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fruitThe bounty of summer produce may be coming to an end, but the fall season has a lot to offer in the way of healthful fruits and vegetables. And since a recent study found that eating seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily reduces your risk of death at any age by 42 percent (and decreases your risk of heart attack and stroke), here are five of our favorites!

Apples: In addition to beneficial vitamins and antioxidants, apples are chock full of soluble fiber—which is not only important for digestive health and regularity but also promotes cardiovascular health and healthy cholesterol levels. Because of their high fiber content and fewer digestible sugars, Granny Smith apples are a great choice. They have also been shown to help increase the numbers of beneficial bacteria in the gut and may support weight loss and healthy weight management, according to a recent Washington State University study.

Pumpkin: Put down the carving knife… unless you’re carving up that pumpkin for soups and smoothies! The Halloween staple is loaded with essential nutrients like vitamin A for healthy vision (a cup of cooked pumpkin contains more than 200% of your RDA), vitamin C to support immune health, the antioxidant beta-carotene, potassium, iron and of course plenty of fiber. And did we mention the seeds? In addition to magnesium and zinc, pumpkin seeds contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is linked to serotonin production and a positive mood.

Arugula: Spice up your fall salads with arugula! Dark leafy green are essential for healthy detox, gut health and overall wellness—and arugula stands out in particular. Its peppery leaves are high in fiber, antioxidants and health-promoting plant compounds called glucosinolates, as well as vitamin K (needed for calcium absorption), essential B vitamins and beneficial compounds that support a healthy inflammatory response in the body. Arugula is also an aphrodisiac!

Cranberries: Cranberries are low in sugar and loaded with vitamin C and fiber—not to mention they have more immune-supporting antioxidants (including vitamin E) than nearly any other fruit or vegetable. In studies, cranberries have been shown to support immune function as well as promote healthy blood pressure levels, and research shows they also promote urinary tract health. Just remember to avoid high-sugar juices and sauces!

Brussels Sprouts: Gone are the days of turning up our noses at these little green bulbs. Belonging to the same family as broccoli and kale, non-starchy Brussels sprouts are loaded with good things like fiber, vitamin C, folate, iron, potassium and B vitamins—along with powerful antioxidants and other plant compounds shown to support immune function and overall health. And the best part? Brussels sprouts are really simple to prepare: just cut off the ends, mix them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them in the oven for about 35–40 minutes.

When shopping for fall fruits and veggies, go organic whenever possible and check out your local farmers market first. You should be able to find locally grown, in-season produce that’s fresh and affordable—in addition to being a healthful and delicious addition to your table!

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heart-stethoscopeInstead of just offering advice or handing them a pamphlet about the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle, new recommendations from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) say health care practitioners could be doing more to help their overweight patients lower their risk of heart disease.

In particular, patients with excess weight coupled with key risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and elevated blood sugar levels would do better with “intensive behavioral counseling,” according to a recent review of nearly 75 different studies focusing on lifestyle intervention techniques for overweight individuals with heart risk factors.

According to the USPSTF, patients who met with their doctors more frequently and who had recurring sessions with trained nutritionists, dieticians and other health educators were able to lose more weight and significantly reduce their risk of heart disease and diabetes. The key, said USPSTF Chair Dr. Michael LeFevre, is the ongoing one-on-one counseling, which helps to assess each patient individually and reinforce healthy habits such as regular exercise.

The new recommendations are similar to those issued by the USPSTF in 2012 (which focused solely on obese patients without heart disease risk factors). However, according to LeFevre one of the biggest limitations when it comes to providing such intense counseling is that unlike the larger health organizations, many smaller, solo practitioners lack the time and resources necessary to provide this level of focused treatment. Still, he encourages health care providers to do what they can to promote heart-healthy living.

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