Americans this year will spend $2 billion on Halloween candy. Clearly, you and your kids can’t join in the festivities and avoid the candy train entirely. So what’s a conscientious parent to do?
1. Hand out our tantalizing, better-for-you treats.
2. Check out your children’s bags of sugar when they drag them home. (Rule No. 1: No eating anything until Mom and Dad have a look at the haul.) And control their consumption. We know that’s tricky — but necessary.
The art of supervising treats: First, sort through the bag and check for anything that doesn’t look right. Then have your child select five favorite treats. Take the rest and put them up on a high, high shelf out of sight and out of mind. Then make a plan: Limit the amount of favorite candy per child on Halloween night; the other favorites get parsed out during the course of a month. Explain that this will E-X-T-E-N-D the treats. Weeks from now, when all their pals have no more candy, your kids will still be enjoying theirs. Then there’s no trick to getting the treats.
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 puree, bake, saute 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 like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. If you don’t load up your homemade pumpkin puree (no canned stuff) with sugar (not necessary since it’s sweet enough if you add some nutmeg and cinnamon), you have a low-calorie treat. Three and a half ounces of pumpkin has about 25 calories, with no saturated fat or cholesterol; three and a half 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.
The truth about 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. (One or two lies a day is average, but half of all lies are told by only 5 percent of you.)
Why does testosterone reduce lying? It 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 BMI (body mass index). Every two-point drop in BMI (about 12 excess pounds in a guy 5 feet 9 inches tall) 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.
4. Sleep seven to eight hours a night, every night. Deep REM sleep is when most testosterone is made. Sweet dreams, indeed.
Self-screening for skin cancer
Young, old, dark-skinned or pale — anyone can get skin cancer. That’s why you should do an annual spot check (literally, you’re looking for spots that are suspicious). And if you can enlist a partner to explore every nook and cranny of your skin, even better.
You or your partner should take a good look at your back, between your toes, on the soles of your feet, the back of your arms, legs, neck and scalp. Plus the easier-to-see face, throat, torso and front of your arms and legs. (If you’re doing a self-exam, you’ll need a full-length mirror and a hand mirror.)
You’re looking for a spot with any of these suspicious characteristics:
• Asymmetry: Each half of a spot looks very different;
• Borders: They’re irregular or not clearly defined;
• Colors: Vary within the spot. It may be partially tan, brown or black, or have areas of white, red or even blue;
• Diameters: Spots larger than the end of a pencil eraser.
If you have any question about a spot, see a dermatologist. And to help make sure you don’t ever find one, when outside, wear zinc oxide sunscreen with an SPF of 30 year-round, and never use a tanning bed.
The happy person’s meal plan
Only 14 percent of you eat even two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables a day (one apple and 1 1/2 cups of cooked veggies). That meal plan can’t give you the superpowers you need to stay healthy — or happy. Poor nutrition not only puts you at risk for everything from flu to cancer and heart disease to diabetes, it affects your emotional well-being, too.
A study of 80,000 people found that the more servings of fruits and veggies you eat, the better you’ll feel about your life and yourself. The best dose? The happiest people ate a total of seven a day. (We say, don’t stop at seven!) Why? It may be that nutrients in those foods boost mood-enhancing brain chemicals — and crowd out inflammation-producing sweets and saturated and trans fats that make you feel way off your game.
What does it take to get seven servings of fruits and vegetables? Six ounces of fruit juice, one banana (good after exercise), one apple (4 p.m. snack), one main-course-size bowl of salad greens (two servings) topped with 1/2 cup of mixed veggies (there’s lunch), and a 1/2 cup of spinach or broccoli for dinner.