Fall is upon us. Which means pumpkin products are everywhere.
Pumpkins are so much more than a seasonal decoration. From your coffee shop to your corner bakery, this winter squash makes its appearance in our food supply towards the end of the year.
And besides being beautiful, pumpkins are quite the nutritional powerhouse too.
One cup of mashed, cooked pumpkin contains:
- 50 calories
- 3 grams fiber
- 2 grams protein
The Vitamin A content of pumpkin is probably its most impressive stat. One cup of pumpkin provides 100% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin A.
Vitamin A is an important fat-soluble vitamin that helps promote vision and maintain a healthy immune system.
If you are looking for some ways to incorporate more pumpkin into your diet (other than pumpkin pie!) check out these tips in the USDA’s Seasonal Produce Guide for Pumpkin.
It pays to keep track!
A recent study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that 69% of American adults keep track of at least one health indicator and 60% of US adults track weight, diet, or exercise routine.
Although people with chronic conditions are most likely to track health indicators – plenty of healthy people are keeping tabs too.
How are People “Keeping Track”?
Of those surveyed who consider themselves “trackers”:
- 49% track progress in their heads
- 34% track progress by writing it down on paper or in a journal
- 21% track progress using some sort of technology
There are a variety of electronic resources out there to help track food intake and energy expenditure. Some of the most popular ones include:
- Websites such as USDA’s SuperTracker, part of the ChooseMyPlate.gov program
- Phone apps such as MyFitnessPal and LiveStrong CalorieCounter
- Wearable devices like FitBit and UP by Jawbone
Whether or not these health trackers are more successful at losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight remains to be seen. But if you know you are at risk for the development of certain types of chronic disease – such as heart disease – it may pay to keep tabs on yourself.
For a list of other fitness and food tracking resources, click here.
Not all fruits are created equal…especially when it comes to fruit and figure.
A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that belly fat in apple-shaped people is on the rise in the US, noting:
- 54% of US adults have abdominal obesity, up from 46% in 1999-2000
- Over the past 12 years, the average waist size in US went up 2 inches per woman to 38 inches and up 1 inch for men, to 40 inches
So what’s so bad about belly fat?
People with apple-shaped figures harbor a type of belly fat that is more dangerous than the pear-shaped fat distribution that tends to centralize around the buttocks and hips.
The type of fat that accumulates around the central or abdominal area in apple-shaped people is thought to be more metabolically active than subcutaneous fat found in pear-shaped people.
This central obesity or belly fat, also called visceral fat, leaches into the bloodstream and increases health risk by lowering levels of beneficial hormones, increasing inflammatory substances and even elevating the bad LDL cholesterol levels.
How do you know if you have belly fat?
A good rule of thumb for keeping belly fat at bay is to reduce your waist circumference if you are overweight or obese. To measure your waist circumference, with your clothes off, place a tape measure around your abdomen such that it is snug but not compressing your skin and sits just above your hip bone. Relax, breathe out, and measure your waist.
A good goal is to aim for:
- A waist circumference of less than 35 inches in females, and
- A waist circumference of less than 40 inches in males
Can you exercise away your belly fat?
There are no specific exercises you can do to get rid of “just” your belly fat.
Spot reducing – the attempt to exercise one particular area of the body to lose weight there – does not work. Instead, a comprehensive approach to physical activity and balanced eating that causes overall weight loss, is the only way to in turn reduce belly fat.