3 Sweet Reasons to Choose Pears if You Have Diabetes

November is National Diabetes Month and it’s also a great time to find perfectly ripe pears, which comes in handy since pears have a lot of the attributes we recommend in a diet to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes. Pears are a low glycemic index (and low glycemic load) food – a medium-sized pear ranks 38 on the glycemic index – which means they have a mild effect on blood sugar levels. While there isn’t a cure for diabetes (yet!), we do know that food is a very powerful tool that can be used to reduce symptoms and improve overall quality of life. As registered dietitians, we see the power of food every day, and the research supports just how much of an effect food can have on reducing the impact of diabetes.

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, or want to make some preventative dietary changes, we think including pears in your diet is a great idea. Here’s why:

Fiber. Soluble fiber, the type that binds with water to form a gel-like substance in your digestive tract, slows the rate that your body pulls glucose from food in your stomach. In other words, soluble fiber can help slow down the rate at which your blood sugar rises. A medium pear contains 6 grams of fiber (24% of your daily needs), and some of that 6 grams is in the form of soluble fiber! From a preventative perspective, eating a diet rich in high fiber foods (like pears) might reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Flavorful sweetness. Reducing added sugar is an important part of keeping blood sugar levels stable at meals and snacks and avoiding spikes, or quick rises, in blood sugar levels. When you use pears to add flavorful sweetness to things like plain oats or yogurt, you get sweetness along with lots of flavor, so you wind up needing to use a lot less sugar (and oftentimes you won’t need any sugar at all!). Pears also add natural sweetness to smoothies and peanut butter sandwiches, so you can skip the added sweeteners altogether.

Kitchen creativity and fun. Being diagnosed with diabetes can feel overwhelming when it comes to revamping your food choices to keep your blood sugar levels more stable. Pears are a delicious way to add flavor and fun to your time in the kitchen, whether it’s diced in a chicken salad, sliced in a turkey sandwich, or ”pear-ed” with aged cheddar cheese for a snack. A diabetes diagnosis might mean changes to the way you eat, but it certainly doesn’t have to mean bland or boring meals and snacks!

For additional information on pears and diabetes, check out this link.

Four Recipes for Diabetic Eating

Nourishing, naturally sweet and truly delicious, pears are in season which makes it the perfect time of year to celebrate the joy of eating well. National Diabetes Month (November) is coming to a close, but eating diabetes-friendly foods is important year-round and it’s my personal mission to change the conversation around the diabetic diet from one of deprivation to one of gratifying intentions to eat to nourish your body. Whole foods, like pears, are nutrient dense and sustaining which makes them easy to love. I also love the concept of “food gratitude” as it offers you a positive way to celebrate the good-for-you foods on your plate like the many reasons to be grateful for pears. The fiber content of the pear, 6 grams per medium piece of fruit, helps to naturally keep blood sugars in check. Plus, they are a good source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that boosts immune function and rids the body of disease causing free radicals. You can enjoy a pear as a snack or incorporate them into more savory meal preparations.

No matter how you enjoy pears, the right ripeness is most important. Check the neck near the stem with your thumb. If it yields to pressure you’ll know it is ripe. Here are a few of my favorite snack recipes using pears that are perfect for the diabetic and non-diabetic alike.

Pears with Tahini, Chocolate, Honey and Hemp Seeds
Ingredients:
1 medium pear
1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon hemp seeds
1 teaspoon dark chocolate shavings

Instructions:
1) Core then slice the pear into 6 equal wedges.
2) Drizzle with tahini and honey.
3) Sprinkle the wedges with the hemp seeds and dark chocolate shavings.

