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10 Health Benefits of Pumpkins You Didn’t Know (And 32 Creative Ways To Have Pumpkin)

10 Health Benefits of Pumpkins You Didn’t Know (And 32 Creative Ways To Have Pumpkin)

In the 6th grade, I won a 300 pound pumpkin through a raffle that my teacher held for us.

This was the biggest pumpkin I’d ever seen in real life! I was so stoked to have it, because nobody else in my neighborhood had one as big as this. Cutting it open and removing the insides was a primal experience. Carving it was exhilarating and I hardly had the patience to wait to get it on our front porch and show it off to everyone.

Then Halloween night came around, and the 300 pound pumpkin was on display on our front porch.  I’ll never forget that night.  Crowds of people hovered around to see the specimen. Some even took pictures. I was so proud of my pumpkin.

For nearly a decade after that night, that’s how I viewed pumpkin. It was something you carved out on Halloween and displayed for show. I never associated pumpkin as a food. Until I had it in my oatmeal (and I share an amazing pumpkin oatmeal recipe later in this post). Not only did I realize that pumpkin was delicious, I soon found out it’s an underrated super-food!

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Here are 10 reasons why:

1. You will feel fuller

Pumpkin seeds contain up to 1.7g of fiber, and mashed pumpkin has up to 3g of fiber per cup. Why is this important? First off getting 30-50g of fiber a day is recommended, unfortunately most people only get about half of that or less. Don’t worry, having some winter squash like pumpkin in your diet consistently (I’ll show you how you can do it at the end of this post) sets you up on the right path to hit your dietary fiber needs. Secondly, eating pumpkin increases satiation and helps you feel fuller longer, by slowing down digestion and regulating blood sugar levels.

2. You will sleep better

Pumpkin is rich in trytophan, an amino acid which gets converted to serotonin, which may also explain the post Thanksgiving sleepiness. Serotonin is the “feel good” neurotransmitter that helps you settle down, unwind and doze off to sleep.

3. You will have a healthy heart

Increased fiber intake can also help protect you from heart disease, research shows. In fact, one study of over 67,000 thousand women over a 10 year span, demonstrates that a diet high in fiber intake reduces the risk of heart disease.

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4. You’ll increase your prostate health

Pumpkin seeds should make their way in to every man’s diet for good reason. Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in American men. One man in 7 are likely to get prostate cancer. Cancerous prostates show much less Zinc compared to healthy prostates and several studies have implicated impaired zinc status in the development and progression of prostate malignancy. Pumpkin is rich in Zinc; it contains more than 2mg per ounce which can contribute to the prevention of prostate cancer, research shows.

5. You will get magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral that aids in many physiological functions like the creation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate, the energy molecules of your body), relaxation of the nervous system, muscle growth and regulating bowel movements. And, 80% of Americans are deficient magnesium. Just 1 oz. of pumpkin seeds deliver about 30% of your daily recommended magnesium requirements.

6. You’ll feel the antioxidant benefits

Beta carotene, is a provitamin the body converts into vitamin A, which is a powerful antioxidant that has been associated with its ability to fend of cancer. Beta carotene is thought to play a role protecting cells, boosting the immune system and helping to keep the reproductive system healthy. Get some pumpkin into your life! A half cup of canned pumpkin packs 953mg of vitamin A and only 42 calories. 

7. When you eat some pumpkin, you burn the fat

Pumpkin is a great high nutrient, low calorie food. With only 42 calories per cup and loaded with fiber, pumpkin will keep you full longer, and regulate your blood sugar levels to keep food cravings at bay which helps you eat fewer calories and burn more fat.

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8. It’ll keep your eyesight sharp

A cup of pumpkin will meet your daily vitamin A requirements that aid in the integrity of your vision, especially in dim light according the National Institute of Health. 

9. You will have to eat less bananas

Bananas have made themselves popular for their potassium benefits.  But did you know that a cup of cooked pumpkin has 564mg compared to bananas 422mg?  Potassium deficiency can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness and inactive reflexes, so switch it up and rotate some pumpkin into your diet instead of solely relying on bananas for potassium

10. It will boost your mood

Serotonin deficiency is a growing concern for many people. Researchers claim that it’s an epidemic  inflicting its unique dark cloud misery on people and it’s noted that 80% of people suffer from serotonin deficiency. The reason why serotonin is important to overall wellness is because it’s our primary defense against depression and anxiety. A simple way to make sure you’re producing natural serotonin is to include foods that contain the amino acid tryptohphan which gets converted to serotinin in your body. Pumpkin seeds contain loads of tryptophan which will help keep your outlook on life bright.

So how do you incorporate pumpkin into your diet?

