Happy World Vegan Day! Here Are 5 Health Benefits of Going Vegan

[brightcove:4928980311001 default]

November 1 marks an important holiday in the health world: World Vegan Day 2017. 

What is World Vegan Day, you ask? Ever since 1994, the Vegan Society has set aside the first day of November to celebrate the global plant-based eating movement and "highlight how accessible and beneficial a vegan lifestyle can be." 

But is a vegan diet really healthy? We asked Alicia Romano, a registered dietitian at Tufts Medical Center, about the health benefits — and potential drawbacks — of an animal-product-free diet.

The benefits of a vegan diet:

1. Vegan diets help you eat more whole foods.

Eliminating meat and dairy will force you to get creative with your produce and whole grain intake, Romano says. "You might be getting in a lot more color and variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains that all have their own beneficial properties," she says.

2. You'll slash your saturated fat intake.

Saturated fat — the kind that drives up cholesterol and likely contributes to heart disease — is primarily found in animal products, such as meat and cheese. By going vegan, Romano explains, you'll automatically reduce the amount you eat.

3. Your risk of chronic diseases will go down.

In part because of lower saturated fat levels, "any transition to more plant-based eating is just extremely heart-healthy," Romano says. "There's a really substantial amount of research that correlates more plant-based diets with decreased risk of chronic diseases [such as] heart disease, cancer and diabetes."

4. You might end up cooking more.

"With a vegan diet, it does require a lot more attention to making sure you're getting all the appropriate nutrients that you need," Romano says. While this may be challenging for some people, it also means that you'll likely end up preparing more of your own food — one of the easiest ways to slash unnecessary fat, calories and additives. 

5. You'll make the planet healthier.

Research has shown that plant-based diets are better for the environment than meat-based eating plans, since raising animals for food requires large amounts of energy, land and water. By dropping meat, you may be reducing your carbon footprint, too.

The potential drawbacks of a vegan diet:

1. You might lose out on protein and other nutrients.

Many of us get protein, calcium, vitamin D and B vitamins from animal products, so "if we're not paying attention to how to replace those things, we can come up very short from a micronutrient and protein standpoint," Romano cautions. Without animal products, you'll need to load up on plant-based protein such as beans, legumes, whole grains, tofu, nuts and seeds, and look for alternative sources of calcium (such as kale, beans and collard greens), vitamin D (mushrooms) and B vitamins (fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains). Fortified products and supplements can also help.

2. You may be tempted by the health halo.

Remember that vegan snacks and packaged foods aren't automatically healthy; in fact, many pack in added sugars and processed ingredients to replace components like eggs and milk. "Attention should be taken to reading food labels and really understanding the ingredients that are going into any packaged foods," Romano says.

Should You Really Be Eating These 8 ‘Superfoods’?

[brightcove:5632201744001 default]

Certain so-called superfoods seem to be everywhere. They're said to ward off cancer, help with weight loss, extend your life, even whiten your teeth. But do these "miracle" foods really live up to all the hype? To find out, we interviewed experts and pored over research. Here's what we learned about apple cider vinegar, avocados, red wine, and more.

Coconut oil

The hype: Almost three-quarters of people in a recent survey said they thought coconut oil was healthy. No doubt that’s because of claims that it protects against heart disease (because it boosts HDL or “good” cholesterol), arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes; while also helping you lose weight, thanks to a particular kind of fat that your body may metabolize differently than others.

The reality: The American Heart Association (AHA) issued a recent statement that flat out recommended against using coconut oil. Why? A high level (82%) of really-bad-for-you saturated fat. Multiple studies confirm that coconut oil actually raises “bad” LDL cholesterol.

The bottom line: The AHA statement pretty much said it all. If you do go for coconut oil (we know it tastes good), practice extreme moderation. “One tablespoon a day provides nearly the recommended limit of saturated fat for the entire day for most adults,” cautions Malina Malkani, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

RELATED: 10 Surprising Beauty Uses for Coconut Oil

Chocolate

The hype: Chocolate supposedly staves off heart disease thanks to copious amounts of flavonoid antioxidants. It may also cut the odds of a stroke and improve memory and attention as we age.

