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Low-Fiber Diet Linked With Metabolic Syndrome

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Are you getting your fill of fiber?

A new study of more than 23,000 people shows that those who consume low amounts of fiber in their diets have a higher risk of conditions such as obesity, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular inflammation.

In addition, researchers also found that people in the study generally consumed lower amounts of fiber than is recommended by the Institute of Medicine.

"Our findings indicate that, among a nationally representative sample of nonpregnant U.S. adults in NHANES [National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey] 1999-2010, the consumption of dietary fiber was consistently below the recommended total adequate intake levels across survey years," study researcher Cheryl R. Clark, M.D., Sc.D., of the Center for Community Health and Health Equity, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said in a statement.

Women ages 19 to 50 should get 25 grams of fiber each day, while men in the same age group should get 38 grams, according to guidelines from the Institute of Medicine. And women older than 50 should get 21 grams of fiber each day and men older than 50 should get 30.

However, the study, published in the American Journal of Medicine, showed that average dietary fiber intake was 16.2 grams each day, for all age groups and genders.

Eating fiber won't just protect your heart -- research has also linked consumption with a lower risk of stroke, and even a longer life.

Foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans are high in fiber, while processed foods and refined grains are low in fiber, according to the Mayo Clinic. A cup of raspberries, for instance, has 8 grams of total fiber, while an apple with skin has 4.4 grams of total fiber and a cup of lentils has 15.6 grams of total fiber.

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PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A nutritional rating system using gold stars affixed to price labels on grocery store shelves appears to have shifted buying habits, potentially providing another tool to educate consumers on how to eat healthier, according to a new study.

The independent study examining a proprietary gold star system used in Maine-based Hannaford Supermarkets suggested it steered shoppers away from items with no stars toward healthier foods that merited gold stars.

"Our results suggest that point-of-sale nutrition information programs may be effective in providing easy-to-find nutrition information that is otherwise nonexistent, difficult to obtain or difficult to understand," the researchers wrote in the study, published last week in the journal Food Policy.

It's the most rigorous scientific study focusing on Guiding Stars, which was instituted in 2006 in Hannaford stores and is now licensed for use in more than 1,800 stores in the U.S. and Canada.

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and the University of Florida focused on the cereal aisle, where it can be challenging to make healthy choices amid conflicting health claims and a multitude of sugary offerings targeting children.

They compared data from 134 Hannaford grocery stores in the Northeast against an equal number of similar stores and found that sales of no-star cereals dropped 2.58 percent more at Hannaford stores compared with the control group, while cereals getting one, two or three stars at Hannaford saw modest but measurable gains of 0.5 percent to 1 percent during the first 20 months of the program.

"Although the percentages are small, if you think in terms of the actual quantities or boxes of cereal sold in the national market, this could have some important implications on the nation's health," said Jordan Lin, an author of the study and scientist at the FDA.

Hannaford, consumers and others have touted the rating system as simple and easy to understand.

"My daughter, Emily, she'll count the stars. The more stars, the better the food," Angela Buck said this week while shopping with her 3-year-old daughter in a Hannaford store in Colonie, N.Y.

Besides Guiding Stars, the United Kingdom experimented with a traffic light system that uses the colors red, yellow and green to highlight calories, fat, saturated fats, sugar and salt on labels; the NuVal system ranks food on a scale of one to 100; and Grocery Manufacturers of America and Food Marketing Institute have created a Facts Up Front system.

Unlike nutrition labels on the products themselves, these programs aim to put easier-to-understand nutritional information in consumers' faces, on shelves or in aisles.

Some nutrition advocates want the federal government to step in to avoid confusion caused by competing systems. FDA officials said in 2009 that they were working on federal standards for front-of-package calorie labels, but those labels are still in the works.

For the study, researchers zeroed in on Hannaford and Guiding Stars because of the availability of the data. It used data that was provided by Guiding Stars Licensing Co. and from Nielsen ScanTrack to compare the Hannaford and the control group.

Julie Greene, healthy living manager at Hannaford, said the Guiding Stars program has been a hit with consumers, helping them navigate confusing claims on packaging that highlight a product's nutritional attributes while masking less-healthy ingredients.

