Scare your body into losing weight this Halloween – 9 impressive health benefits of pumpkin.

You can incorporate pumpkin into your diet as a sweet or savoury dish. In winter I love soup, so I often eat pumpkin soup as its nice and warming. It’s also great for the planet to eat local and in season fruits and vegetables. If we were all a bit more thoughtful and did this more often it would cut down the demand for imported foods and reduce the worlds pollution levels.

pumpkin patch

Here are 9 impressive health benefits of pumpkin:

  1. Highly nutritious – one cup or 340 grams of pumpkin contains the following:

  • 49 calories

  • 2 grams fat

  • 2 grams protein

  • 12 grams carbohydrates

  • 3 grams fibre

  • 245 % RDI vitamin A

  • 19 % RDI vitamin C

  • 16 % RDI potassium

  • 11 % RDI copper

  • 11 % RDI manganese

  • 11 % RDI vitamin B2

  • 10 % RDI vitamin E

  • 8 % RDI Iron

  • Also includes small measurements of magnesium, folate, zinc, phosphorus and other B vitamins

Pumpkin is in fact 94 % water, this combined with the low calories makes it a healthy and nutritious snack.

  1. Reduce Risk of Disease–  pumpkin contains vast amounts of antioxidants. These protect our bodies from disease. Antioxidants have the ability to protect us from skin damage, reduce the risk of cancer and eye disease and many other conditions.

 

  1. Boosts Immunity – pumpkin is filled with vitamins that help our bodies with a variety of things. These include boosting our immunity so even more reason to eat it at this time of year. Pumpkin isn’t just for Halloween but can protect us from all those winter bugs that come about as it gets colder and darker. Pumpkin contains vitamin A, E and C and iron and folate.

 

 

  1. Protect Your Eyes – Pumpkin has a very high vitamin A content ( 245% RDI) and so is connected to reducing the risks of sight loss.

  2. Promote Weight Loss – pumpkin is a nutrient dense food, this means that it is packed full of nutrients but extremely low in calories. When dieting, pumpkin is a great source of carbohydrate as you can afford to eat more of it than the standard rice and potatoes.

 

  1. Reduce Cancer Risk – pumpkin is high in carotenoids and antioxidants that are responsible for removing free radicals from the body. It has been suggested that these can help reduce the risk of cancer.

 

  1. Increase Heart Health – the combination of vitamin C, potassium and fibre can improve heart health. Also the antioxidants inside the pumpkin have been linked to reducing bad cholesterol. If reducing your cholesterol level is of particular interest please see more information from a previous blog post I wrote. October is Cholesterol Month – a guide on cholesterol health including where to check your cholesterol level and where to get your cholesterol tested

 

  1. Promotes Healthy Skin – Pumpkin contains nutrients that when consumed act as a natural sun block to our skin. The vitamin C within the pumpkin aids with production of collagen that helps keep you looking younger for longer.

 

  1. Easily Accessible – Pumpkins are cheap, they are easy to find in any local store. You can easily add them into your diet as both a savoury or sweet dish, whatever suits you best.

 

Other Pumpkin Facts:

  • Pumpkins are a type of winter squash
  • Pumpkins are fruits
  • Pumpkins can be yellow as well as orange
  • 100g of pumpkin is only 26 kcals

pumpkin picking

Last weekend I went to the amazing The Pop Up Farm to go pumpkin picking for Halloween. I cannot recommend this highly enough. They have a 10 acre field full of pumpkins and squashes. It’s so colourful and really gets you feeling autumnal.

If you like taking pictures it’s a no brainer, the scenery is epic and great for a halloweeny October setting. I would recommend googling your local pumpkin picking pick your own farm and get there asap.

pick your own pumpkin

If you live in the London area I have listed 5 local pumpkin picking farms that you can visit:

  1. Crockford Bridge Farm, Weybridge Surrey, KT15 2BU. £4 entry charge, cash only.
  2. Pierson Agriculture at Four Winds Farm, Penshurst Road, Bidborough.
  3. Secretts, Hurst Farm, Chapel, Lane, Milford, Surrey, GUB 5HU
  4. Foxes Farm, Green Lane, Aldham, Colchester, CO6 3PR, and Watch House Farm, Wash Road, Basildon, SS25 4ER. Free entry to the fields just pay for the pumpkins you pick (cash only).
  5. Cammas Hall Farm, Needham Green, near Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, CM22 7JT

Many of these farms aren’t just available for pumpkin picking and offer seasonal fruit and vegetable picking all year round. Keep an eye out on their websites to find out what you can source locally. It’s a lovely healthy family friendly day out.