The reality: Chocolate may protect against heart disease, stroke, and diabetes—but only dark, purer forms of chocolate. Once it’s been processed into prettily packaged treats beckoning from store shelves, it’s basically just sugar and fat.

The bottom line: A little of the right kind of chocolate may help reduce blood pressure, but a lot of any kind of chocolate will backfire. “The darker the chocolate the better,” says Malkani. Look for a cocoa content of 70% or more. And stick to one or two squares a day at most.

Butter

The hype: Butter is back! Unjustly vilified for so many years, the stuff is actually good for you.

The reality: A lot of the hype stemmed from one 2014 study which found that eating less saturated fat may not cut your risk for heart disease. But that’s a whole lot different than saying eating saturated fat is good for your health.

The bottom line: Don’t become a daily disciple of Julia Child’s high-fat recipes just yet. The current science still tells us to replace saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats (think olive oil). If butter has a role, it may be to up your intake of indisputably healthy foods: “If used mindfully and sparingly, it can enhance the flavor of vegetables you might otherwise not enjoy,” says Malkani.

Avocado

The hype: Avocado, the poster child for “good” fats for decades, is rumored to reduce the risk of a host of health ills—obesity, diabetes, heart disease and others—and help you live longer too.

The reality: The fruit’s long-standing reputation may be well-deserved. “There is a large body of evidence that an avocado-rich diet high in monounsaturated fats helps lower LDL or bad cholesterol and raise HDL,” says Malkani. It may also ease pain from osteoarthritis.

The bottom line: Avocado every day may help keep the doctor away. But f you’re trying to lose weight, remember that one serving is actually only one-third of one fruit, says Malkani. Now-trending avocado oil is another matter, warns dietician Sandra Arevalo, director of nutrition services and community outreach at Montefiore Health System's Community Pediatrics in New York City. "The put a lot of additives in [avocado oil] so we have to be careful."

To get more nutrition tips, sign up for the HEALTH newsletter

Red wine

The hype: Red wine may be the one thing standing between you and heart disease and diabetes.

The reality: This may not be just wishful thinking. Studies going back decades have found a lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes among people who drank moderate amounts of red wine compared to those who didn’t drink at all. But overdo it on the vino and you could end up with heart disease, liver disease, and cancer. A 2017 report found that even very small amounts of alcohol may increase the risk for breast cancer.

The bottom line: There’s a fine balance. “[Red wine] is good in moderation,” says Arevalo. The AHA recommends women consume just one alcoholic drink a day (that's 4 ounces of red wine), and that men stick to two.

Apple cider vinegar

The hype: The grapevine claims apple cider vinegar can whiten your teeth, lower blood sugar, fight infection, keep heart disease and cancer at bay, and oh so much more

The reality: Apple cider vinegar may lower blood sugar and help you feel full, but so do other kinds of vinegar. The same with losing weight. It’s not clear if apple cider vinegar has any use against cancer and heart disease. And it looks like it doesn’t help heal wounds. As for your teeth, not only will vinegar not lead to pearly whites, it can also erode enamel.

The bottom line: Apple cider vinegar is a good addition to salads, but don't consider it a potential panacea for health woes.

Coffee

The hype: Where do we even start? The supposed health benefits of coffee include lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease while generally helping you live longer. It may treat Parkinson’s and keep your memory sharp.

The reality: Many of these benefits may be real. Caffeine has been shown to improve movement in Parkinson’s patients, while both caffeinated and decaf coffee may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Java is also linked with a reduced risk of several types of cancer including colon and prostate (but an increased risk of lung cancer).

