The SparkPeople Blog

Know Your GMOs (Q & A)

By: , – Enjoy Life
10/6/2015  12:00:00 AM   :  13 comments   :  5,843 views

For the past several years, GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) have been dominating the health news headlines. But what are GMOs, really? What do they do? What kinds of foods contain them? And—most importantly—are they really safe to consume? Let's set the record straight on these common questions about GMOs.
Q: What are GMOs?
A: Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs (also called GE or GM foods), are the result of a laboratory process in which the genetic material of living organisms is manipulated and then artificially inserted into the genes of an entirely unrelated plant or animal. The foreign genes can come from bacteria, viruses, animals, insects or even humans. GMOs are known as ''transgenic'' organisms because they involve the transfer of genes. 

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Making Room for Real Foods

By: , – Enjoy Life
10/5/2015  12:00:00 AM   :  3 comments   :  6,148 views

How many times a day do you open your pantry or fridge hoping that something new, healthy and filling will appear? Does your kitchen seem messy, cluttered and full of unhealthy foods? Do you want to make over your pantry and fridge, but aren’t sure where to start? 

We are here to help! Make a pledge to rid your pantry and fridge of unhealthy items and to re-stock it with real foods using the following doable steps. 

Part with the Unhealthy Non-Perishables 

It’s easy to promise yourself that you'll eat better, but you’re setting yourself up for sabotage if you don’t physically remove the unhealthy foods from your house. Go through every single item on your kitchen shelves and get rid of or donate anything that is overly high in sugar, sodium, artificial colorings or preservatives, or with a long laundry list of ingredients that you can't pronounce. Many condiments fit this bill—consider how much you and your family enjoy them and whether or not you can find substitutions for these items. Only keep those foods that you truly think you can continue to eat in moderation. 

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Walnut Health Benefits

By: , – Jane K., SparkPeople Contributor
10/3/2015  10:00:00 AM   :  4 comments   :  6,555 views

Walnuts, which are part of the tree nut family, provide an array of health benefits, and because of their versatility, they can be chopped and sprinkled onto salads, vegetable dishes, yogurt, fruits, and desserts. Here's why you should get more of these healthy nuts in your everyday diet. 

Walnuts Help You Feel Fuller Longer

While walnuts are calorie-dense, the combination of Omega-3 fats, protein, and fiber work to help keep you feeling full longer. Caloric intake should be a consideration in any weight-management plan, but not all calories are created equal. Because of their high protein and fiber, a meal that includes walnuts can help prevent the consumption of empty calories later in the day.

Walnuts Are Heart-Healthy

Like most tree nuts, walnuts can help fight heart disease. Walnuts contain a high amount of antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol production.

Walnuts May Help Prevent Cancer

Studies have shown that regular, daily walnut consumption can help prevent certain types of cancer, such as pancreatic, prostate, and breast cancer.

Walnuts Support a Healthy Lifestyle

Studies have shown that people who consume tree nuts regularly take in more fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin E, as well as less sodium than people who do not eat tree nuts. 

Walnuts May Help Prevent Diabetes

All types of nuts, including walnuts, have been linked to a decreased risk of diabetes. For individuals with a higher risk of diabetes, adding walnuts to your diet is an easy and delicious way to help take control of your health.

Walnuts Can Support a Healthy Pregnancy

Don't throw out the walnuts after successfully getting pregnant. Women who eat diets rich in fatty acids like those found in walnuts can reduce the risk of certain types of food allergies in their unborn child. 

Walnuts Might Make You Feel Less Stressed

If you suffer from daily stress, walnuts just might be the ideal food for you. Eating walnuts and walnut oil has been shown to lower resting blood pressure and blood pressure responses to stress, which can help keep you calm and relaxed.

Walnuts Can Help You Sleep

Whether your sleep problems stem from stress or other factors, eating walnuts can help induce sleep. Walnuts naturally contain melatonin, which is a compound many people buy over-the-counter to aid in sleep.

Walnuts Can Improve Hair Health

In addition to being great for your internal organs, walnuts also contain biotin, which can strengthen hair, reduce hair loss, and improve hair growth.

Walnuts Fosters Healthy Skin

Walnuts are rich in B-vitamins and antioxidants, which prevent free radical damage, wrinkles, and other signs of aging, making them the perfect food for people who want healthier, glowing skin.

Walnuts May Help Prevent Dementia

Studies have shown that regular consumption of walnuts can help ward off dementia. Eating walnuts can help prevent memory and learning problems while fostering healthy emotional control.

