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When it comes to weight loss success, experts now agree that the quality of the calories you consume is as important as the quantity of calories. Simply put, eating the right foods for a balanced gut (meaning the right amount of good or neutral vs. harmful bacteria) is a key factor in whether or not you gain or lose weight.

By eating foods that nourish the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract—such as foods high in prebiotic fiber and those foods that contain beneficial bacteria, like living and fermented foods—your body will absorb fewer calories from food, experience fewer cravings, and store less fat. But what about those moments of weakness when you crave something sweet? Here are three delicious yet gut-healthy recipes you can feel good about:

 

Cacao, Avocado& Chia Mousse
Serves: 4
Ingredients:
1 avocado
¼ cup cacao powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tbsp. chia seeds

Directions: Place avocado, vanilla, and almond milk in food processor and process until smooth; stir in chia seeds. Transfer mixture to medium bowl; refrigerate 1 hour. Scoop into individual bowls and serve chilled.

Lemon Bliss
Serves: 1
Ingredients:
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tbsp. chia seeds
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
12 drops vanilla stevia
1 tsp. lemon extract

Directions: Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Chill 2 hours. Serve cold.

Nut Butter Cups
Serving Size: 2 Serves: 16
Ingredients:
5 tbsp. coconut cream concentrate (coconut butter)
5 tbsp. coconut oil (best if in liquid form)
6 tbsp. cacao powder (see Note)
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lo han (monk fruit) sweetener
3 tbsp. nut butter of choice (cashew, sunflower, almond)

Directions: Mix all ingredients except nut butter in a medium bowl. Place ½ tsp. of mixture into each cup of a mini muffin pan. Freeze about 10 minutes. Set remaining mixture aside. Add ¼ tsp. nut butter atop each frozen “cup.” Add another ½ tsp. of the cacao mixture on top of the nut butter; freeze again about 15 minutes (to harden). Note: Cacao powder is a less processed version of cocoa powder and is available at health food stores.

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The 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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