Natural Health
Better living through nature


A Fall Favorite: The Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds

L.CleekWhen you're carving pumpkins, you’re bound to be left with a surplus of pumpkin seeds. While many people simply scoop out and discard the seeds as they prepare to carve their jack-o-lanterns, pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, offer many health benefits.

Pumpkin seeds were first used by Native American tribes, who found the seeds to be useful in eliminating intestinal parasites. The tribes also used pumpkin seeds to treat kidney problems. The seeds are still used to prevent kidney stones, but it is not known how this works.

A 2005 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that 68 percent of Americans have a magnesium deficiency. A magnesium deficiency can eventually lead to serious conditions like heart disease, hypertension and diabetes if left untreated. One way to make sure you don’t fall into this category is to regularly incorporate pumpkin seeds into your diet. Pumpkin seeds are so high in magnesium that just one quarter cup of pumpkin seeds contains approximately 87 percent of the recommended daily value of magnesium for an adult.

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Pumpkin seeds can prevent and fight kidney stones,
osteoporosis and prostate cancer. Photo by Food Thinkers/Courtesy Flickr

A great source of phosphorus and manganese, pumpkin seeds also contain protein, iron, calcium, zinc and a variety of vitamins including B, K and A. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the zinc in these seeds has proven to help prevent osteoporosis in both men and women. Omega-3 fatty acids found in pumpkin seeds create a natural anti-inflammatory effect so arthritis-sufferers can find relief without the negative side effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Phytosterols, a naturally occurring compound found in pumpkin seeds, have been found to be helpful for lowering LDL cholesterol.

Pumpkin seed oil helps keep testosterone from inflicting damage on the male prostate cells and therefore helps reduce prostate cancer development. Pumpkin seeds help ease difficult urination by inhibiting enzymes associated with prostate enlargement. Pumpkin seed extract can also help those with incontinence issues by increasing testosterone levels and strengthening the pelvic muscles.

Though it is best to eat pumpkin seeds raw to preserve the nutritional elements, there are many other delicious ways to enjoy them.

• Add pumpkin seeds to soups or salads for a nutty flavor.
• Mix pumpkin seeds in with sautéed vegetables.
• Combine pumpkin seed oil with honey and olive oil for a healthy salad dressing.
• Roast pumpkin seeds with an endless combination of spices.

Try this easy recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Seeds!

6 Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

If you’re like many adults, a fish oil supplement (or flaxseed supplement, if you’re vegetarian) is a common part of your daily routine. If you’ve never given much thought to why you take this supplement (apart from "because it's good for me"), then it’s time to take some appreciation for this little pill! Fish oil supplements are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which do an amazing array of wonders for the body. Just check out these health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids!

fish-oil 

Heart Health 

The majority of us likely take fish oil supplements because they promote good heart health. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can lower levels of bad cholesterol and increase levels of HDL or good cholesterol. Omega-3 can also lower high blood pressure and help prevent atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, by slowing development of plaque buildup—all of which helps prevent heart disease and lowers our risk for heart attacks and stroke.

Mental Health 

Omega-3 fatty acids also play an important role in maintaining brain health, making omega-3 useful in both treating and preventing a variety of mental disorders. Studies have tied omega-3 fatty acid deficiency to a number of mental health problems, and have also shown that regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can help improve symptoms of depression, ADHD and age-related cognitive decline and dementia, as well as disorders such as Schizophrenia and biopolar disorder.

Diabetes 

One of the many benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are their ability to reduce inflammation—a useful tool in preventing type 1 diabetes, which is often triggered by inflammation. A study conducted on children who were at risk for type 1 diabetes found that children who consumed foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids were 55 percent less likely to develop islet autoimmunity, antibodies that attack insulin-producing cells in the pancreases and are a precursor to type 1 diabetes. Omega-3 can also be useful in treating issues such as low levels of HDL cholesterol and high levels of triglycerides, or fat, in the blood in those who already have diabetes.

Rheumatoid Arthritis 

Omega-3 fatty acids can also reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, which causes inflammation in the joints. Several studies have shown that taking fish oil supplements improves morning stiffness and joint pain. (Limited studies have been done on omega-3 fatty acids’ ability to prevent and treat osteoarthritis, but the results are hopeful.)