Pick Your Own farms not only provide you with healthy and fresh fruit and vegetables but they also support your local economy. When going to a Pick Your Own Farm you are guaranteed freshness and you can also do your own quality control when choosing your purchases. Pick Your Own is also a lot cheaper than buying from your local shop.

If you don’t live near a local pumpkin farm and want to decorate your house for Halloween fear not as believe it or not you can purchase these cute little ceramic pumpkins and squashes from amazon. Good old Amazon Prime will have your house looking halloweeny in no time – CLICK HERE

pumpkin picking for halloween

Happy Halloween! What are you going as this year?

Instagram @keziakco

Xxx

October is Cholesterol Month – a guide on cholesterol health including where to check your cholesterol level and where to get your cholesterol tested

What is cholesterol?

There are two type:

HDL (high density lipoprotein), this one is often associated with good cholesterol as it is protective.

LDL (low density lipoprotein), this one is often associated with bad cholesterol as it blocks your arteries.

Do you actually need cholesterol?

Cholesterol is needed to make vitamin D, some hormones and bile but too much of it in our bodies can be extremely dangerous. Cholesterol is labelled as the silent killer so awareness is crucial.

Signs of high cholesterol

You can have high cholesterol and experience no signs at all hence the name – the silent killer. That is why I urge you to get yours checked so something can be done before it’s too late. There are some signs you can look out for:

  • Chest pain
  • Heart burn
  • Angina
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Pain whilst walking

As you can see these are extreme symptoms and you wouldn’t want it to get to this before diagnosing the issue

Find out more on cholesterol symptoms, causes and treatments in the link. Stay woke.

Check your cholesterol level

Many people will ask the question how do I check my cholesterol level? What is the normal cholesterol level? And can I check my cholesterol level at home?

How do I check my cholesterol level?

You can start by booking an appointment with your local GP and they can advise you accordingly.

There are also home test kits designed for checking your cholesterol level. You can pick these up from your local pharmacy such as Boots.

Please find some suggested links here:

Boots home test kit

Lloyds Pharmacy home test kit

Amazon home test kit

What is the normal cholesterol level?

Please see the test results described below:

The lower your cholesterol ratio is the better. To work this out (total cholesterol / HDL cholesterol). The result should be below 4:1

A cholesterol level of 6 and above is considered ‘high risk’. If you do a home kit and get this result book an appointment with your GP to get further advice.

NHS recommended cholesterol level:

Adult

Total Cholesterol 5mmol/L or less
Non HDL Cholesterol 4mmol/L or less
LDL Cholesterol 3mmol/L or less
HDL Cholesterol 1mmol/L or less

My cholesterol Results:

So I went and bought a test form Amazon – the CARE diagnostica Cholesterol Health Care Test as seen below. This cost £12.99 from Amazon.

Test your cholesterol level from home

The kit comes with a lancet, plaster, the test wheel and instruction booklet as seen below:

cholesterol health care test

I carefully read the instruction manual before completing the test. Please note the test is only accurate if you have fasted for 12 hours prior to doing the test and the test is best read in day light. Please see instruction manual below:

cholesterol kit

Cholesterol test instructions

You now need to open the cholesterol wheel where you find a round circle. This is where the blood will go when you prick your finger. Now for the tricky part, you need to prepare the lancet and place it on your finger. When in the correct position you must press down and there should be a little bubble of blood that you dab onto the wheel. In my case I found it really difficult to prick my own finger and have this automatic response to pull my finger away. unfortunately there was very little blood and not enough for the test.

