smell; many often fail to recognize how much of a positive impact cinnamon may have on health. Cinnamon carries many benefits, which include antioxidant and microbial properties. Take a look at how cinnamon can make you healthier.
 

Cinnamon and Diabetes

Cinnamon has been widely used throughout human history for a myriad of medical treatments. Among these ailments, cinnamon has been shown to improve the prognoses of those with diabetes. In October 2013, a comprehensive analysis of cinnamon and its effect on diabetes was conducted, reports the National Library of Medicine. Throughout the two-year study of 543 patients, the levels of fasting plasma glucose, total cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins, and triglycerides decreased with the assistance of a cinnamon supplement. 


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