The bottom line: The evidence applies to black coffee, not coffee laden with cream, sugar and syrup. Most studies show the benefits of caffeine come from about 400 milligrams—the amount on three to five 8-ounce cups of home-brewed coffee, say Malkani. If you are hypertensive, talk to your doctor, as caffeine can cause short-term blood pressure spikes. But if you don’t drink coffee now, experts says it's not worth starting the habit. (Same goes for wine.)

RELATED: 18 Superfoods for Your Heart

Lemon water

The hype: Water garnished with a little lemon is reputed to help digestion, speed weight loss, keep you hydrated, and prevent kidney stones.

The reality: The benefit of lemon water probably stems from the water part, not the lemon part, even though lemon has vitamin C. Water is good for you, and most of us don’t get enough.

The bottom line: Drink lots of water every day, with or without lemon. “I don’t think it’s a superfood. It’s just a wonderful way to vary the flavor of water,” says dietician Sharon Zarabi, director of the bariatric program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “For those who have trouble taking in 6 to 8 cups a day, lemon might make it a little bit more refreshing.”

Jenna Dewan Tatum Eats Only Plant-Based Foods (which Includes French Fries!): What She Eats in a Day

[brightcove:5629864721001 default]

This article originally appeared on People.com. 

Jenna Dewan Tatum sticks to eating foods that make her feel her best.

“I consider eating healthy a way of life because I feel better, plain and simple,” she tells PEOPLE. “I’m not a fan of dieting, which is why I choose to eat healthy most of the time. I keep it in balance, so I don’t have to crash diet. When I want to splurge I allow myself and don’t beat myself up — I just make a plan to eat extra healthy the next day or work out.”

When she decides to splurge, Dewan Tatum goes for “salty, savory food,” including her favorite: “French fries!”

RELATED: Here’s Why It Feels Like You Always Have Room for Dessert

“I also choose to eat plant-based foods because not only is it healthy and yummy, but I feel ethically right,” says the World of Dance host, 36. “We have become so off-balance with our animal consumption. Even one meatless meal a week helps!”

Check out Dewan Tatum’s daily food log below, and for more on her diet, pick up a copy of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.

Hydration

2 liters of water

Breakfast

Kimberly Snyder’s Glowing Green smoothie with spinach, romaine lettuce, water, celery, apple, pear, banana, lemon juice, cilantro and parsley

Lunch

Quinoa tabouli

Hummus

Cucumber and tomato salad with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper

Snack

Fruit smoothie with apple, banana, raspberries, blueberries and water

Dinner

Quinoa bowl with black beans, chopped tomatoes, roasted squash, zucchini, red peppers, avocado, corn, salsa, tortilla strips, lime, vegan chipotle sauce, salt and pepper

Total Calories:

1,431

The Verdict:

“Jenna does a great job getting her daily fruits and vegetables,” says Atlanta-based dietitian Marisa Moore, who also commends Dewan Tatum’s lunch and dinner choices for being “packed with plant-based fiber and protein.” However, she notes that “Jenna may need more calories to cover vigorous physical activity like dancing or a busy day on-set.”

NOTE: It is recommended that women eat at least 1,200 calories per day, and men eat at least 1,800 calories per day.

Gisele Bündchen Admits Tom Brady’s Insanely Strict Diet Is Because of Her

[brightcove:5636948173001 default]

This article originally appeared on People.com. 

Tom Brady credits the success and longevity of his career to his incredibly strict diet—but the choice to get healthy wasn’t necessarily his own.

In an interview with CBS This Morning‘s Charlie Rose on Wednesday, the New England Patriots’ wife and supermodel, Gisele Bündchen, says she is the reason the family steers clear of eating white sugar, white flour, MSG, caffeine, fungus, dairy, nightshades and yes, even strawberries.

RELATED: Should You Cut Nightshade Veggies From Your Diet?

“In my situation, we have a plant-based died and we’ve been having it for 10 years,” says the mom of two. “Because we feel better, it is better for our health and everything we put into our body has an affect on us, has an affect on our energy and how we feel.”

