Love Your Heart!

HERO red pear with heart check logoThis Valentine’s Day, love your heart! Have you heard of phenols, flavonoids, and antioxidants? Phenols and flavonoids are families of phytonutrients, nonessential nutrients found in plant foods that provide color, flavor, and health benefits, particularly as antioxidants. In the body, antioxidants inhibit molecules that cause damage to body cells. Because of these antioxidants and other nutrients, increased fruit and vegetable consumption has been linked to decreased risk for many chronic illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. Does this mean pears are good for your heart?

Well, a systematic review of pears and health published in the November/December 2015 issue of Nutrition Today supports what I’ve been saying all along. To be specific, pears contain many nutrients, including fiber, vitamin C (an antioxidant!), potassium, and phytonutrients that act as antioxidants – in particular, pears provide between 27 and 41mg of phenolic compounds per 100 grams (1 small pear). Many antioxidants are found in pears, and those with high phenolic and flavonoid contents – such as the anthocyanin in the skin of red pears – had significantly higher antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities. Does this mean that pears may fight heart disease? It’s possible. One study by Mink et al included in the review found that dietary intake of foods rich in flavonoids, particularly pears and apples, was associated with a reduced risk of death due to cardiovascular disease.

Did you know that the Anjou and Red Anjou pear was recently certified as a Heart-Healthy Food by the American Heart Association? So this Valentine’s Day when you and your loved ones are surrounded by love and candy hearts, do something good for your actual heart and eat a pear!

The Two Diet Changes to Make in 2016

When it comes to personal meal goals, it’s important to focus on making changes that will make an impact, but aren’t unrealistic or overwhelming. So, we’ve put together our top two big-impact changes. These are changes that studies have shown will help you stay at a healthy weight, prevent disease and have more energy!

1. Keep track of the colors on your plate: Mind your fruits and veggies and aim to get 1 1/2 – 2 cups of fruit and at least 2 1/2 – 3 cups of veggies each day. For more information about exactly how much you should be eating based on your age and activity level, check out ChooseMyPlate.gov. Research shows that getting enough colorful produce can help keep weight off and ward off nasty diseases like cancer and heart disease. This is why the new 2015 – 2020 US Dietary Guidelines for Americans continues to recommend eating a variety of fruits (specifically whole fruits) as one of the keys to a healthy diet.

One way to help you meet your goals is to set a general guide for when you will have your fruits and veggies each day. For instance, many people find that having 1 cup of fruit at breakfast and 1/2 cup with a snack or after dinner works well. 1 cup of fruit is equivalent to one medium whole piece of fruit, such as a medium pear, or 1 cup of pear slices. For a fast snack on-the-go, we love to pair (pun intended!) a pear with 2 tablespoons of sliced almonds (or 14 whole almonds).

As for veggies, a great way to divide the servings up is to eat at least 1/2 cup with breakfast or a snack, 1 cup with lunch and 1 1/2 cups with dinner. In the winter, it’s great to include veggie based soups with lunches and dinners to make it extra easy to get your servings in. And don’t forget salsa and tomato sauce, which also count as veggies. Click here for a downloadable pdf that makes tracking colors each day a fun challenge for kids and adults alike.

Inspired? Try this crunchy and delicious Watercress Pear Slaw. Watercress Pear Slaw

2. Make the switch to unrefined carbohydrates: Many fad diets make carbs out to be the enemy – but not all carbs are bad! Refined sources of carbohydrates, such as those made from white flour (white bread products)), white rice, and those with added sugars (cookies, cakes, soda, sweetened cereals, etc.) are quickly digested and don’t offer much staying power. Plus, they can contribute to weight gain and elevated triglycerides. Think of these carbs as treats–– you can still have in small amounts, but not as the main part of a meal.

Less refined carbs, which include whole grains (rolled or steel-cut oats, bulgur wheat, wheat berries, 100% whole grain pasta), whole fruits (like pears!), starchy vegetables (winter squash, peas, and corn), and beans and legumes (black beans, lentils, etc.), contain more nutrients, particularly fiber and protein. These carbs keep you feeling satisfied and your blood sugar and energy level at a more even keel.