Savory Yogurt Pear Parfait
3/4 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon orange zest
½ teaspoon honey
½ cup diced pears (tossed with 1 teaspoon lemon juice)
1 tablespoon unsalted chopped hazelnuts
1/2 teaspoon Za’atar
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
Pinch of sea salt

Instructions:
1. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, honey and orange zest.
2. Top with pears, hazelnuts, za’atar, olive oil and sea salt.
CoolWeatherCobblerCool Weather Cobbler (From my new cookbook, Whole Cooking and Nutrition)
Ingredients:
For the Filling:
6 medium pears or apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries and/or pitted cherries
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
For the Topping:
1 cup almond flour
2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour (or gluten free flour)
1/4 cup unsalted, toasted pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raw, unsalted sliced almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil or canola oil
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pure maple syrup (preferably grade B)

Instructions:
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2) For the filling, toss together the fruit, arrowroot powder, cinnamon, ginger, and orange zest in a medium bowl. Spread the filling in the bottom of an 8×12-inch baking dish.
3) To make the topping, stir together the almond flour, oats, whole-wheat flour, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cinnamon, and salt in another bowl. Drizzle in the coconut oil, olive oil, and maple syrup and mix until evenly combined.
4) Crumble the topping over the filling and bake for 40 minutes, or until the topping is brown and the fruit is bubbling. Remove cobbler from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Ginger-Cardamom Pear Sauce with Pistachios (From my new cookbook, Whole Cooking and Nutrition)
Serving Size ½ cup
Ingredients:
2 pounds ripe pears
1 cup water
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
6 tablespoons roughly chopped pistachios

Instructions:
1) Combine all the ingredients except for the pistachios in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.
2) Cover the pan and bring the mixture to a boil; then reduce the heat to medium – love and simmer for 30 minutes or until the pears are very tender.
3) Remove the pan from the heat and cool slightly.
4) Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth (or desired texture).
5) Top each serving with 1 tablespoon of chopped pistachios.

Diabetes? Eat More Pears!

bite

This weekend I attended the American Diabetes Association’s Chicago Expo, a free educational event for those with diabetes. At the pear booth, I noticed the question we were asked most was “How are pears good for diabetes?” Just like any carbohydrate-rich food, grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, etc., the naturally occurring sugar in fruit is broken down in the gut and absorbed into the blood stream, causing blood sugar to rise. This is good and necessary! Every single cell in the body needs carbohydrate because it is the primary source of energy for the body. Think about how much you move every day. Your large muscle groups use a lot of energy from carbohydrate and fat. But, energy from carbohydrates is especially important for the brain and central nervous system. In fact, the brain alone requires at least 120 grams of carbohydrates daily. [1, 2] It is best to obtain carbohydrates from whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and low-fat dairy, because of the other nutrients found in these foods—vitamins, minerals, protein, fatty acids, and fiber.

Pears are a good choice because they naturally contain 6 grams of fiber, 24% of your daily needs. Fiber helps to stabilize blood sugar by slowing absorption of carbohydrate into the blood stream. This limits sugar spikes and makes energy available to body tissues over a longer period of time. [3] Indeed, fiber is good for everyone because of this very factor; you will feel fuller for longer and won’t experience sugar crashes. So when you’re craving something sweet, do something good for your body and bite into a pear!

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK22436/
http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/DRI//DRI_Energy/265-338.pdf
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983

Pears Fight Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 26 million Americans have diabetes. It is a common misconception that people who have diabetes cannot eat carbohydrates. Everyone needs carbohydrates, but not all carbohydrates are created equally. When I educate clients or future dietitians about nutrition therapy for diabetes, I focus on a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat milk to healthfully meet carbohydrate needs. And now there is even more research to support this guidance. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition just released findings that eating more flavonoids from blueberries, apples, and pears may reduce risk for type 2 diabetes.

Flavonoids are classes of pigments in plant foods known to have strong antioxidant activity against chronic diseases. The current study followed over 200,000 U.S. men and women for upwards of 24 years, and dietary intakes and risk for diabetes were monitored. Of the 200,000 participants, 12,611 developed type 2 diabetes during the study period. Using dietary intake patterns, it was noted that participants with the highest flavonoid intake, particularly anthocyanins – the red and purple pigments found in blueberries, apples, and pears – were least likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Indeed, those who consumed two servings of blueberries and five servings of apples and pears per week had a 23% decrease in risk for diabetes! So, what are you waiting for? Start munching!