Macular Degeneration 

A 10-year study of almost 40,000 women found that women who consumed a healthy balance of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet were 35 to 45 percent less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration than those who did not.

Menstrual Pain 

Several studies have shown that taking omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil supplements can reduce pain associated with menstrual cramps by reducing inflammation.

Image: Photo By Matt Allworth/Courtesy Flickr


Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of
Mother Earth Living.

How To Find A Good Mental Health Counselor

Many people have a difficult time in finding an effective mental health counselor. Just like everything in life, you have your good counselors and you have your not so great counselors. The key is to find someone that will help you solve your current mental health problems.

people

Here are a few suggestions on how to find a good mental health counselor for your mental health recovery.

1. Talk to your doctor or primary care physician. Your medical or family doctor is a great source in finding a good counselor. Explain to your doctor your problems and he or she can put you in the right direction in seeking the proper help.

2. Go to your local hospital. Your local hospital is another source you can use to find a good counselor. A hospital is also a good source of finding many different mental health programs in your area. Hospitals know a lot of good counselors and programs in your area and they can lead you in the right direction.

3. Ask your friends and relatives for advice. Use your network of friends and relatives to see if any of them know of any good counselors in your area.  Many churches and nonprofit agencies have a variety of mental health programs in your area. Asking the people who run these programs can lead you in the right direction.

4. Join a local support group. Go to a support group in your area and ask if anyone knows of a good counselor that could help you with your mental health issues.

5. Always ask for someone who has a good reputation. Remember that finding a counselor to help you depends on how you interact with the counselor and how they interact with you. It may take a couple of tries to find the right person, but do not give up. Finding a good counselor will pay off in the long run, so be persistent in finding the right person for you.

6. Always find a counselor that you can work with. The key components of having an effective mental health counselor is affordability and  the ability to effectively talk to your counselor. If you do not see any improvement in your mental health condition after a couple of months of working with your current counselor, you may want to find someone else.

Edible Weeds 101: The Health Benefits of Chickweed

A creeping annual with tiny white flowers and oval-shaped leaves, chickweed grows without cultivation throughout most of North America. Like other edible weeds, chickweed has many health benefits.

chickweed flowers 

Vitamins and minerals

Fresh chickweed contains high amounts of vitamin C, as well as vitamins A, D and B. Iron, calcium and potassium can also be found in chickweed.

Weight loss

Chickweed has traditionally been said to aid weight loss. This weed both curbs appetite and acts as a diuretic, helping its eaters to lose water weight.

Respiratory ailments

Chickweed can soothe mucus membranes and help relieve many respiratory conditions, including asthma, allergies and bronchitis, as well as itchy, inflamed eyes. Research has even shown that chickweed can prevent the growth of bacteria that leads to tuberculosis.

Skin care

Chickweed’s soothing properties also extend to skin care. Chickweed can soothe inflamed and irriated skin conditions such as acne, eczema, rashes and burns, as well as heal cuts.

chickweed weed 

How to Enjoy Chickweed 

Chickweed leaves can be steamed or added raw to salads. You can also make a tea from the leaves by steeping them in a cup of boiling water for ten minutes.

Photo Credits (top to bottom): Photo By Paige Filler/Courtesy Flickr; Photo By fyrefiend/Courtesy Flickr. 

Protect Your Eyes from UV Rays

With warmer days right around the corner it’s time to think about sun protection. While the importance of sunscreen has been well-drilled into our brains, our skin isn’t the only part of our body that needs protection from UV rays. Our eyes are also susceptible to UV damage—and can even be sunburned! Known as photokeratitis, this “sunburn of the eyes” can cause red eyes, a gritty feeling in the eyes, sensitivity to light and tearing.

mom and daughter in sunglasses 

Exposure to UV radiation can damage eyes, aging them prematurely and leading to conditions such as cataracts, damage to the retina and age-related macular degeneration. Children are particularly susceptible to eye damage from UV exposure as the lenses in their eyes are more transparent and filter out fewer rays, allowing more UV radiation to reach the retina.

