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The Health Benefits of Pumpkins

 By Nancy Mehlert, MS

Wait!  Before you say you don’t like pumpkin, consider trying it again. Here’s why:                                                                                          

The fruit of these large, vining plants, so associated with harvest, belong to the Cucurbitaceae, or cucumber family. The two main types are “pepo,” dubbed “small” pumpkins and are often carved into Jack-o-lanterns, and “maxima,” the giant variety grown to enter the “biggest pumpkin” contest at the county fair.

Pumpkin patch

Pumpkins are wonderful when it comes to vitamins and minerals, including large amounts of fiber and 100% of the daily vitamin A requirement. Pumpkins also provide plentiful amounts of vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, copper, and manganese. Smaller but significant amounts of vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus also are present.

What does that mean for us? The bright orange hints at the presence of a particularly beneficial phytonutrient: carotene. This converts to vitamin A in the body for a tremendous punch of antioxidants with the capacity to help prevent heart disease, cancer, and many of the degenerating signs of aging. Vitamin A is also a must for good vision and helping to prevent lung and mouth cancers. Flavonoids such as cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin destroy harmful free radicals, and the latter, especially, helps protect the retina of the eye from macular degeneration.

Pumpkin seeds are not only a tasty, easy-to-transport snack, you could also say they’re a concentrated source of minerals and vitamins. Two cups contain 30 grams of protein, 110% of the daily recommended allowance for iron, and 559 calories. The fiber helps maintain regular elimination to keep the colon clear. Two cups may sound like a lot and we are not suggesting you eat it all in one sitting, but rather over the course of a week, 8 – ¼ cup servings adds a great deal of nutrition to snacking, salads, sweet potato and butternut squash, just to name a few uses.  A special bonus in pumpkin seeds is the amino acid tryptophan, which, once in the brain, converts into serotonin – a neurotransmitter which relaxes the body, calms the nerves, and improves sleep.

Suggestions: Stir canned organic pumpkin into a Paleo porridge such as Pure Traditions Instant Hot Cereal (www.paleomountain.com). Blend pumpkin puree with cooked acorn squash, carrot, sweet potato or butternut squash and blend with chicken bone broth and spices for a creamy, winter soup. Pureed pumpkin blended with unsweetened applesauce makes a great baby food or seniors food where chewing is an issue.  Also a great comfort food for everyone to replace puddings. Perform an internet search for a keto pumpkin pie and you will find plenty of low sugar, healthy pumpkin pie options for the holidays.





By |2017-10-30T10:08:30-05:00October 30th, 2017|General, NANCY’S NUTRITIONAL NUGGET|

Be Sure to Get Your Bs

B vitaminsBy Nancy Mehlert, MS

One of the most common problems we see with our new patients is nutritional bankruptcy, with a B vitamin deficiency being common and often the cause of several symptoms. B vitamins are not stored very well in the body because they are water-soluble. While a healthy body can produce some of the B vitamins, diet and supplementation are mission critical to good health. Deficiencies can occur fairly easily as a result of dieting, fasting, or a diet of substantially refined and processed food, sugar, or alcohol. Another very common reason for B vitamin deficiencies today is an unhealthy gut. Many of our B vitamins are produced by intestinal bacteria; however, antibiotic use, processed foods, sugar, alcohol, Splenda, stress and a toxic environment have all contributed to the destruction of these favorable bacteria, resulting in vitamin B deficiencies.

B vitamins are often referred to as a complex of vitamins because they usually show up in food and nature together and in many cases need each other to perform the functions they serve in the body. The complex includes thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxal, biotin, folic acid, and B-12 (the cobalamins). B Vitamins serve the following purposes in the human body:

  • Like a spark plug in a car, they help to start or determine the speed of biochemical reactions in the body such as converting carbohydrates to glucose as well as metabolizing fats and proteins.
  • They are essential to the normal functioning of the nervous system and help to bring relaxation or energy when stressed or fatigued.
  • The health of our skin, hair, eyes, liver and mucosal linings are especially dependent on the B vitamins.
  • Proper levels of B vitamins also enhance the muscle tone of the gastrointestinal tract, allowing the bowels to function most efficiently.

Common symptoms of vitamin B deficiencies include fatigue, irritability, nervousness, depression, insomnia, loss of appetite, sore mouth or tongue, and cracks in the corners of the mouth. Deficiencies of some of the B vitamins may also impair immune function and estrogen metabolism, while deficiencies in B-12 and folic acid specifically can result in constipation, numbness in hands and feet, skin problems, acne, hair loss, early graying of hair, increased serum cholesterol and weakness of the legs.

