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Pumpkin truly is great for your health

Drs. Michael Roizen and Mehmet O, Houston Chronicle
Published 1:35 pm, Friday, November 23, 2012

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  • Assorted pumpkins and squashes to illustrate an "All in the Family" story photographed in the Houston Chronicle Photo Studio, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, in Houston. ( Michael Paulsen / Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Michael Paulsen, Staff / © 2012 Houston Chronicle
    Assorted pumpkins and squashes to illustrate an "All in the Family" story photographed in the Houston Chronicle Photo Studio, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, in Houston. ( Michael Paulsen / Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Michael Paulsen, Staff

 

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"Each year," says a hopeful Linus, "the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch he thinks is most sincere. He has to choose this one!" While nothing more than a cape-clad Snoopy ever appears, the truth is that pumpkins are sincerely great on both flavor and nutrition.

Prepared correctly, pumpkins and pumpkin seeds can reduce inflammation and help you lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. A phytochemical (phenols) in pumpkin also helps relax blood vessels, and that lowers blood pressure.

And as you purée, bake, sauté or boil this bright-orange gourd, you're also getting loads of dietary fiber, beta carotene - the precursor of vitamin A, vitamin C and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium; 3½ ounces of pumpkin has about 25 calories, with no saturated fat or cholesterol; 3½ ounces of pumpkin seeds deliver 560 calories and 30 grams of protein. The seeds also pack a good supply of zinc and toast up really well.

Here's one of our favorite recipes: Clean off the seeds and toss them with a bit of olive oil, garlic, cayenne pepper or lemon pepper. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 250 degrees until golden and crisp - about 20-30 minutes.

Gum health is whole-body health

It's hard to believe, but antibiotics destroyed Charlize Theron's baby teeth: "I had no teeth until I was 11," she says. Wow. Great smile now. How'd that happen?

For most folks, though, it goes the other way: As you get older you tend to neglect your teeth (one-third to one-half of adults in North America don't make their yearly dental check-up, and only 36 percent of women and 14 percent of men floss even four times a week), which is a big reason why 75 percent of adults have some form of gum disease.

When that happens, the health issues aren't just in your mouth. Gum disease increases the risk for kidney cancer by 49 percent, pancreatic cancer by 54 percent and blood cancers by 30 percent. It also ups the chances for Type 2 diabetes and related complications, rheumatoid arthritis, impotence, memory dysfunction and Alzheimer's disease. There's still debate about whether it triggers heart disease; the American Heart Association says no. But we think the proof is out there. Clearly, you want to brush up on your dental routine.

The truth about testosterone

Testosterone, that mostly male hormone (gals have 5 percent to 10 percent of guys' levels), fosters more than posturing and aggression. It's important for sexual desire and satisfaction, brain size and function, muscle tone - and, surprisingly, honesty.

A recent study found that men dosed with a bit of extra testosterone lied less frequently than those without the hormone helper.

Why does testosterone reduce lying? Seems the hormone works in the brain to promote ethical behavior and feelings of social cooperation, possibly by reducing fear, making you more resilient to stress and more self-confident. So, guys, young or old, peace-loving or not so much, there are many benefits from making sure you have a good supply of the juice you need to stay healthy and honest. Here's how you can naturally boost your testosterone levels:

1.Lower your body mass index. Every two-point drop in BMI increases circulating testosterone by a corresponding two points.

2.Reduce your alcohol intake: Daily moderate drinking can lower levels by 7 percent.

3.Relax with meditation, mindfulness or aerobic exercise. Stress increases fat deposits that turn testosterone into estrogen (really!).

4.Sleep seven to eight hours a night, every night. Deep REM sleep is when most testosterone is made. Sweet dreams, indeed!

Contact the You Docs at www.realage.com.