Whether you're a casual nut eater or someone looking to make healthy diet changes, eating more walnuts should be a no-brainer!

12 Simple Steps and Strategies for Clean Eating

By: , – Enjoy Life
10/2/2015  12:00:00 AM   :  7 comments   :  21,047 views

These days, it’s hard to avoid all the buzzwords surrounding the latest diet trends. There are social media pages, websites, books, magazines and even clothing touting various messages about how or what to eat. "Clean eating" is one such term that's been thrown around for years. But what does ''clean eating'' actually mean, and how can you apply it in your own life? Let's break it down once and for all!

What Is Clean Eating? 

To ''eat clean'' means to eat whole, largely unprocessed foods in order to minimize the amount of unnecessary or potentially harmful chemicals and additives one ingests. People who eat this way avoid foods processed or altered by manufacturers, and instead choose foods that are as close to their natural forms as possible. (''Processing'' includes additions of any kind, such as salt, sugar, fat and/or preservatives.) Studies have shown that clean eating can result in improved mood, more energy, better sleep, enhanced athletic performance, healthier skin and greater feelings of overall happiness. 

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One-Mile Wake Up and Walk Workout

By: , – Jessica Smith, Certified Personal Trainer
10/2/2015  12:00:00 AM   :  4 comments   :  22,427 views

One of my favorite ways to start the day is with a morning walk. Not only is walking a great exercise to gently wake up your entire body, but it also boosts energy levels and activates your brain. This one-mile, indoor power-walking workout will help you start the day off on the right foot, no matter what the weather is like outside. Squeeze in some extra daily steps and give your body and brain a wake-up call at any time of day with this fast-paced mile workout. Using a mix of moves and directional change, we'll avoid joint strain while keeping your body and brain awake and alert. 

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The Incredible Health Benefits of Okra

By: , – David F., SparkPeople Contributor
9/29/2015  2:00:00 PM   :  11 comments   :  7,414 views

Fried okra is a delicious southern staple that pairs well with other hearty dishes. Unfortunately, eating it fried undoes many of the natural health benefits of this unique vegetable.

Not only is okra extremely tasty in its own right, but it also provides a wide range of outstanding health benefits when it is not fried. From preventing diabetes to promoting healthy pregnancies, this vegetable is a must-try dietary staple for enhancing overall health and wellness.

Okra and Diabetes

Foods that are high in fiber have been shown to prevent diabetes since fiber can help normalize the body's blood sugar. Okra is also a low glycemic index food, with an index of about 20, making it suitable as part of a diet for diabetes treatment and prevention. 

Similarly, okra may even reduce kidney damage. Since almost half of all kidney disease cases are caused by diabetes, the fact that okra can help prevent diabetes means that it can also serve as a preventative food against kidney disease. One study published in the October 2005 Jilin Medical Journal found that daily consumption of okra reduced clinical signs of kidney damage when compared to people who ate a regular diabetic diet.

Okra and Colon Health

Okra's high dietary fiber content also ensures optimal colon health and digestive health. Fiber is essential for cleaning out the gastrointestinal system, and sufficient fiber intake helps the colon work with enhanced efficiency.

In addition, okra is also packed with vitamin A, and this essential vitamin helps to ensure that the digestive tract is functioning optimally, as well.

Okra and Healthy Pregnancy

During pregnancy, it is extremely important to get adequate amounts of folate. This B vitamin is ultimately responsible for creating and maintaining new cells in the body, which results in the prevention of certain birth defects. Okra is rich in folate, helping to ensure that the fetus can grow optimally during pregnancy.

Additionally, okra also contains high quantities of vitamin C, which has also been shown to be important for the healthy development of fetuses. 

Okra and Asthma

Some studies have shown that vitamin C-rich foods may reduce wheezing symptoms in children suffering from asthma. When eaten regularly, okra may reduce asthma-induced wheezing due to its high quantities of vitamin C.

Okra and Healthy Skin

Okra doesn't just improve your health and quality of life--it's also fantastic for your skin. As mentioned, okra is full of vitamin C, a nutrient that helps keep skin looking healthy and youthful. Vitamin C will help regrow body tissue, which means okra can also help reinvigorate damaged skin.

Okra and Antioxidant Benefits

Okra is also high in antioxidants, which are helpful for preventing heart disease, cancer and premature aging. 

In sum, okra is an incredible health food that should be a regular staple in your diet. Just don't dip it in the deep fryer! 

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