When Rose asks her directly if she initiated their healthy lifestyle, Bündchen reluctantly admits, “it has come from me.”

[brightcove:5339322755001 default]

Though a personal chef for the family told Well+Good last year that Brady—who recently launched a $78 per week plant-based meal kit with Purple Carrot—also incorporated lean meats into about 20 percent of his diet, it seems he’s since gone full vegetarian. And that decision appears to be paying off.

The thing is, he said he’s been feeling so much better,” says Bündchen. “I have to say it’s amazing, you know, the way he feels. He doesn’t feel achy. He just feels so much more energy.”

But Bündchen isn’t taking all the credit for Brady’s five Super Bowl wins. “He has to thank his commitment, his dedication to it, because he still has to want to do it, right?” she says. “In the beginning, it was a little bit different for him, but now he loves it and he wouldn’t have it any other way because he feels better.”

How Apple Cider Vinegar May Help With Weight Loss

[brightcove:5632201744001 default]

This article originally appeared on Time.com.

Apple cider vinegar—or “ACV,” as it’s called among enthusiasts—is having its superfood moment. Made from fermented apple sugars, ACV’s rumored perks range from helping with type-2 diabetes to whitening teeth.

But can it help you lose weight? “My hunch is that it can, but that its impact would be subtle,” says Carol Johnston, a professor in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion at Arizona State University.

Johnston has been studying vinegar and its health effects for more than a decade. While her own research efforts have not linked vinegar ingestion to significant weight loss, a 2009 study from Japan found that swallowing two tablespoons of diluted apple cider vinegar twice a day with meals helped people lose about four pounds after 12 weeks.

Johnston says she buys the Japanese team’s findings because there’s good animal and lab research to suggest that vinegar could lead to metabolic changes that support weight loss. “There’s some evidence that the acetic acid in vinegar may turn on fat metabolism,” she explains. “It just hasn’t been examined adequately in humans, so we don’t have good evidence that it’s effective.” (Another study linked vinegar with reduced appetite—but only because swallowing the stuff made people feel nauseated.)

There’s better data to show that diluted vinegar can promote healthier blood-sugar levels.

“For those in a pre-diabetic state, you see this surge of blood glucose after a meal,” Johnston says. Even among healthy people, eating starch-heavy foods like pasta or pizza leads to a spike in blood glucose that may promote cardiovascular disease, she says. But by blocking the gut’s absorption of starchy foods, the acetic acid in vinegar appears to calm this unhealthy swell of blood sugar, Johnston’s research shows.

All types of vinegar contain acetic acid, which is the key ingredient Johnston credits with these healthy digestion changes. So what’s so great about ACV? “Its marketing,” she says. As far as acetic acid goes, “it really doesn’t matter what type of vinegar you’re ingesting.” She points out that balsamic and red wine vinegars have long been a part of Mediterranean-style diets, which may be one more reason Med diets are linked with so many health benefits.

In fact, she recommends red wine vinegar as a mellower alternative to ACV for those looking to get more acetic acid in their diets. “If you put glasses of diluted red wine vinegar and diluted apple cider vinegar side by side, the red wine [vinegar] would be much smoother and easier to swallow,” she says.

She makes a point of saying “diluted” because, without water, vinegar can cause damage to your throat and esophagus. “You hear people talk about shooting it straight, almost like they’re proud of it, but that’s not good for you,” Johnston adds. (At least one case study has linked this kind of vinegar shot-taking to tooth erosion.)

Johnston says the best and safest way to consume it is to mix one to two tablespoons of ACV or red wine vinegar with 8 ounces of water. Swallow the mixture right at the start of a meal. “If you take it too far ahead of time, it’s gone before you get any benefit,” she explains. But because some food molecules and nutrients can mess with the way acetic acid works, “you want [the vinegar] to beat any starch to your gut,” she adds. Keep your total daily intake at or below 4 tablespoons.

