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Eating with a Purpose in Mind

In the United States, you strive to do more with less, get the most bang for your buck. You may search out products and places that are multi-functional or duel performers. Consider multi-purpose products, such as cellular telephones, that also work as day timers, alarms and cameras or face creams that not only moisturize but also exfoliate the skin while nourishing it with vitamins. These days, it’s preferable for many to save time by doing all the shopping at ONE ‘superstore,’ that sells food, clothes, prescriptions and cosmetics.

If you demand multi-purpose stores and products…why don’t you expect the same from the foods you eat? Doesn’t it make sense to choose foods that nourish your body AND perform other functions at the same time? Yes, it does!

“A purposeful diet is one that includes foods that are true multitaskers. Such foods may aid in weight management, help prevent chronic disease, control inflammation, strengthen your immune system, nourish you with energy AND/OR offer mental health benefits.”

Nearly 2/3 of Americans are obese, relying heavily of filling, tasty foods that offer energy but little else. Heart disease, diabetes and cancer are on the rise. Whole foods trump vitamin supplements. You cannot bottle flavonoids (substances responsible for the color of produce) that enhance immunity while giving foods like grapes and cabbage a purple hue. For better health, eat fresh foods (in season) available from your local farmer’s markets. Explore the wide variety of healthy foods at many major supermarkets that at one time were only available only at health food stores. What do you have to lose…compared to what you can gain?? Make one substitution per day. Get the most ‘bang for your buck’ with these easy swaps:

Instead of:

A handful of jellybeans » handful of dried apricots

Strawberry milkshake » a fruit smoothie made with non-fat soymilk, frozen, unsweetened fruit and a splash of orange juice

A shmear of mayonnaise » ⅛ mashed avocado

White pasta » cooked pearled barley or quick-cooking brown rice

Other multipurpose foods include apples, grapes, oranges and kiwi fruits, walnuts, almonds and peanuts, fresh spinach, broccoli, onions, garlic and sweet potatoes, fresh fish (tuna, mackerel, halibut, salmon), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame) and legumes (lentils and beans) are just some of the foods that meet the criteria for being multi-purpose. In addition to energy, they provide vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and other compounds, such as antioxidants. These compounds promote optimal health and help fight disease. Herbs and spices such as cinnamon, tumeric, parsley and basil contain these compounds as well.

Strive to consciously choose foods that provide much more than energy or calories. Every day, aim to eat 2 cups, or the equivalent, of fruits and 2.5 cups of vegetables, and shoot for maximum variety. In addition, include soy or non-fat milk or yogurt products, a variety of whole grains, such as buckwheat, quinoa, barley and oats, lean protein foods, such as fish, legumes and poultry and unsaturated fats. “Healthier” fats come from foods such as olive and canola oil, nuts and seeds and avocados.

Pear: A Lucious Fall Fruit

In case you missed the chill in the air, the abundance of seasonal autumn produce – crisp apples, colorful squash, and pears should tell you that winter is just around the corner. Why pears? Why now? They are a truly versatile, luscious, flavorful and healthful fall fruit. Most North American pears are grown in Oregon and Washington. Though you can find some variety from August through May as some type is harvested year-round, true ‘pear season‘ begins in September/October. That is when they are most abundantly available, less expensive and flavorful. In case there is any doubt – just look at the range of skin colors among pear varieties. They match the gorgeous hues of the fall leaves: gold, russet, mauve, pale green, ginger, crimson and more.

Pear Varieties

Not a fan? Perhaps it’s because you’ve always eaten canned pears or rock hard, out-of-season green Anjou pears which are available almost year-round in supermarkets. It’s time to broaden your horizons and enjoy new varieties…as there are many. The first pear varieties to explode on the scene in September are Bosc (russet-colored and firm even when ripe), Bartlett (green and red, ultra juicy) and Comice (green with brown flecks, firm flesh). By October you can find Anjou (red and green), Concorde (pale green), Forelle (green skin spotted with red flecks) and Seckel (shiny skin, often mostly a muted green color with a patch of reddish-orange) appear…and that’s hardly a comprehensive list!

Some varieties might be harder to find in your region than others but make it your goal to try at least one new variety this season. You’ll find in-season pears to offer a firm but juicy texture and flavors that range from very sweet to tart. Use this as a guideline, but keep in mind most pears, as with many fruits and vegetables, can be eaten raw or cooked (except Bartlett).

Eating versus Cooking

Best for eating raw: Bartlett (soft, lose their shape when cooked), Comice (also juicy, very sweet, may not cook well), French butter, Anjou and Asian (‘crisp’ flesh, like an apple, good for dicing and adding to salads or using in tarts or crisps)

Best for cooking: Bosc, seckel (tiniest variety, very firm, slightly acidic) and forelle (sweet-tart, snacking or cooking)

Pear Nutrition and Health Benefits

The pear is a relatively low-calorie fruit. One medium-sized fruit, or about 175 grams, offers about 95 calories. Calories per fruit vary according to variety and size. They are fat, cholesterol and sodium-free but high in dietary fiber, providing roughly 6 grams per medium-sized fruit. Pears (and apples) contain an appreciable amount of soluble fiber, which may help to lower cholesterol levels and stabilize blood sugar levels (slows the release of glucose into the bloodstream).

Selecting and Storing

Choose firm, blemish-free, stem-on pears with unbroken skin. They ripen quickly and bruise very easily so handle with care. Store them at room temperature until they reach desired ripeness. Though you can store them in the refrigerator for a couple of days to ‘hold’ them at a certain ripeness, pears are best, and juiciest, when eaten at room temperature. They are ripe when the flesh ‘gives’ gently when pressed at the neck of the fruit.

3 Tips for Clean Eating

Eat more plant-based meals: a vegetarian diet requires significantly less water and energy than a meat-heavy diet. Eating a fiber-rich, plant based diet promotes healthy cholesterol levels, and may add years to your life.  Make the meat you choose organic/grass-fed, eat it less often and for seafood, choose sustainably caught. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website section makes it simple.

Clean eating is not an ‘all or nothing’ concept. You can take steps to move your diet in that direction without sacrificing everything. Any of the following practices will improve the quality of your diet and, in turn, your health.

  • Limit processed foods ~ One way to do this is to concentrate on the perimeter of the grocery store when you shop. That’s where you’ll find fresh produce, lean meats, eggs and other minimally processed foods. Of course the middle aisles do offer clean processed foods, such as oils, nuts, canned tomatoes, spices and whole grains, such as oatmeal and quinoa. Minimally processed foods, such as plain yogurt, can be a part of a healthy diet whereas many frozen meals may not fit into a clean eating plan.
  • Cut down on added sugars ~ reading labels and ingredient lists can be helpful in limiting added sugars. Ingredients are listed by weight, with the most prominent first. The American Heart Association recommends keeping added sugars at 25 grams/day or less, which is about 6 teaspoons per day for women and 36 grams/day, or 9 teaspoons for men. Even 50 grams/day would be an improvement over the average adult’s intake of 70 grams sugar/day, or over 17 teaspoons per day. Limit condiments, such as ketchup and BBQ sauce, choose unsweetened beverages, limit desserts. Choose foods with natural sugars for your sweet carvings, such as fruit.
  • Eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables ~ experiment with a variety of whole grains that take you beyond whole wheat pasta and oatmeal. Buy fresh fruits and veggies or minimally processed frozen (without sugar or sauces) produce. To control costs, shop smart. Go for sales and shop in-season when buying fresh produce. If possible, shop at produce markets and/or farmer’s markets where prices on certain items may be lower.