You can do it in so many creative ways! Seeds, canned, cooked, raw, in a casserole, in a cookie. During the fall you can add canned pumpkin to almost any dish, and you have a seasonal autumn dish ready to go. I like adding canned pumpkin to my oatmeal. It’s quick, easy, nutritious and delicious. Here is my favorite pumpkin oatmeal recipe you can try.

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Don’t forget about the seeds: they are high in nutrition and super easy to prepare! After you remove the seeds from the inside of the pumpkin, rinse and dry them off.  Place them on a cookie sheet, sprinkle them with your seasoning of choice (Here are 5 great ideas for seasoning) and lightly roast at 160-170 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Lastly, here are 25 awesome and delicious ways to include pumpkin into your diet. Enjoy!

Featured photo credit: http://www.bigstockphoto.com/search/?contributor=Gorilla via bigstockphoto.com

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Last Updated on June 15, 2018

What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

Eight out of ten adults experience lower back pain once in their lifetime. I am one of those people and I’m definitely not looking forward to my participation award. I know how it feels like to step out of bed and barely being able to put on your socks. Having lower back pain sucks. But 9 out of 10 patients that suffer from lower back pain don’t even know the primary cause of it.

Video Summary

Back Pain? Blame Our Evolution

Once upon a time in our fairly recent past, our ancestors felt the urgency to stand up and leave our quadruped neighbors behind. Habitual bipedalism, fancy word for regularly walking on two legs, came with a lot of advantages. With two rear limbs instead of four, we were able to more efficiently use our hands and create tools with them.

Sadly, life on two legs also brought along its disadvantages. Our spine had four supporting pillars previously, but now it only got two. The back is therefore naturally one of the weak links of our human anatomy. Our spine needs constant support from its supporting muscles to minimize the load on the spine. With no muscle support (tested on dead bodies) the back can only bear loads up to 5 pounds without collapsing [reference Panjabi 1989]. With well-developed torso muscles, the spine can take loads up to 2000 pounds. That’s a 400-fold increase.

Most people that come to me with a history of a herniated disc (that’s when the discs between the vertebral bodies are fully collapsed, really severe incident), tell me the ‘story of the pencil’. The injury with the following severe pain usually gets triggered by picking up a small, everyday object. Such as a pencil. Not as you may think by trying to lift 100 pounds – no, but by a simple thing – such as a pencil.

This tells us that damage in your back adds up over time, it’s a so called cumulative trauma disorder. Meaning back pain is a result of your daily habits.

Sitting Is the New Smoking

Whenever I sit for too long, my back hurts. In fact, 54% of Americans who experience lower back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting. But isn’t sitting something that should reduce the stress of your back? No, just the opposite.

The joints between the bones of the spine are not directly linked to the blood supply. These joints instead get nourished through a process called diffusion. Diffusion works because molecules (such as oxygen, important for cells) are constantly moving and try to get as much space for themselves as they can. A key element for diffusion therefore is a pressure difference. In the image below the left room contains more moving molecules than the right, that’s why the molecules from the left are moving to the right. This way nutrition gets transformed into the joints, whereas toxins are transported out of the joints.

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Sitting puts a lot of pressure on your spinal chord. The diffusion process therefore can’t function as efficiently. Nutrition and toxins can’t be properly transported, the joints get damaged.

    Sit Properly

    If sitting can play such a huge part in the creation of your lower back pain, how do you sit properly then?

    Is it better to sit with a straight back or should you rather lay back in your chair? Can I cross my legs when I’m sitting or should I have a symmetrical position with my feet? These are questions that I hear on a daily basis. The answer might shock you – according to recent science – all of them are right. The best sitting position is an ever-changing one. An ever-changing position minimizes the pressure on certain points of your spine and spreads it on the whole part.

      Credit: StayWow

      Stand Up More

      Even better than a sitting position is a stand up position. Standing dramatically reduces the pressure on your spine. If you’re forced to work on a desk the whole day though, you have two options.

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      Take breaks every hour of about 2-3 minutes.

      Set an alarm on your phone that goes off every hour! In that time you stand up and reach to the ceiling, on your toe tips with fully extended arms. You’re inhaling during the whole process. You do this activity for 20 seconds. Afterwards you’re walking through the office for the next 2 minutes. You might grab a healthy snack or some water in that time. The exercise relieves the pressure on your spine, while the walking makes sure that the joints on your spine are properly used.

      Or get a standing desk.

      One of the best companies on the market for Standing Desks, according to my research, is Autonomous. Autonomous offers a rather cheap Standing Desk, with the ability to change the height. Which means you can start the day standing and switch to sitting if you’re tired.