To protect your eyes from UV radiation, be sure to choose sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays. Select a pair that shields your eyes from the sun from most angles, or wear a hat with your sunglasses. The American Optometric Association also recommends picking a pair of sunglasses that are perfectly matched in color, free of distortion and have gray lenses for proper color recognition. A good rule of thumb is to wear sunglasses anytime you apply sunscreen and vice versa. If you wear contacts, be sure to choose a brand that offers UV protection. Not all contacts provide UV protection, and the ones that do offer varying levels of protection, so be sure to talk to your eye doctor about the options.

Image: Photo By yanlev/Courtesy Fotolia 

5 Dangers of Conventional Sunscreens

As the weather heats up in the next month, most of us are likely to spend more time outdoors. Whether you’re hitting the beach or just out working in the garden, summer is the season for sunscreen. But before you slather your body in sun block, take a moment to examine your sunscreen. The market is saturated with sunscreens, but most of the conventional options cause more harm than good.

boy in sun hat 
 Photo By the half-blood prince/Courtesy Flickr. 

How safe is your family's sunscreen?

Many conventional sunscreens only provide partial protection against damaging rays, and some even include ingredients that can speed up the development of cancer-related skin problems.

1. No federal regulations for sunscreen 

Like other beauty products, the FDA has no regulations for sunscreens, meaning manufacturers are under no legal obligation to disclose their ingredients or prove any claims made on product labels. So while that “waterproof” sunscreen you plucked off the shelf says it offers “all-day protection,” it’s unlikely that the manufacturer can back those claims up with solid evidence.

2. Misleading SPF claims 

When buying sunscreen, you’re more likely to reach for a product offering SPF 75 than SPF 30, right? Because the higher the number, the more protection it offers, right? Not exactly. Many conventional sunscreens offer SPFs up to 100, but studies have shown that SPFs higher than 50 don’t offer any more protection—and could even lure consumers into a false sense of security and cause them to apply sunscreen less often. Don’t fall for the numbers game. SPF 30 sunscreen is adequate for most people. Just remember to apply it every two hours!    

3. Cancer accelerant 

Many conventional sunscreens contain a form of vitamin A called retinyl palmitate that can speed up the development of cancer. Sunscreen manufacturers use vitamin A for its antioxidant, anti-aging properties, but this compound also has photocarcinogenic properties, meaning it can cause cancer-related tumors and lesions when exposed to light.

4. Little UVA protection 

While conventional sunscreens offer protection from UVB rays, they don’t block UVA rays. What’s the difference, you ask? UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply, to the base layer of the skin where most skin cancers occur. UVA rays also play a part in aging and cause wrinkles. UVB rays, on the other hand, only damage the top layers of the skin and are best know for creating the redness associated with sunburns. Conventional sunscreens might prevent sunburn-causing UVB rays from penetrating the skin, but they’re letting through the cancer-causing UVA rays!

5. Sunscreens damage the environment.

Despite their “water-proof” claims, many conventional sunscreens wash off swimmers and into the oceans where they can damage aquatic life—especially coral reefs. Common sunscreen ingredients such as parabens, octinoxate, oxybenzone, cinnamate and camphor cause serious damage to coral. The chemicals activate dormant viruses in algae called zooxanthellae (which live in the coral, feed surrounding animals and give the coral its vibrant colors) causing the algae to explode and die.

woman in sun hat 
Photo By Brandon Christopher Warren/Courtesy Flickr.

Keep your skin fair and free from damage; use natural sunscreens with UVA- and UVB-blocking ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. 

Many consumers might turn their noses up at the white sheen that natural sunscreens leave behind, but these products offer more protection and advantages over their conventional counterparts. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, the common active ingredients in natural sunscreens, block both UVB and UVA rays. Natural sunscreens are also made with biodegradable ingredients and lack chemicals such as parabens that can destroy coral reefs, making them a safe choice for the environment.

Many natural sunscreen companies practice full disclosure of their ingredients and participate in outside testing to prove their claims, making it easier to select a healthy choice. Badger, for example, hired an independent laboratory to test their sunscreens for biodegradability, which they passed.

