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The Pumpkin, in All Its Glory

The pumpkin is native to North America like other winter squash varieties. And while it’s celebrated here during the fall with traditional Halloween Jack O’Lanterns, Thanksgiving pumpkin pies, and seasonal pumpkin spiced lattes, it is now a food enjoyed across the globe. Many parts of the plant are edible: the stems, flowers, flesh and seeds. Most people are familiar with the fleshy part of the fruit which is pureed and used in soups or pies, especially during autumn when it is harvested. The seeds, also known as pepitas, are quite nutritious and are enjoyed year round as a snack or as an addition to salads, granolas and other dishes, both with the shell (white) or hulled (usually green). (more…)

Starting a New Exercise Regimen? Here Are Some Ways to Avoid Injury

If you are beginning (or resuming) an exercise program, congratulations! You have taken a great step towards a healthier lifestyle. Well done. I’d like to share some helpful hints to avoid injuries and get the most out of your workouts. If you are new to exercise altogether, it might be best to train with a professional. Personal trainers can teach you the techniques and proper form of all types of exercises, whether it’s “boot camp,” yoga, strength training, cardio kickboxing class, etc. However, let the trainer or instructor know that this is new for you. They may assess your abilities based on how you appear while performing the exercise, and you should speak up if you feel pain or discomfort or if you feel a particular weight is too heavy for you (many injuries happen when a person follows instructions without communicating their pain level). You should also indicate any past or present injuries you may have. If you are returning to an exercises program, it often helps to start out with a partner or someone to whom you are accountable. It can facilitate the schedule and keep your discipline strong on days when you might prefer to skip out. I find that writing a log of what you’ll do (or a record of what you’ve done) for the week is helpful for developing goals and keeping a record. (more…)

Low Back Pain

Low back pain is so common that it is one of the most frequent reasons people give for missing work in the U.S.! In fact, almost everyone suffers from low back pain at some point in their lives. Structurally, the lower back bears the weight of the entire upper body. It is an area that is very susceptible to injury and as people age, the
muscles and soft tissues lose their elasticity. The discs between vertebrae may also lose some of their cushion ability. When the spinal nerves are compressed or irritated, they cause pain. When you consider the posture most of us have at our jobs (i.e., standing for long periods or sitting at a desk all day), it is no wonder that the rates of this kind of pain are so high. Some of the causes of low back pain in western medical terms are: trauma, inflammation or infection of the joints, muscle strain or sprain, sciatica, narrowing of the spinal canal, bulging or herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, scoliosis, and other causes.  Pregnancy, obesity, scar tissue, and poor posture are other factors that may contribute to low back pain. If back pain occurs with other symptoms (like fever or cough), it may be something more serious, so a physician should be consulted as soon as possible. (more…)