Pears….. a healthy food that can satisfy your sweet tooth

Pears

A friend left me a bag of pears she grew in her orchard and they are one of the tastiest fruits I’ve ever had! Have you ever had a pear that just melts in your mouth?

Think of all the ways you can use pears. You can eat them fresh, bake them as a dessert, can them and even dry them. They’re made into jams or preserves and even fermented into wines and brandy. The best thing about pears is they ripen in autumn or ripening can be delayed into winter for a tasty fruit during a season where good fresh fruit isn’t as easy to get.

The history of the pear began in China where it was taken from the wild and grafted so that it could be easily grown for harvest. They then made their way to Rome where royals grew in orchards as a special treat and called it the fruit of the gods. Pears eventually spread across Europe and made their way to the Northwest United States through the Lewis and Clark expedition. Oregon and Washington State make up most of the pears grown in the United States today.

Pears have a number of health benefits. Even back in Roman times, it was well known that pears helped your digestive system even though they didn’t know why. The fiber and phytonutrients play a big part.

Remember how I always say that the skin of your produce contains most of the nutrients? In the pears case, the skin has 75% of the anti-inflammatory chemicals and antioxidants. These play a key role in improving your immune system and helping prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis. Also, people with allergies usually better tolerate pears than other fruits.

Pears contain 24% of the RDA for fiber, are high in vitamin C, A and K, potassium, folic acid, boron and copper. They have almost no fat and are only about 100 calories.

You can select pears by looking for firm fruit that is not too hard, not too soft and free of nicks. If they are on the  soft side, they must be eaten right away. Store ripe pears in the refrigerator to keep them from over-ripening. If they are on the firm side, they will continue to ripen. Just leave at room temperature on the counter. Turn them for a couple days until they soften.

The best thing I like about pears is they are a healthy part of a nutritious diet yet they pack a sweet punch that will satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. It truly is one of the fruit of the gods.

Garlic….a love, hate relationship with healthy benefits

Garlic

I grew up hating garlic due to the smell and the strong taste, but now that I’m older, I love it! I can’t get enough. The trouble is the more you eat, the more likely you are to stink to those around you. So is it worth it? What’s the scoop on garlic?

Garlic was originally found in Central Asia and somehow managed to work its way to Quebec where it grows wild and is eaten regularly. Throughout history there has been conflicting opinions on garlic. While some recognized the great taste and medicinal properties of garlic, others found the odor of people who ate garlic so repulsive they created laws to avoid the smell.  Entrance to the temple in Rome was not allowed to anyone who just ate garlic, and the King in Castile restricted knights from attending court or speaking to other courtiers for four weeks after eating it. There were still many people who recognized the benefits of eating garlic and even spread the news that it’s actually a fantastic aphrodisiac! If that’s your purpose in eating garlic, I personally recommend you and your partner BOTH eat it. That way neither of you will notice the smell!

Nutritionally, a garlic clove is only 3 calories, almost no fat, and even has some amount of protein. It contains 15% of the RDA for manganese and also contains vitamin C, B1 and B6, phosphorus, calcium, selenium and copper.  What a healthy spice/sauce alternative compared to butter, salt and other commonly used flavorings.

Garlic medicinal qualities are believed to be linked to a chemical called Allicin. Some say it can decrease blood pressure, reduce hardening of the arteries, prevent cancer, and fight fungal, viral and bacterial infections.  Allicin also happens to be the smelly part of the garlic, so taking a garlic supplement touting no odor may be a waste of your money.

Raw garlic contains the highest amount of the beneficial chemical, so you will want to eat it closest to this natural form. I usually add my garlic to my dish at the very last minute so it does not cook for very long.  If you must cook your garlic, the best way is to cut or crush the clove, let it sit from 5-10 minutes, and then quickly cook it. The sitting time helps increase the level of chemical build up.

So whether you love or hate garlic, you can’t deny the healthy benefits it has. And to keep your friends, if you plan to eat a garlicky meal, make sure to serve some up to everyone!