It that’s too hardcore, eat a salad splashed with red wine or balsamic vinegar before you chow down on a starchy meal. “This is how we’ve been eating vinegar for a thousand years,” Johnston says.

These Are the Real Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

[brightcove:5632201744001 default]

Apple cider vinegar has been touted as a cure-all for decades. I’ve seen claims that it can do everything from halt hiccups to whiten teeth, and even banish dandruff. Whether or not it's capable of all those things, there is some solid research to back up apple cider vinegar as a healthy elixir, as long as you use it correctly.

One promising benefit: It seems to help regulate blood sugar. A study published in Diabetes Care looked at men and women with type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that when the participants downed two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bed with a snack (one ounce of cheese), they had lower blood sugar levels the next morning, compared to when they ate the same bedtime snack paired with two tablespoons of water.

Another study published in the same journal compared the effects of apple cider vinegar on healthy adults, people with pre-diabetes, and people with type 2 diabetes. Study participants in all three groups had better blood glucose readings when they consumed less than an ounce of apple cider vinegar with a high-carb meal (a white bagel with butter and orange juice), compared to when they the had the same meal and drank a placebo. People with pre-diabetes improved their blood glucose levels with vinegar by nearly half, while people with diabetes cut their blood glucose concentrations by 25%.

RELATED: You Should Probably Be Eating More Turmeric. Here's How

Some research also suggests that apple cider vinegar may ward off scale creep. In a study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, mice fed a high-fat diet along with acetic acid—vinegar’s key component—developed up to 10% less body fat than control rodents. The researchers believe the findings support the notion that acetic acid turns on genes that trigger enzymes to break down fat and prevent weight gain.

To investigate this effect in humans, Japanese scientists conducted a double-blind trial on obese adults with similar body weights and waist measurements in 2009. They divided the participants into three groups. Every day for 12 weeks, one group drank a beverage containing half an ounce of apple cider vinegar. Another group drank a beverage with one ounce of apple cider vinegar. And the third group had a drink containing no vinegar at all. At the end of the study, the people who drank one of the beverages with vinegar had less belly fat, lower triglycerides and waist measurements, and a lower body weight and BMI, compared to the no-vinegar group.

RELATED: 57 Ways to Lose Weight Forever, According to Science

Apple cider vinegar may also be a boon to digestive health, based on the results of a study done on mice with ulcerative colitis. The researchers found that when acetic acid was added to their drinking water, they had higher levels of good bacteria in their guts, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, and reduced symptoms of the gastrointestinal disease.

While the evidence behind apple cider vinegar seems promising, there are a few things to keep in mind before you start downing the stuff. First off, I don’t recommend drinking straight vinegar. Undiluted shots have been known to wear away tooth enamel, and damage the esophagus. Also, too much apple cider vinegar may lower potassium levels in the body. 

If you want to give it a go, swirl two teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar and a teaspoon of organic honey into a cup of warm water once a day. Or simply use apple cider vinegar as a main ingredient in salad dressing, or chilled veggie side dishes, like vinegar-based slaw.

RELATED: 6 Prebiotic Foods You Should Add to Your Diet ASAP

My go-to recipe: Whisk together one tablespoon each apple cider vinegar and lemon juice, add a half teaspoon of minced garlic, a dash of ground black pepper, and a few fresh basil leaves, chopped. It's fantastic drizzled over fresh leafy greens, broad beans, or cooked, chilled fingerling potatoes.

Just remember, making vinegar a daily habit won't cancel out the effects of overeating. Think of it as one piece of your wellness puzzle, and not a panacea.

Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and consultant for the New York Yankees. See her full bio here. 