      Exercise for Lower Back Pain

      Sitting is an immobile position. Your joints are made for movement and therefore need movement to function properly. If humans are moving, all moving parts: e.g. the joints, bones and muscles get strengthened. If you’re in a rested position for too long, your tissues start to deteriorate. You have to get the right amount of activity in.

      But not too much activity. There’s a chance that going to the gym may even increase your risk of lower back pain. I know plenty of friends with chiseled bodies that suffer from pain in the spine regularly. Huge muscles do not prevent you from back pain. In your training you should focus on building up the muscles that are stabilizing your back and relieve pressure. Squats with 400 pounds don’t do the trick.

      The more weight you carry around, the more weight your spinal chord has to bear on a regular basis. That’s one of the reasons why huge, muscular guys can suffer from back pain too. One of the most important goals of your exercise regimen should therefore be weight loss.

      Here are some important tips for you to consider when starting an exercise regimen:

      Make sure you implement cardiovascular training in your workout routine.

      This will not only help you lose weight, it will also make sure that your arteries, which flow to the tissue next to your spinal discs, are free of placque and can therefore transport nutrients properly.

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      Important: If you have rather strong back pain, maybe even an herniated disc, don’t start running on a threadmill. Running is an high-impact exercise. Which means there are continuous, reocurring high pressure points on your spine. Your endurance training should therefore either be fast-paced walking or a training on the elliptical trainer for the beginning, because both have little to no stressful impact on your backbone.

      Focus on developing your whole core if you want to minimize your pain.

      There are some people that do hundreds of sit ups a day. While sit ups are a good exercise for your abdomen, it also puts pressure on your spine due to the bending movement. A sixpack workout routine is one-sided. Your abs may become overdeveloped in comparison to your back muscles. You’ve created an imbalance. A great way to train your abdominal muscles and back muscles simultaneously, is holding the plank position.

      Stretch only if you have tight muscles.

      I remember stretching every morning after I woke up. I took 10 minutes out of my day to just work on my flexibility and prevent injuries. Little did I know that I was actually promoting an injury, by doing so.

      Contrary to common belief, stretching is only partially beneficial to treating lower back pain. Stretching makes sense if tight muscles (such as the hamstrings) are forcing you to constantly bend your back. Stretching to treat pain doesn’t make sense if you’re already on a good level of flexibility. Hyper-mobility may even enforce back pain.

      If you found out that you had tight muscles that you need to stretch, try to stretch them at least three times a week. Don’t stretch your muscles right after you wake up in the morning. This is because your spinal discs soak themselves up in fluid over the nighttime. Every bending and excessive loads on your spine is much worse in that soaked-up state. Postpone your stretching regime to two-to three hours after you’ve woken up.

      Where to Start

      The key to improving your habits is awareness. Try to get aware of your back while you’re sitting down, laying down or lifting an object next time. This awareness of your body is called proprioception. For example, you have to be aware whether your back is bended or straight in this very second. Trust me, it is harder than you might think. You may need to ask a friend for the first few tries. But the change that this awareness can make in your back pain is absolutely fascinating. This consciousness of your body is one of the most important things in your recovery or prevention.

      Here are a few behavioural tactics that you need to be considering:

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      If you’re leaning forward more than 30 degrees with your upper body, support your spine with your arms.

      Ever tried to show a colleague of yours a complex issue and found yourself awkwardly leaning forward on their desk, pointing with your fingers to his paper? If that ever happens again, make sure you’re using the not-pointing arm to support yourself on the desk.

      Keep a straight back.

      Be it while exercising, stretching or standing. If you’re bending your back you’re putting stress on small areas of your spinal chord. A straight back redistributes the force to a bigger area. You’re minimizing the pressure. Remember this whenever you’re at the gym and reracking your weights, focus on having a neutral spine.

      Put symmetrical loads on your spine.

      I used to play the trumpet when I was a child. The instrument is pretty heavy. The trumpet gets transported in a big, metallic suitcase – with no wheels. Being the nature of suitcases, you only carry it with one arm, on one side of your body. This forced me to constantly lean on the other side with my upper body, while transporting the instrument from A to B. Not really the healthiest activity for your spine as you can imagine.

      If you have to carry heavy objects, carry them with both arms. Put the object in the middle of your body and keep it as close to your mass of gravity as you can. If this is not possible, try to carry the same amount on the left side than you do on the right side. This puts the stress vertically on a fully extended spine. The load is much better bearable for your spine.

      Stay Away From the Back Pain League

      Our world is getting more sedentary. We will continue to develop faster transportation, more comfortable houses and easier lives. While our technological progress definitely has its amazing benefits, it sadly has its downsides too. The danger for back pain will continue to rise on our ever-increasing motionless planet. It’s time to raise awareness.

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