For a list of natural sunscreen reviews, see Natural Home & Garden’s Summer Survival Guide.


Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of Mother Earth Living.

Benefits of Meditation and Yoga

This world is a beautiful place to live in.”

I was not a great believer of this phrase until I fell in love with yoga. As a teenager, everything that I had didn’t appeal to me; every privilege that I enjoyed was out-fashioned. During my high school days, I was so busy watching and following others that I forgot about my own being. Despite being one of the class toppers, I used to be the unhappiest student of my class. Not that my parents were unsupportive or that my classmates didn’t enjoy my company, I was just not satisfied with what was there. My mind happened to be attracted to a number of things at a time, which contributed heavily to my confusion. Many times, I lacked belief in my choices to such an extent that frustration was always on the cards.

Bipin meditating
Photo courtesy Bipin Baloni

Days of Reorientation

“Why don’t you attend yoga classes in the auditorium?” asked the new physical education teacher when I was on the ground, sitting alone during recess.

I was not very fond of meditation and yoga including all these spiritual things. For the last few days, I had been bunking off the yoga period, for these asanas were all ‘Greek’ to me. The new teacher talked to me in an astonishing motivated way and insisted me to join him in the basic level class. The very next day, I set my foot in the auditorium block-3 for the practice. I still remember how beautifully the session began with a couple of mantras — a deeper A-U-M chanting followed by the Gayatri Mantra. We practiced meditation and a couple of simple asanas. The class was over in no time, it seemed. It was the very first time that I really enjoyed doing yoga. Days went on and the yoga practice, too. Although I was not able to discern any change, my teachers didn’t miss the attitude amendment in me. In just a couple of months, I could also see various transformations in my behavior as I began relishing my engagement with my class fellows.

Meditating for a long time had an amazing impact on my mental composure. I could visualize things from a different perspective. My notebooks were no more the only friend of mine. Entry into the next level of yoga exercise instilled a good amount of faith in my abilities. Now, I could kick the soccer ball with confidence into the net. Taking part in every speech competition and speaking in front of more than 2000 students of the school was a positive transformation that really upped my confidence. And I would clearly credit Yoga asanas, meditation, and of course the PE teacher for all these.

Yoga for Personal Development

When I landed in college, I was internally strong enough to adapt to the new environment and people. Although I was not in regular touch with yoga, the science had taught me numerous lessons to enjoy challenging moments as well. College life was a whole new world. The real test of your life begins here. It’s a platform to get prepared for the rest of your career. During this time, I decided to embrace the beauty of Yoga at the home. YouTube used to be my teacher and believe me, it was so amazing! Days went by and eventually my mommy, sister, and daddy all joined me in my yoga practice. I must credit yoga for bringing harmony to my life and family. Enjoying yoga with people who care for you gave rise to a sense of responsibility in me. I also went through the philosophical aspect of the Vedic science and it was influential in guiding me on the path of positivity. The spiritual elements of the yogic discipline were of extreme importance in helping me maintain a balance between study and personal fitness.

Meditation and Life’s Goals

The world, which we are living in is immensely challenging. There is no time to wait and think. After completing college and university level education, I am enjoying my life adoring the delight of this globe, all thanks to yoga and meditation while many of my friends are still struggling to get a clear picture of their future. With the mindful practice, I am enjoying mental clarity. Yoga gave me an enormous outlook of the world and Meditation taught me how to remain focused even in turbulent situations. Every time I feel exhausted the practice of deep breathing (pranayama) places me in a zone of exuberance. As a writer, one needs clarity of thoughts and inspiration, both of which I enjoy in the company of meditation.

The story of how yoga and meditation have assisted me throughout my presence on this planet can go endless. I have still not talked about my astonishing physical fitness, which marks the core of one’s mental and emotional health. I can just say one thing that yoga taught me to love this world, which is extremely beautiful and celebrate every moment that I live.


Bipin Baloni is a passionate Yogi, Yoga Teacher and a Traveller in India. He organize 200 hour yoga teacher training in Nepal. Bipin Baloni conducts Yoga Teacher Training in India in different cities. He loves writing and reading books related to yoga, health, nature and the Himalayas. 







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