Self testing cholesterol kit, how how to do it at home

The circle above should really be full with blood and I just couldn’t do it to myself. I think the test itself needs to be better adapted for this as once you press the button on the lancet the mechanism is done. There is no option for a retry so that is basically £12.99 down the drain.

I never got to find out my results as there wasn’t enough blood so the test just remained red as you can see above. In an ideal situation it should change a shade of green to match the wheel giving you an indication of your cholesterol level.

After going through this ordeal to find out my cholesterol level and being unsuccessful I wasn’t going to give up just yet. I booked an appointment at the GP and was able to find out I have a healthy cholesterol level of 3.1.

If you don’t like the doctors or simply don’t have time I found these great Easy Cholesterol Test Strips. The great thing about them is that you get 10 if you mess up like I did and they are a lot cheaper £19.99 for 10.

The best method at keeping your cholesterol levels under control is to make a cholesterol diet sheet.

Foods that lower cholesterol:

  • Wholegrain
  • Bran
  • Oats
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Vegetables
  • Avocado
  • Flax
  • Nuts

Food to avoid as they increase your cholesterol:

  • Butter
  • Ghee
  • Margarine
  • Lard
  • Fatty meats
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Coconut oil
  • Coconut cream
  • Palm oil

Healthy food swaps to lower cholesterol levels can be found on Heart UK website with a load of other useful information.

If you are looking for cholesterol-friendly recipe inspiration, look no further. This is a dish I eat regularly that is great for your health and keeping your cholesterol at a healthy level:

Vegetarian Low cholesterol recipe (serves 4) – Garlic and Herb Freekeh

  • Ingredients:
  • 200g Freekeh
  • 175g Frozen peas
  • 6 tbsp Garlic oil
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • Handful of herbs – mint parsley chives

Method

  1. Boil the freekeh
  2. After 15 minutes add the frozen peas and leave to boil for an addition 5 minutes.
  3. Finely chop the herbs.
  4. Drain the water and add contents to a mixing bowl with the rest of the ingredients.

Now you can enjoy a lovely healthy vegetarian low cholesterol meal 🙂

low cholesterol recipe - freekeh

 

If you enjoyed the recipe and are serious about lowering your cholesterol there is a great cook book dedicated to just that. Eat Your Way To A Lower Cholesterol will keep you inspired and claims to reduce cholesterol level by 20% in just three months.

To increase your knowledge and awareness of National Cholesterol Month please take a look at the UK Heart website.

Please make a donation to Heart UK to keep supporting the amazing work they do.

Click the link to DONATE HERE.

national cholesterol month

Instagram @keziakco

xxx

 

Ben Nevis Blog – I’ve never climbed a mountain guide to climbing the tallest mountain in the UK

Planning our trip to the Scottish highlands and climbing Ben Nevis

Ben what? Is what I said when my friend suggested a weekend trip to climb Ben Nevis. Not the cleverest response but I had not actually heard of Ben Nevis as I’m not a very outdoorsy, country kind of girl but I do like to try new things, so of course, I said yes.

Expectation vs Reality – Ben Nevis

I had this idea that we would be going on a nice little walk up the mountain wearing matching crop tops and leggings and do an amazing Instagram photo shoot at the top before returning to the car. How wrong I was.

If you’re planning your trip now, you better stop thinking about the above and concentrate on what’s to come. The Scottish highlands are absolutely breath taking, the views are to die for so it is well worth it and an amazing experience but mountain climbing is not a joke. This is not a hill you are walking up and it can be very dangerous so please pay great attention to what is to follow.

Safety first – climbing Ben Nevis

The mountain summit is only visible 30 days of the year in a cloak of mist that is so dangerous people can quite literally walk off the edge.

The plan – climbing Ben Nevis

We went in a group of three girls and luckily one of us had done it before. I would recommend a group of three or more for safety and if you can, bring someone who has done it before. Even though people kept asking me if I was going as part of a guided group I don’t feel this is necessary at all. Perhaps in strong weathers it would be advisable but I think if we had payed someone to show us how to walk along a path I would feel pretty mugged off, just saying.