Inspired? Try starting the day with this refreshing and satisfying Pear Oatmeal and Blueberry Smoothie!pear-oatmeal-blueberry-breakfast-smoothie-sm

If you make these two changes you will notice a huge difference in the way that you feel within days! Have a healthy and happy new year!

Pear Compote with Earl Grey & Vanilla

compoteThis super simple compote is a beautiful and delicious way to preserve some of fall’s fading flavors. You’ll make a simple infusion which combines the unique flavor of Earl Grey tea with vanilla and orange, and then simply stir in sugar and fresh pears. Serve this compote over yogurt or ricotta for a delightful breakfast or snack, spoon it over vanilla ice cream, or try it atop crostinis spread with your favorite soft cheese.

Pear Compote with Earl Grey & Vanilla
Ingredients
1 cup boiling water
2 Earl Grey tea bags
1 orange
1 tablespoon vanilla paste
¾ cup sugar
3 firm ripe USA Pears, such as Comice or Red Anjou, small dice

Directions
Place the tea bags into the cup of boiling water and steep for 2 to 3 minutes to make a very strong tea. Remove the teabags and discard. Peel two long strips of zest from the orange using a vegetable peeler. Stack them on top of one another and slice them on a diagonal into very thin strips. Slice the orange in half and squeeze the juice into a medium saucepan. To the same saucepan add the tea, orange zest strips and vanilla paste, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Continue to simmer the mixture, uncovered, for 5 – 7 minutes or until reduced by half. Once reduced, add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Return to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes (but no longer) to lightly caramelize the sugar. Stir in the diced pears, cover, and cook for another 5 – 7 minutes until the pears are just tender. Allow to cool for one hour and then transfer to a pint jar, being sure the pears are submerged in the syrup, and refrigerate (the compote will thicken considerably as it cools). Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Yield: 1 pint of compote

Six Simple Habits for the New Year

Woman Texting In Kitchen

A new year brings many things, a fresh start, a year of possibilities, and broken resolutions… We often set lofty goals and envision working out every day looking cute in our gym outfits, not the sweaty messes we really are. Visions are easy, reality is usually harder. Picking a healthy habit to work toward, rather than a resolution, might be simpler and more realistic. Give it a shot!

1. Make a plan. Whether you want to exercise more or lose fifty pounds, have a plan in place. Make it simple, such as walking 20 minutes twice a week or prepping meals on Sundays. Simple is easier to stick to and gives your schedule more flexibility.

2. Add a fruit or veggie. It’s not news that Americans don’t eat enough fruits and veggies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about 13% of Americans eat the recommended 1.5-2 cups of fruit and 9% eat the recommended 2-3 cups of vegetables. Keep it simple: pick up a pear or some baby carrots to munch between meals.

3. Move more. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested inactivity may impact health more than obesity! But you don’t have to run a marathon, or run at all, to be active. If you don’t currently exercise, work steps into your day or walk 30 minutes each week. If you’re already active, add one more workout each week. Small steps lead to big changes.

4. Don’t like exercise? Grab a buddy! Working out with someone may increase motivation; it may even improve intensity or performance. I have a gym buddy: We motivate each other to exercise and have much more fun doing it. For someone who used to be obese and hated exercise, I actually look forward to our work outs now!

5. Dust off your knives and cook a little. You don’t have to win Chopped to get a little creative in the kitchen. Plus, cooking with friends or family may improve dietary quality and enjoyment of meals. And if you’re preparing food at home you’re less likely to grab take out, right?

6. Finally, get back up again. Everyone has fallen short of goals or fallen off the wagon – sometimes many times. Life isn’t suddenly better when you reach the top, so stop beating yourself up. Get back up, brush yourself off, and jump back on that wagon. Happy New Year!

Sweet Vermouth Poached Pears

vermouthpoachSweet vermouth has really made a comeback thanks to the craft cocktail movement, and I am so glad it did. Without it, I’d have never tried a Manhattan and noticed the distinct and wonderful flavors that a good vermouth can lend, not to mention that I’d have never come up with the idea for this unique recipe. Pick up a bottle for making these poached pears and pour yourself a little over an ice cube to enjoy while you cook. You won’t be sorry.

