Quit for Lent, quit for good

Today marks the beginning of Lent, when many Christians sacrifice things they enjoy for about 40 days. Experts say the benefits can go beyond the spiritual and can even lead to permanent lifestyle changes.

GIVING UP ALCOHOL?

HEALTH BENEFITS: Some studies have touted the health benefits of light to moderate alcohol use. However, a glass of wine could pack 160 to 200 calories, so cutting out a glass or two a day for 40 days could result in the loss of up to five pounds, depending on metabolism, said Kristen Middleton, a clinical dietitian with Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics.

FINANCIAL SAVINGS (based on a $12.99 bottle of wine, one glass daily)

DAILY: $3.05 - Weekly: $21.35 - Yearly: $1,110.20


GIVING UP CIGARETTES?

HEALTH BENEFITS: Within 24 hours of quitting smoking, the chances of having a heart attack decrease, and the ability to smell and taste is enhanced within the first two days, according to the American Lung Association. Within one year, the risk of coronary heart disease is decreased to half that of a smoker, and after five years the risk of stroke is that of a person who never smoked.

FINANCIAL SAVINGS (based on $3.69 per pack of cigarettes, 17 cigarettes daily)

DAILY: $3.10 - Weekly: $21.71 - Yearly: $1,129.31


GIVING UP RED MEAT?

HEALTH BENEFITS: A high-fat meal such as a steak can increase the amount of triglycerides, a measure of fat in the bloodstream, by 150 percent within six hours, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The short-term benefits of giving up red meat are unknown, but red meat has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and colon and breast cancers.

FINANCIAL SAVINGS (based on beef at $9.99 per pound, 6-ounce portion three times per week):

DAILY: $3.74 - Weekly: $11.22 - Yearly: $583.44


GIVING UP PREMIUM COFFEE?

HEALTH BENEFITS: A 12-ounce cup of Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino can run about 250 calories, with 40 grams of sugar. Cutting out a daily pickup could result in the loss of one to two pounds, or up to five over the season, Mrs. Middleton said. A better option might be a 12-ounce cup of unflavored black coffee, which has less than 10 calories (about 40 calories with two tablespoons of cream).

FINANCIAL SAVINGS (based on $4.32 cup of coffee, one per day):

DAILY: $4.32 - Weekly: $30.24 - Yearly: $1572.48

-- Compiled by Staff Writer Tom Corwin