What I find quite amusing is people kept asking me if I had been training for this and I can say the answer is no. Not really at all, I just decided in incorporate more and lengthy walks on the stair master. 45 minutes in on the stair master I was absolutely shattered and I was really questioning whether I would be able to do it at this point but it was too late to cancel now. We booked the trip roughly three weeks before so there wasn’t really any time to make any drastic changes anyway, whether I wanted to or not.

My Ben Nevis shopping list:

  • Waterproof trousers – Amazon £14.99
  • Fleece – The North Face £50 reduced to £30
  • Waterproof Jacket – Karrimor, Sports Direct £75 reduced to £35
  • Thermal Socks – Primark £3
  • Walking Socks – Sports Direct £6.99
  • Thermal long sleeved top – Gym Shark £30 reduced to £15
  • Ski Gloves – Amazon £11.99
  • Waterproof back pack cover – Amazon £6.99
  • Back Pack – Nike £25
  • 1 litre water bottle –USN Amazon £4.49
  • Snow boots – Dare2be £115

Other things that I already owned include:

  • T-shirt
  • Fleecy leggings
  • Scarf
  • Snacks – go natural bars
  • Waterproof case for mobile phone
  • OS Locate App
  • OS Maps

Luckily for me there were three of us. I am not the most organised so my friends brought the additional essentials:

  • Emergency shelter
  • Plasters
  • Rehydration tablets
  • Whistle
  • Tiger balm
  • Heat patches
  • compass
  • map

Travelling to Ben Nevis

We booked flights from London to Edinburgh. I don’t believe it makes a huge difference whether you fly to Edinburgh or Glasgow but we found cheaper options to Edinburgh.

Flights cost in the region of £50 return if you’re up for dodgy Ryanair. Left on Friday morning and returned Monday evening. We decided to go for 4 days as this gives us a two day window so we could decide what day to climb – weather dependant.

We stayed at the Premier Inn Fort William, £228 for three nights in a family room – very good price, within walking distance to the station, town, Morrisons and McDonalds.

We hired a car from Edinburgh airport from Hertz. This is great as you don’t need to get a shuttle from the airport. Most car companies are walking distance from the terminal. £104 for one driver, car rental and insurance and then a £200 deposit. It was very quick to both pick up and return the car and that’s coming from the worst driver ever – but that’s another story.

What I had imagined was having a nice relaxing Friday to prepare myself for the walk the next day however this was far from it. I left my house at 9 am and didn’t get to fort William until 9 pm. Please believe the whole journey was TWELVE hours and it was mentally exhausting. Not only did I drive to the airport, the waiting, the flight, the more waiting, the driving for like 4 hours and then the checking in – god help me I was exhausted. Please bear this in mind if you’re travelling from London, or anywhere to be honest.

Climbing Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis

It was about 10 degrees and windy in Fort William, for me this is freezing. I wore two socks, boots, leggings, sports bra, gym shark top, Nike t-shirt, fleece, and jacket. I packed my waterproof trousers, scarf, gloves, water, snacks, phone, waterproof backpack cover all in my bag.

We fuelled up with porridge, fruit and crumpets. Lots of carbs to give us lots of energy and then we were ready to go.

Ben Nevis is around a five minute drive from Premier Inn and has a car park and visitor centre. We parked up for about 9 am and were ready to go. There are a couple of different paths up the  mountain but we took the obvious route – the tourist path or alternatively called the pony track.

I have to say we were extremely lucky with the weather. In Scotland it literally rains every day, and it did on our trip apart from the day we decided to climb. We had a clear sunny day – couldn’t believe our luck. Literally on the other days we were there I could barely walk to the shop without blowing away down the road. The weather was so extreme there was a yellow weather warning for heavy rain. I think if we had planned for a different day we wouldn’t have been able to attempt it due to safety.

As you are probably doing now, I read numerous blogs that state that the first quarter of the hike is steep and then it flattens out. This is not true at all. I found that it was very steep just after the half way point, very hard on the legs. The first quarter you are walking on mainly large rocks, you have to keep your eyes to the ground to avoid any slips and trips but it is very beautiful and you find after about 30 minutes you are already reasonably high up with lots of lovely views. We were even lucky enough to see a rainbow.

ben nevis rainbow

I started off at the bottom of the mountain feeling absolutely freezing, with the incline walking I quickly warmed up and was able to remove my raincoat, fleece, and t-shirt so just wearing the thermal long sleeved top.