Sweet Vermouth Poached Pears

Ingredients
3 cups good quality sweet vermouth, such as Carpano Antica
1 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
1 orange, peel only (use a vegetable peeler to cut several thin strips)
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
3 firm USA Pears, such as Bosc
Greek yogurt, for serving

Directions
In a medium saucepan, combine vermouth, water, honey, orange peel, and spices. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. In the meantime, peel and halve the pears. Use a melon baller to scoop out the seeds. Transfer the pears to the simmering liquid, being certain they are submerged (cover with a piece of parchment paper if necessary). Reduce the heat slightly to keep the pears at a low bubble. Simmer the pears for 15-20 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Transfer the pears to a bowl, leaving the liquid behind, and cover them to keep warm. Increase the heat under the sauce to medium-high and bring to a low boil. Cook for approximately 15 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced to about ¾ cup. Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer and onto the still-warm pears. Serve immediately with Greek yogurt on the side.

What are FODMAPs and can I eat them?

green_red_anjouIrritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a gastrointestinal illness that causes discomfort/pain, constipation or diarrhea, and sometimes bloating and gas, is estimated to affect 10% to 20% of the world’s population. The cause is unknown, but genetics, diet, and stress play a role. For some patients, a diet low in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAPs) has been successful for decreasing symptoms. FODMAPs is a fancy way of saying tiny carbohydrate molecules that our naturally occurring gut bacteria like to eat (ferment). Common FODMAP foods include fruit, fiber, sugars/sweeteners, dairy, wheat, garlic, onions, and legumes. When eaten in excess, bacteria eat these carbohydrates and release acids and gas that may cause symptoms for some people.

A common misconception is that people with IBS symptoms cannot eat these foods; however, cutting out three food groups, fruit, grain and dairy, is not healthy! Indeed, nutrition professionals are constantly encouraging people to eat more plant foods. The truth is that every gut is different and some people benefit from a reduction in some of these foods, whereas others show no improvement. Because these food groups contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, water, and phytonutrients that may fight disease, it is best for those with symptoms to experiment with these foods and look for improvement. In the end, eating nutritiously will improve overall wellbeing and health.

For more information, visit the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.

Snack Right to Stay Healthy Through the Holidays

Office candy dishes, gifts of baked goods, parties, dinners, and extra-packed to-do lists all shuffle in with the holiday season. And increased stress levels can also follow suit. While we can’t do your holiday shopping for you, we can offer up a helpful tool for keeping your energy level stable, your mood happier, and your weight steadier during the holiday season… snacks. But not just any old snacks will do, follow these four tips to ensure your snacks are energy-boosting powerhouses.

Use the Rule of 2: The combination of protein, high fiber/less processed carbohydrates, and fat is one that keeps blood sugar and energy levels stable for hours. At mealtime, make sure you have this triple threat (+ veggies!) on your plate. At snack time, aim for at least 2 of the 3…what we call the “rule of 2.” Examples: Sliced pear (carbs) with almond butter (fat); string cheese (protein) with hummus (fat); small latte (protein from milk) with walnuts (fat).
Recipe idea: Pear Slices With Goat Cheese, Pistachios, And Pink Peppercorns

Sip with Snacks: The winter air is dry. When you combine that with a hectic schedule with too few sips of water, dehydration often comes knocking. To ensure water intake throughout the day, hydrate along with snacks. A cup of herbal tea or sparkling water with lemon not only helps to hydrate but also makes your snack feel more satisfying by naturally slowing you down while you eat (because you’re also sipping). Including fruits and/or veggies in snacks also helps to hydrate, since these foods naturally contain lots of water.
Recipe idea: Pear And Pineapple Green Smoothie

Pear and Pineapple Green Smoothie smSQ

Practice Mindfulness: A busier-than-usual schedule mixed with more-abundant-than-usual treats lying around can lead to all-day noshing without really realizing or enjoying it. Mindfulness — having an internal conversation with yourself before eating to ask yourself if you’re actually hungry, what you’re really hungry for, etc. — is a vital component to ensuring that you don’t eat more than you need and also make choices that make you feel good. Before eating, ask yourself “Will this make me feel good now? In two hours? Tomorrow?” If you can answer yes to all three, and you’re genuinely hungry, then have enough to satisfy that hunger. If your answer is no, take a walk, sip some tea, catch up with a co-worker, or any other non-food related 5-minute activity.
Recipe idea: Grilled Chicken, Pear, and Avocado Toasts