What the Heck Is Maca? 4 Things to Know About the Trendy Superfood

[brightcove:5638002451001 default]

Whether or not you're obsessed with trying the latest uber-healthy food trends, you've probably heard the buzz about maca. This pungent root veggie, cultivated in the Andes Mountains of Peru (and sometimes referred to as Peruvian ginseng), has been used traditionally for its nutritional and presumed medicinal qualities for thousands of years. Now, maca is popping up on supermarket shelves, and in energy bars, supplements, and smoothies. But before you add it to your diet, here are four things to keep in mind:

Maca is thought to have many perks

It's been heralded as a "superfood" because it contains key nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It's also long been believed to improve fertility, boost libido, sharpen mental focus and memory, enhance endurance, reduce the symptoms of menopause, and more. But there is limited research available to back up these claims. One recent Korean review of previous research found that maca improved sperm motility and semen quality in infertile men. And a very small study on postmenopausal women suggested that maca may enhance sexual desire.

There are some safety concerns

Maca is taken as a natural treatment for hormone imbalances. But the fact that it may affect hormones could be a concern for some women. Many health professionals, including myself, advise women with hormone-sensitive conditions such as uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and certain cancers to avoid maca. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are also encouraged to steer clear of the root.

And though maca isn't labeled as a stimulant, many of my clients suspect that it triggered side effects like insomnia, racing heart rate, and stomach aches. If you’re generally sensitive to stimulants like coffee, or you have irritable bowl syndrome (IBS) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), pay attention to your body's response should you decide to give maca a try.

RELATED: What is Clean Eating?

It comes in powdered form

You may be able to find fresh maca at a market in Peru, but not in the United States. Exporting the root whole is illegal. You'll find it here as a powder, in capsules, or in products like Amrita’s Chocolate Maca bar or Navitas’ Maca Maple Cashews.

It’s simple to add maca to your diet

You can stir it into a pressed juice, whip it into a smoothie, or fold it into oatmeal, Greek yogurt, or pancake mix. It has a nutty flavor with a hint of butterscotch. And since there's more than one type, you can change things up by alternating the black, red, yellow, and blended varieties. Red maca, for example, is supposed to have the mildest flavor and provide the most health perks.

Just remember, a little goes a long way. So you might want to start with just a quarter to half a teaspoon. But even if maca becomes a part of your daily routine, I generally advise my clients to have no more than one teaspoon per day. And if it doesn't agree with you, don't sweat it. There are plenty of ways to upgrade your meals with other superfood add-ins.

Do you have a question about nutrition? Chat with us on Twitter by mentioning @goodhealth and @CynthiaSass.

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Yankees, previously consulted for three other professional sports teams, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Sass is a three-time New York Times best-selling author, and her newest book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Intermittent Fasting Is All the Rage—But Is It Healthy?

[brightcove:5672527937001 default]

When you hear the word “fasting,” you probably think of gimmicky diets—and, um, feeling “hangry.” But a growing body of research suggests that cycling super low-calorie days into your normal eating plan could potentially improve your health (more on that later). But before you skip lunch and let your gut start growling, read on for everything you need to know about intermittent fasting. 

What is intermittent fasting (IF)?

In very basic terms, IF is occasional starvation done in a strategic way. The idea is to cycle between periods of regular eating and fasting, during which you severely restrict your calorie intake or don’t consume any food at all. Some people fast for hours, while some may go for a full day or longer.

Fasting isn’t one size fits all

IF may mean something different depending on who you talk to. One of the more commonly known fasting systems is the 5:2 diet, which involves restricting calories for two non-consecutive days a week and eating without calorie restraints on the other five days. (Jimmy Kimmel credited the 5:2 diet with his weight loss in a Men’s Journal story last year.) 

Others may fast on a day-to-day basis by eating only during a specific time window. Mark Mattson, a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Aging in Maryland who has researched the subject extensively, shared with the New York Times that most days he skips breakfast and lunch and eats all of his calories within a six-hour window starting in the afternoon. And, Hugh Jackman revealed that he fasted for 16 hours and ate within an 8-hour window to get in shape for his role as Wolverine in 2013. 