You get to see all the stunning mountain streams, walk across little bridges and even a waterfall. At about half way you reach a lake, here some walkers can take a different path and then start their decent down the mountain. Many walkers stop here for lunch or snacks and refuel/ recharge for the rest of the trek.

Ben nevis blog

This ascent to the summit includes a combination of steep rocky pathway and flattish gravel pathway. As you get higher and higher you start to see frost on the floor, we even experienced a bit of snow fall and it was at this point we layered up, t-shirt, fleece, gloves and coat went back on. We also were unable to see the bottom of the mountain due to the mist surrounding Ben Nevis. I think it was now that I was starting to feel the strain on my legs the most. You could neither see the top nor the bottom and it was constantly on my mind, ‘ when are we going to get there’, ‘how much longer’.

ben nevis tallest mountain

After four hours we reached the top of Ben Nevis, what an achievement. At -11 degrees and actual frozen hair. Yes I said it, the hair on my head was frozen, I had crunchy hair. We took a few pictures on the tallest point and in the little ruins up there and quickly began the decent. It was absolutely freezing at the top, just taking your gloves off to take a quick picture was too much. I think what kept us going was the great sense of achievement and all the other walkers at the top with the same great energy, it really is  quite something.

ben nevis scotlandat the top of ben nevisBen nevis blogger

It took two hours to reach the bottom. Quite tough on the knees walking down and again you have to keep your eyes on the ground to avoid any accidents. You also don’t warm up as much going down so I kept all my layers on until the bottom minus the gloves. Again I felt absolutely fine on the decent but during the last quarter my feet were aching considerably and I was very focused on sitting down.

ben nevis hike

When reaching the bottom we had a little sit down and recover then quickly drove back. Our whole trip there and back took 6 hours which I was very pleased with. After the best shower I’ve ever had in my life, it was time for prosecco and pasta, YAY.

Looking back – climbing Ben Nevis

On reflection, it is so scenic along the route so well worth it just for that. I don’t think it was as challenging as expected if you are of reasonable fitness, and far better than I had anticipated.

Phone coverage up Ben Nevis

Also another point to add, for those concerned about phone coverage I didn’t really experience a signal issue, perhaps it cut out now and again but nothing too concerning. The main issue is the cold, as you go higher and higher the battery drains very quickly. One minute it’s 80% the next it’s switching off or on 1% so I would only take it out if absolutely necessary AKA Instagram picture time.

ben nevis scottish highlands

My advice would be to make sure you go at your own pace. We saw people running up and down the mountain, sorry not for me. When you think you can’t go on a second longer just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other and keep going. For me, I found that when I stopped or sat down for a minute it was 10 times harder to start again.

ben nevis mountain

Additional facts about Ben Nevis:

  • Tallest mountain in the UK
  • 1344 meters
  • Based in the Scottish highlands – Fort William

Instagram @keziakco

xxx

Overcome fitness setbacks like the experts

download

Let’s turn a fitness setback into a comeback

It’s impossible to give 100% 100% of the time. Don’t be too demanding on yourself, you need to give your mind and body time to rest and recuperate.

Even the most dedicated fitness enthusiasts suffer from setbacks. This is normal as you cant keep top of your game 24/7. So when you feel like you’re not doing as well as usual, don’t beat yourself up about.

Here are some top tips on preventing a set back before it happens:

  1. Too busy at work

No one loves a nap more than I do. That feeling when you get out of bed in the morning and you think ‘how much longer until I can get back in it’. The truth is you have enough time, you just need to make sure you make the time. Going to the gym is an excellent refresher away from work and boosts your health and immune system. You don’t want to work yourself into the ground as all you’ll end up doing is getting sick. When you’re sick you can’t work or exercise so you’re losing out on everything.

Best advice for this is to keep on top of your priorities and use the gym as ‘me time’. Fitness shouldn’t be considered a chore or some horrible extra job you have to attend to, it should be enjoyable. Try and change your image of maintaining your health and you will find more time for it – trust me.

