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Must-haves from the produce aisle

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Add cranberries to salads, muffins and chutneys, but avoid sugary juices and sauces.

Don’t leave the grocery store without fall favorites like apples, cranberries, and butternut squash.

Cooler weather outside may make you yearn for heartier fare at mealtime, but it’s important not to skimp on fruits and vegetables. For suggestions on the must-have produce available right now, we turned to registered dietitian Stacey Nelson from Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. Here are her top five picks.

1 | Apples

Nutritional benefits: One medium three-inch apple has less than 100 calories but 4 to 5 grams of fiber, making it a satisfying, low-calorie snack. The type of fiber in apples has been shown to help keep total and “bad” cholesterol levels in check.

How to enjoy them: Eat apples whole, or dip slices into peanut butter for a protein-rich snack. “You can easily make your own applesauce or apple butter, add apples to a roast chicken recipe, or toss into your favorite stuffing,” says Nelson.

2 | Cranberries

Nutritional benefits: These contain polyphenols and anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that can help fight inflammation and cell damage. Some data suggest they may help reduce the rate of urinary tract infections, especially in women who are most prone to them. Cranberries also contain vitamin C.

How to enjoy them: Nelson warns that most of us consume cranberries in high-calorie, high-sugar foods and drinks like juices and cranberry sauce. Instead, add raw, cooked, or dried unsweetened cranberries to chicken or tuna salad. Also try mixing them into couscous, muffin mixes, and fresh chutneys for tartness.

3 | Carrots

Nutritional benefits: Carrots are rich in the antioxidant beta carotene. The body converts beta carotene to active vitamin A as needed to help with vision, immunity, and general health. One cup of raw carrots, for 50 calories, will also provide 3 to 4 grams of fiber.

How to enjoy them: Carrots are versatile, whether cooked or raw, as a side dish or an ingredient in stir-fries, soups, or salads. Nelson notes that raw carrots pair well with hummus or yogurt dips instead of chips and crackers, and shred nicely into salads and slaw. Roast carrots with onions and other root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, parsnips, and turnips for a side dish.

4 | Cabbage

Nutritional benefits: A cup of shredded raw red cabbage has only 22 calories but close to 40 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C. It’s also rich in beta carotene.

How to enjoy it: Shred cabbage and enjoy raw in salads, wraps, and slaws. “Raw cabbage leaves make for a lovely wrapper,” says Nelson. “Stuff them with diced chicken, minced nuts, and other vegetables. You can also stuff and bake boiled cabbage leaves and add them to soups.”

5 | Butternut (winter) squash

Nutritional benefits: This is another fall vegetable rich in beta carotene, vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber. A whole cup of cooked butternut squash has only 80 calories and almost 7 grams of dietary fiber. Another bonus: it is rich in potassium but very low in sodium.

How to enjoy it: “Boil butternut squash cubes and mash them as a side dish, or roast them and puree for soups, or use as an ingredient in stews, risottos, or baked casseroles,” says Nelson.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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