The health benefits of fasting go beyond weight loss

Fasting may improve your overall health and extend your life, likely due to the ways that it affects cell and hormone function, according to several studies. In one recent study in Cell Metabolism, for example, periodic fasting was linked to lower risks of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and aging.

So why does fasting have such a positive health impact? During the fasting phase, many cells die and stem cells turn on, which starts a regeneration process and gives rise to new, younger cells, study author Valter Longo, PhD, recently explained to Health“It sounds too good to be true, but it’s not,” he said.

Other studies have shown that intermittent fasting may decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, as well as inflammation. Additionally, IF may improve insulin resistance, which, in turn, helps stabilize blood sugar levels.

RELATED49 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Feeling Full

It typically focuses on when to eat, not necessarily what to eat

There's no one-size-fits-all fasting diet; plans can be highly individualized. Some folks allow themselves to drink black coffee and green juice during the no-food period, while others may give themselves a cap of 500 calories on fasting days.

For instance, Kimmel told Men's Journal that on fasting days his "meals" might consist of peanut butter and an apple, the whites of hard-boiled eggs, or possibly a bowl of oatmeal. “The rest of the week I'm a glutton—pizza and pasta and steak,” he told the mag.

But here, Kimmel reveals one of the issues with fasting diets, says Libby Mills, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “The focus isn’t always on nutrition," she says. "A lot of the time it’s just about calories.” 

“Some people may also interpret the normal eating time as free rein to go calorie crazy,” Mills adds, “which can backfire.”

It can help with weight loss, but it may not work for everyone

Hey, it helped Kimmel and Jackman shape up. But Mills warns that while a fasting program may aid weight loss, it’s not a plan that is practical or sustainable for everyone.

“It’s not something that I personally recommend in my practice because I think there are lots of ways to get a jumpstart on weight loss without going cold turkey with food,” she explains. “You can instead focus on eating more vegetables and fruits. That way you’re focusing on picking healthy calories and adding nutrients. It’s a positive change as opposed to an all-or-nothing mindset."

You also don’t know how you will react physically and mentally to calorie restriction, she adds. “You may not know how your body will respond to, say, low blood sugar,” Mills says. “Or, some people find that fasting seems like a piece of cake until around 3 o’clock, and then suddenly cravings come on and you end up eating all sorts of things you normally wouldn’t.”

The bottom line? “You have to consider how you personally are affected by restriction,” she says.

RELATED: 4 Reasons NOT to Try Intermittent Fasting

You should talk to a doctor before trying a fasting diet

Your personality is just one factor to consider before you try IF; your overall health is another.

“Whether you’re thinking about trying a fasting system for preventive reasons or as a treatment, the doctor should be involved,” Longo says. “There are many factors that must be considered, like your current diet, or whether you have diabetes or a metabolic disorder.”

Also, it’s important to determine with a health or nutrition professional what sort of system makes sense for your lifestyle.

“An athlete with a perfect pescatarian diet may benefit from only fasting twice a year,” Longo explains. “But someone with high cholesterol and excess abdominal fat may see more improvement by doing it more regularly.”

The long-term effects of fasting diets aren’t well understood. Much of the research on the topic has been done across short time frames. And while experts have done some studies in humans and are doing more, a lot of the current info is from animal samples.

A lot more research needs to be done, Mills says. But if you are curious about incorporating fasting into your eating plan, you should ask a health professional to help you design a plan that ensures you are eating the right foods on both fasting and non-fasting days to guarantee you stay in good health.

Is It Possible to Eat Too Much Fruit?

[brightcove:5528009511001 default]

You've been told since you were a kid how important it is to eat fruit. But is there such thing as too much? As a nutritionist, I've worked with clients on both ends of the fruit-eating spectrum: Some shunned fruit completely due to its carb and sugar content, while others loaded up on fruit because it's rich in nutrients. The reality is, the ideal amount lies somewhere in between these two extremes, and it varies from person to person. To help you figure out your own sweet spot when it comes to fruit, here are four important things to keep in mind.