Essential to avoiding vitamin B deficiencies, two steps must be taken. First, be sure that your gut is healthy and has optimal favorable bacteria. This is one of the reasons we focus on gut health with every patient and recommend that most patients take a quality probiotic every day and/or eat cultured foods. Second, be sure to consume a wide variety of whole foods. Some of the best sources of B Vitamins include organ meats, especially liver (ideally from a grass fed animal), nutritional yeast (ask your nutritionist how this is used and whether it is right for you), most beans, peas, lentils, dark green vegetables and dark green leafy vegetables, avocado, oats, millet, eggs, oily fish such as trout, mackerel, herring, shellfish, tuna, salmon, halibut, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, seeds, meat and poultry.

By |2015-08-05T06:39:16-05:00July 28th, 2015|Articles, General, NANCY’S NUTRITIONAL NUGGET|

Healthy Tips on How NOT to Catch The Crud

We all hope it won’t happen to us, but somehow as late winter and early spring roll around, the bad germs and blooming plants abound and, before you know it, it seems like everyone around you has the flu or a cold or that mysterious thing that hangs on forever, lovingly called “The Crud”. Especially prevalent where people gather in larger numbers, office workers and school attendees are especially susceptible.  If you have been fortunate to avoid it so far this year, or you want to make sure you don’t get hit again, there are many things you can do wherever you are to minimize your risk of getting sick this time of year.  Here is a list of proactive things you can do to protect yourself:

Vitamin Vigilance – Now is an especially important time to be diligent about taking your vitamins.  We know that a multi-vitamin, probiotics, vitamin D, vitamin C, and Zinc are effective in supporting healthy living and boosting the immune system.

Allergy Awareness – If you know you struggle with environmental or food allergies, do your best to minimize exposure where possible and seek quality treatment for your allergies.  Left to fester, the relentless attack on the immune system and the resulting inflammation often leads to infection and illness.  Today, there are numerous effective treatments to minimize the effects of seasonal allergies and promote healthy living and immune function.  Call our office to speak to a wellness consultant about sublingual allergy drops!

Hand Hygiene – Our hands are useful and relentlessly busy, and this means they touch many surfaces and people throughout the day.  Unfortunately, we also eat with them, touch our noses and lips, and cough into them.  As a result, they are a major carrier of germs to and from other people and high-traffic surfaces.  Here are some easy health tips: Keep hands clean using soap and warm water or citric acid/essential oil-based anti-bacterial hand sanitizer.  Keep your hands away from your nose and mouth and never eat food with your bare hands without washing them well first.

Germ Gatherings – So where do these pesky little microbes tend to hang out together?  Most of us fear public toilet seats, but you may be surprised to know that studies have shown they are one of the cleaner surfaces found in public areas because restrooms are generally cleaned on a daily basis.  Do you work in a healthy workplace? The greatest populations of viruses and bacteria are found on surfaces that are used often, but not cleaned regularly.  The germiest include desktops, office break room tables, restaurant tables (the rags to wipe them are usually not sanitized after each wipe), phones, computer mice and keyboards, grocery cart handles, and escalator rails.  Cleaning your personal workspace daily, washing your hands after using others’ workspaces and encouraging others to do the same, are ways to minimize your exposure.  It is a good idea to carry an antibacterial hand sanitizer to use after coming in contact with grocery carts, escalator rails, and other heavily handled surfaces.

Sugar, Stress, and Sleep Shortages – These little devils seem to hang out together when life gets busy and deadlines are looming. We become overly stressed, we have less time for a good night’s sleep or some exercise to relax us so we reach for a sugary treat to comfort our frustration.  Unfortunately, we have created the perfect storm for a bacteria or virus to jump on board and do a happy dance on us.  During this germy season, it is the very best time and reason to make wise snack choices, get a quick walk in during the lunch hour and get to bed on time. Avoid reaching for the bowl of candy at the office or resorting to the donut in the break room. Sugar can suppress your immune system and impair your defenses against infectious disease. Instead, keep pre-packaged single serving nuts, small mandarin oranges, low sugar KIND bars, and herbal teas at your desk (or in the office bowl of treats) to provide good nutrition and comfort.  Take a few minutes every hour or so to stretch, stand up, and take a deep breath to reduce stress and move the body.  Use 15 minutes of your lunch break to walk up a couple flights of stairs and back or around the building outside.  Then when you get home, be sure to get a good night’s sleep.

Sit and Stay! –If you are sick, stay home.  If you are a manager, encourage your team members to do the same thing.  If you are a parent, keep your sick children home. There are no heroics in bringing germs to the office or schoolroom to share with everyone else.  Rest will also allow the body to heal more rapidly.

By |2014-02-18T21:52:59-05:00February 14th, 2014|Articles, General|