Can I eat food after the date on the label?

expiration date

This is a question I get a lot. There are lots of dates on product labels, but most of them are not related to when food becomes hazardous to eat.  Unless the label actually uses the word “expire” as in expiration date, it is probably still safe to eat.  I’m not saying it’s going to taste good, I’m just saying you won’t die from it! Let me give you an example…..

One weekend, I was helping my sister move from her apartment. I had a little too much to drink the night before and felt nauseous. I dug through her refrigerator for a snack and ate some yogurt. When she saw me finishing it she said, “Oh no….that’s been sitting in there for months!” I noticed it was a little sour, but thought it was my nausea that caused it. I checked the “use by” date and it was 5 weeks past!  Amazingly enough, after a couple hours I actually felt better! The only thing I could figure out is the live cultures may have increased over age and fixed my digestive issues! Now, I don’t recommend this in practice. It was very sour tasting. My point is date labeling is not the strict guideline most people expect.

Manufacturers put dates on their products to show when it was produced with a “packed” or “born on” date.  If you find numbers that aren’t translatable into a date, it’s probably lot codes for traceability. Manufacturers also put “sell by” dates on their products for the stores to manage age rotation on their shelves. These are not expiration dates.  Most of these dates are voluntary, but the FDA does have guidelines for pull dates on dairy products, usually a “sell by” date, and mandatory expiration dates for baby food and formula.

Most dates on food are only quality related. You will find labels that state “best by”, “use before” and “guaranteed fresh”.  Companies usually perform their own quality tests and give their recommendation on when last to use food for the best taste.

So when should you NOT eat something? The most obvious is when you see a fungus of some sort growing on your food; otherwise, here is a simple guideline to live by.

Meats should be eaten or frozen within 2 days, or 7 days if it’s a processed meat.

Milk should be used within a week past the “sell by” date.

Eggs can last 3-5 weeks after the “sell by” date or after purchased.

Condiments last a long time so assume a couple years. Mayonnaise isn’t as much of a food safety issue with the latest processing methods, but double check for an actual expiration date.

Canned foods last 18 months for high acid foods like tomatoes or fruit or 5 years for most other canned or jarred items.

There are some foods you don’t need to worry about. Dried items such as rice, beans, spices, tea and pasta will last many years, along with vinegar and oils.

I hope this is helpful information, especially if you are on a budget trying to salvage everything possible. BUT remember the rule, when in doubt, throw it out!

Simply healthy oranges

Orange

When you think about the health benefits of an orange, you think of Vitamin C. Interestingly enough, there is a lot more Vitamin C in other fruits and some vegetables too!

Oranges originally came from Malaysia but made their way to the United States in the 1500s when the Spanish brought them over and planted them in Florida. In the 1800s with the rush of pioneers, the illness scurvy was a big problem. Travelers’ diets consisted of basic canned foods that they brought with them and were basically dying of malnutrition. It was quickly found that Vitamin C in oranges were curing those who were sick and became a staple. Oranges stored well and were easy to travel with so became popular with miners and sailors.

That is why everyone associates oranges with Vitamin C.

Besides Vitamin C, oranges are a great source for Potassium, Thiamin and Folate. They are only 85 calories, low in fat and very high in fiber. Since Vitamin C is necessary to absorb Calcium, it’s very important for your bones. Oranges reduce chances of kidney stones by preventing the buildup of calcium oxalates. In the grocery store you can find orange juice supplemented with calcium. Oranges improve digestion, may prevent heart disease, and even lung cancer.

The rumor that Vitamin C cures the common cold came from findings that phytochemicals in the fruit have properties that improve the immune system. Unfortunately, clinical trials never proved that Vitamin C supplements actually cure colds.

There is such a rich history with the health benefits of oranges because it was one of the most prevalent fruits in the early days of the United States. At that time is was what we might consider today as a super food. Doctors used to sell it by the spoonful as a medicine. Now we have so many fruits and vegetables to choose from that focusing on one limits the nutrition available to you. Some of the other produce that contains a higher amount of Vitamin C include guava, kiwi, papaya, peppers, kale and broccoli.

The lesson is, don’t just focus on having your orange juice or Vitamin C supplement every day. Focus on eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables daily and not only will you get the health benefits of oranges, but a broad range of other health benefits as well.