The cereal aisle, in particular, can be a confusing place. "It can be very overwhelming. Every cereal box is a virtual billboard of health claims," she said.

Surprisingly, there was less pushback than anticipated from food manufacturers.

Instead of rebelling against Guiding Stars, many manufacturers have been reformulating their products to become healthier because that's what consumers are demanding, she said.

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More Young Adults Being Affected By Stroke, Report Finds

Stroke may often be considered a disease of the old, but a new report in The Lancet shows an increasing number of young and middle-aged adults are being affected by it.

Researchers from around the world examined new cases of stroke, its overall prevalence, and deaths from stroke from 1990 to 2012



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Sweet Potatoes

5 foods you should eat this fall

(CNN) -- Your mom probably never gave you better advice than when she said, "Eat your fruits and veggies."

But eating healthy may seem harder come fall, when favorite produce options dwindle and less familiar ones appear.

Never fear. Now that warm months are gone -- and with them the berries, corn and other produce we find easier to incorporate into our diets -- a new menu of foods is available to keep you healthy and happy.

Foods in season during fall may appear less appealing -- especially if you aren't sure how to prepare them, or are feeding a family of less adventurous eaters. But in addition to the nutritional benefits of foods such as Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, you'll find another positive: the exponential number of tasty ways in which they can be prepared.

Take advantage of the opportunity and think outside the box in your fall food preparation.

Here are five foods that you should eat this season:

1. Pumpkin -- Thanksgiving and pumpkin pie are traditionally associated with this fruit, but there are other ways to incorporate pumpkin into your daily life.

The meat of the pumpkin is worth having more than one day a year thanks to its high percentage of vitamin A, carotenoids and fiber. But pumpkin seeds shouldn't be overlooked either. The seeds, a great snack, are concentrated sources of vitamins, fiber, minerals and antioxidants. They also contain an amino acid proven to boost your mood.

Simply roast up some pumpkin seeds and keep them on hand as your go-to fall snack.

2. Brussels sprouts -- Brussels sprouts have seen a recent rise in popularity, and that's a good thing as their buds are exceptionally rich in protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Sprouts offer protection from vitamin A deficiency, bone loss and iron-deficiency anemia. They are also believed to help protect against cardiovascular diseases as well as colon and prostate cancer.

If the taste isn't for you, try roasting instead of steaming: Roasting Brussels sprouts with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper caramelizes their natural sugars and brings out a sweetness that you won't be able to resist.

3. Pears -- When you're looking for a healthy snack to munch on, turn to a pear.

One of the highest fiber fruits, pears offer about six grams that'll help you meet your daily requirement of 25 to 30 grams. A high-fiber diet helps to keep your blood sugar level stable, cholesterol levels down, and is linked to heart benefits as well as a reduced risk of certain cancers.

Pears also contain vitamins C, K, B2, B3 and B6 in addition to calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium and manganese.

Pears are easy to incorporate into your fall menu as they'll add a sweet kick to any dish. Try them on their own, baked or poached, chopped in a salad or in a soup.

4. Cauliflower -- Bored with side salads but want to up the nutritional value of your side dish? Look no further than cauliflower.

Cauliflower is low in calories with only 26 per 100 grams, and the health benefits are top-notch. A flower head contains several anti-cancer phytochemicals and is an excellent source of vitamin C; 100 grams provides about 80% of the daily recommended value.

It also has a proven antioxidant that helps fight against free radicals while boosting immunity and preventing infections.

Fans of mashed potatoes can mash cauliflower instead for an easy alternative with about a quarter of the calories and an equal amount of deliciousness.

5. Sweet potatoes -- Another Thanksgiving classic, sweet potatoes don't need to be candied to be enjoyed. Full of natural sweetness, nothing tastes better than simply baking them. Top 'em with a dollop of low-fat Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of nutmeg for added enjoyment.

Sweet potatoes are packed with calcium, potassium and vitamins. A medium-size sweet potato contains more than your daily requirement of vitamin A, nearly a third the vitamin C you need, almost 15% of your daily dietary fiber intake and 10% of the necessary potassium.

The plentiful antioxidants found in sweet potatoes have anti-inflammatory properties, beneficial to those suffering from asthma or arthritis. You'll never even miss the candied ones.

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