Stick with two to four servings

As a general rule, you probably need somewhere between two to four servings of fruit a day. What's a proper serving? Either one cup, or a piece of fruit about the size of a baseball. But if your activity level varies from day to day, your fruit needs might change as well. For example, many of my female clients eat one serving of fruit with breakfast, and another as part of a daytime snack (a good go-to strategy!). But on days they have a tough workout, they may add a third serving, such as a small, pre-exercise banana. However, for active men, teens, and tall, younger women with active jobs, four servings a day tends to be about right. Some of my pro athlete clients need more than four servings a day, but that's not the norm for most of us.

Your fruit needs are based on your fuel needs

Here's why you shouldn't eat an unlimited amount of fruit, or even overdo it: While it may be packed with nutrients, fruit is also a major source of carbs. One medium apple, a cup of blueberries, and a small banana each contain about 20 grams. It's important to get a healthy amount of carbs in your daily diet, to fuel the activity of your cells. But when you eat more carbs than you can burn after a meal or snack, the surplus can either feed existing fat, or even increase your body fat stores. For this reason, your total carb intake—including nutrient-rich foods like fruit—should correspond to your fuel needs, which are based on your height, ideal weight, sex, age, and physical activity level.

The taller you are and the higher your ideal weight, the more of you there is to fuel, and therefore the more carbs you need. Men generally need more than women, younger people more than older adults, and active folks more than inactive individuals. (Men are on average taller than women, and even at the same height they have more muscle mass—two reasons they require extra fuel.) For example, if you’re a petite woman who mostly sits at work and exercises for 45 minutes five days a week, you don’t need as many servings of fruit per day as a tall, muscular man with a physically demanding job.

Timing matters

Since the carbs in fruit fuel the activity of your cells, when you eat berries, apples, and the like makes a big difference. Downing a huge fruit plate late at night while you’re watching TV or surfing the web (i.e., when your fuel demand is low) may be healthier than eating cookies or candy. But if you don’t burn off all those carbs, then—yep you guessed it—surplus city! So try to eat fruit before you're going to be more active, so you'll use the carbs for fuel. If you really enjoy eating fruit in the evening, at least try to limit your portion to, say, one cup of grapes (as opposed to three big handfuls).

The nutrients in fruit are worth the carbs (if you don’t overdo it)

While carbs are a consideration, it's also important to remember that fruit is chock-full of other key nutrients. Natural substances in fruit—including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and prebiotics—do wonders for your health. And the nutrients found in one fruit family, like berries, differ from those in apples and pears, stone fruits, melon, or citrus. So rather than limiting yourself to apples and berries only, aim for variety, and work in seasonal options.

Another thing: Don't freak out about the sugar. Even the strictest nutrition guidelines zero in on added sugar, not naturally-occurring sugar from whole, fresh fruit. That's because sugar found in fruit is unrefined, far less concentrated, and bundled with a number of other key nutrients. For example, one whole orange provides about 17 grams of carbs, around 12 of which are natural sugar. But that orange also supplies fluid, 12% of your daily fiber, nearly 100% of your vitamin C needs, B vitamins, potassium, and compounds like herperidin—which has been shown to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and act as an anti-inflammatory. In comparison, one level tablespoon of table sugar contains 16 grams of carbs, all from refined sugar, and is devoid of nutrients. In other words, fruit and refined sugar don’t belong in the same category.

So please, enjoy fruit as part of a balanced diet. If you’re strategic about the timing and amount, you won’t have to worry about these healthy plants causing weight gain or preventing weight loss, and at the same time you'll better protect your health.

Do you have a question about nutrition? Chat with us on Twitter by mentioning @goodhealth and @CynthiaSass.

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Yankees, previously consulted for three other professional sports teams, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Sass is a three-time New York Times best-selling author, and her newest book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.