Plan Ahead: Preparation is key during the holidays. Have a holiday party coming up? Think about your schedule, consider what time the party starts, what you want to eat there, and whether you need a snack beforehand. If you’re shopping on the weekend, plan where you’ll have lunch, how you’ll stay hydrated, and whether you need a snack or two in your bag (answer: you usually do.) The bottomline is that if you don’t plan out food choices ahead of time, you leave it up to chance and that doesn’t always bode well during the busy, sweet-filled holidays. But a little planning goes a long way to making you feel better all season long!
Recipe idea: Pear PB And J Bouquet

PBJ Bouquet 1

Make Time for You

Lonely SeckelI have an influx of stressed calls and emails this time of year, mostly from clients and students trying to manage health and holiday stress at the same time. I know how frustrating this time of year is, I struggle with the same problem! Don’t fret, there are simple solutions to help you have a healthy holiday season.

First, make a schedule and stick to it. I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it, if you schedule time for exercise, food preparation, and sleep and you follow the schedule, you’re better equipped to take care of yourself and manage stress. Second, eat before events and move away from the treat table! At my friends’ parties, we always stand around the food, chatting and snacking. This is such a hard habit to break, but if you eat ahead of time and pull your friends away from the table you’re less likely to overeat. Third, make time to decompress. Whether you enjoy stretching, reading, games or simply sitting quietly, allow yourself at least 10 minutes every day for quiet time and positive thoughts. Finally, and most importantly, be kind to yourself! Nobody is perfect and there is always tomorrow. Remember that the holidays are about celebrating family and friends, so allow yourself to splurge a little, then get back on track the next day. Happy Holidays!

Three Cheers for the Concorde

The National Pear Month fun continues with the crisp Concorde pear. Vanilla-sweet and elegant, this green-skinned blend of the Comice and Conference varieties miiight be a favorite variety of many USA Pears employees…if we played favorites.

4x7 Concorde

The Concorde pear’s firm texture makes it a great fit for baked goods, desserts, and roasting, but it’s also delicious eaten fresh or in salads, like this Autumn Concorde Pear Salad with celery root and fennel.

Concorde Pear Salad

Whirl a Concorde pear into a green smoothie for natural sweetness and smooth texture.

Pear and Pineapple Green Smoothie sm

Sweet Concorde pears make a perfect partner for tangy goat cheese and savory herbs in this Pear and Thyme Crisp.

pear-thyme-crisp-2906

However you decide to enjoy your Concorde pears, make sure to check the neck for ripeness. If your pear gives to gentle pressure near the stem end, it’s ripe and sweet.

Check in with our friends at One Sweet Appetite, Love and Olive Oil, and The Little Epicurean for more delicious pear treats and dishes in celebration of National Pear Month!

Befriend the Forelle

Next up in the National Pear Month lineup: the fun, freckled Forelle!

Forelle USA pear

Forelle means “trout” in German, and you can see where this variety gets its name—it’s easily spotted by its spots! Smaller than the average pear, the Forelle has a crisp texture and a slightly tangy flavor.

The Forelle shines in a classic salad, like this Pear and Watercress Salad with Goat Cheese, Gouda, and Walnuts.

Pear Watercress SaladLooking for something more upscale? Put pears on your holiday menu along with some seasonal seafood, like this King Crab with Pear Tabbouleh Salad.

kingcrab_FS banner

Polish it all off with these adorable little bundled Forelle Pears Baked in Pastry. They’re like mini pies, but with twice the filling.

forelles baked in pastry

If you need ripe Forelle pears for your recipes or a quick snack, just check the neck. If your pear gives to gentle pressure near the neck, it’s ripe and sweet! Store your Forelle pears in the refrigerator if you need to slow ripening.

Don’t forget to check out our Instagram account this week—we’re running a contest for the first ten days of December! Tell us your #PearfectPairing and you could win a box of fresh pears delivered straight to your doorstep!