  1. Lose all motivation to work out

I think this happens to everyone,  no matter how ‘fit an enthusiastic you may be we all have a down time. You can start to try and build up momentum by searching some motivational success stories on the internet or watching a motivational video. There are so many you can search via YouTube and Google. It just takes some time to search inside yourself for what you really want out of life and what you want to achieve in the now. For some people this can take a while and you need to mentally in the right place to start your fitness journey again. Just have faith, you will get there and you will achieve what you want to.

  1. Forgot you gym stuff or headphones

There is nothing worse than getting to the gym without your headphones – especially cardio. I’m not the biggest fan of cardio anyway so a minute on the treadmill feels like an hour anyway even with my music. There are some simple fixes to preventing this happening:

  1. You can pre pack and organise your gym stuff in advance. I prepare my things the evening before. When I go to work I put all my gym stuff in the back so I can go straight after work – nice and easy.
  2. You were in a rush or you pre packed and forgot your headphones – this happened to me once and I just avoided cardio. As there is music in the gym, it may not be as great listening to someone else’s ‘ top hits’ but it’s better than giving up.
  3. You forget all your gym stuff – go home and get it, this should teach you a lesson not to forget next time. NO EXCUSES.

headphones

  1. Bad weather

As mentioned in other categories below, just as you don’t need to go to the gym to work out, you also don’t need to exercise outside. Even if you can’t justify the expense of a gym membership each month you can still exercise effectively at home by using YouTube, work out DVD’s or doing your own thing. Please see my recommended YouTubers below in 7. Travel.

bad weather

  1. The gym is too expensive

Everyone has different commitments and what may be affordable to some is not to others. It is great that there are so many gyms and facilities offering a wide range of options to suit all needs. Gyms typically range from £100 per month to £15 per month, personal training sessions around £30 – £65 per hour, classes between £8 to £30 per class and the great outdoors for FREE.

So whether you have a spare £100 a month or nothing at all there really is no excuse. Here are some of my suggestions below:

Top end: £60 – £100 +

Mid range: £20 – £60

Free:

  • Your garden
  • The park
  • Your house
  1. The gym is too busy, all the machines I need are taken

This is one of the most frustrating. You’ve accomplished finding the motivation, you’ve accomplish getting ready and getting to the gym. You’re set on leg day or arm day, you get to the gym and it’s rammed. You get on the running machine to wait for the machine you need but no one’s getting off, you get frustrated and go home. Firstly, whatever you did in the gym in contributing to  your overall health and fitness so don’t feel bad if it wasn’t the same intensity as your normal one. However, you cannot use one bas experience as something to put you off returning. There are many ways round this. Some gyms offer an online system where you can see how many people are in the gym at one time, this allows you to avoid peak times. You can try various different times of day to avoid the peak after work rush. My favourite time to go is weekends, the gym is often fairly empty and I can access all the equipment easily.

Find a pattern that works for you and in no time you won’t be making these excuses any more.

  1. Travel

This is a tricky one as everyone deserves a break. I’m sure you didn’t book your luxury 5 star holiday to be stuck in the gym all day? Well I certainly didn’t but if you do a bit of pre planning you can make sure you don’t miss out completely.

I normally pack one or two exercise outfits and a resistance band. If possible pre plan by booking a hotel that has a gym within the vicinity. Try and make use of the outdoor facilities if you don’t have a gym. If you’re on a beach holiday go for an early morning job along the beach. Nothing like sand to tone those legs. Alternately, go for a swim in the pool or the sea. If you’re in the countryside go for a long hike or a run. If you’re in the snow mountains, ski, snow board or go for a long walk. Now if none of these options appeal, you still have no excuse as you can get onto YouTube and search – Hotel Room Workout. Some of my favourites are:

Now no one is suggesting you go every day of your holiday as I don’t think you would be able to call it a holiday then. It’s just good to go now and again to keep your body active and healthy. Then once you get back into the swing of things on your return, it won’t be such a shock to your body.

I hope at least on of these hints and tips gives you the inspiration you need to get back into focus and achieve your goal. Don’t give up.

Instagram @keziakco

xxx

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