Preparation: 15 mins
Cooking: 40 mins
4 pears, peeled and left whole
290ml/½ pint red wine (preferably Cabernet Sauvignon)
Enough water to cover
30g/1oz caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
Small knob of butter
2 tbsp low fat crème fraiche
1 The pears need to be stood up in a pan just big enough to accommodate them. Pour over the red wine, water, sugar and cinnamon stick.
2 Poach until soft, about 20 minutes, depending on the ripeness of the fruit.
3 Remove from the liquor and put aside to cool. Remove the cinnamon stick and reduce down the liquid to a thick sauce. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
4 In a bain-marie over a pan of gently simmering water melt the chocolate with the small knob of butter.
5 Serve the pears, whole or sliced and fanned with two pools of sauces (chocolate and red wine) one either side of the pear.
6 If desired dot crème fraiche in the chocolate sauce and draw a cocktail stick through it to feather it.
Pears are a good source of dietary fibre, the anti-oxidant Vitamin C and potassium.
Red wine is another potent antioxidant that prevents oxidative damage in the walls of blood vessels and thus protects against heart disease. It also contains a flavonoid resveratrol, which raises good HDL cholesterol and reduces platelet stickiness. These flavonoids can also form a protective shield around collagen and elastin fibres, which give skin its firmness and texture and protect them against enzymes which break down these fibres and against free radical damage.
Dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa solids (70% and above) is a good source of anti-oxidants. The darker the chocolate, the higher the cocoa solids content, the more flavonoid it contains and the healthier it is.
Milk chocolate, on the other hand, cannot be regarded as a health food!
Health benefits of selected foods
FISH Herring - Mackerel - Salmon - Sardines - Shrimps & Prawns
Mackerel: similar to herring
Salmon: similar to herring. Wild salmon are preferable to farmed, as they generally contain significantly higher levels of the valuable and cardioprotective Omega 3 PUFAs. They also typically contain higher levels of astaxanthin, a carotenoid with antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.
Sardines contain some Omega 3 PUFAs, also calcium and Vitamin D, and traces also of iodine.
Shrimps/prawns (especially fresh water) contain betaine which can reduce blood levels of the toxic compound homocysteine, thereby reducing the risk of heart attacks. Betaine is also found in squid, mussels, oysters, sugar beet and spinach, but is most easily consumed in supplement form.
FRUITS Apples - Avocados - Bananas - Blackberries - Blackcurrants - Blueberries - Cherries - Citrus fruit - Dried fruit - Mangoes - Pears - Prunes - Raisins - Raspberries - Redcurrants - Strawberries - Tomatoes
Apricots are a good source of beta carotene and fibre, and also flavonoids.
Avocados provide a mix of monounsaturated and poly-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs and PUFAs) which are cardio-protective. They also contain B vitamins and Vitamin E.
Bananas: an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, and pre-biotics, as well as being rich in potassium (which may help reduce blood pressure) and dietary fibre.
Blackberries: similar to blackcurrants.
Blackcurrants contain high levels of Vitamin C and flavonoids linked to increased protection against heart disease, various cancers and the loss of vision that can accompany diabetes.
Blueberries: similar to blackcurrants.
Cherries (especially black cherries): similar to blackcurrants.
Citrus fruit (oranges, lemons, grapefruit, etc) contain Vitamin C and flavonoids with many therapeutic properties. They are anti-inflammatory, cardio-protective and probably have anti-cancer properties.
Dried fruit: in general, a good source of dietary fibre and flavonoids.
Mangoes are an excellent source of beta carotene, plus Vitamin C and dietary fibre.
Pears contain Vitamin C, dietary fibre and traces of B vitamins and some minerals. Perhaps their most interesting ingredient is the polysaccharides which form the gritty particles in pear skin. These are immuno-stimulants, similar to those found in shiitake mushrooms (see below).
Prunes have high levels of flavonoids, and may also contain pre-biotic compounds as well as dietary fibre
Raisins are similar to red wine without the alcohol, but contain more sugar! A good source of flavonoids. Currants are particularly good, sultanas less so. (Their lighter colour indicates a lower level of flavonoids.)
Raspberries: similar to blackcurrants, although not quite as good a source of flavonoids.
Redcurrants: similar to raspberries.
Blackcurrants contain far higher levels of the valuable flavonoids – as evidenced by their darker colour.
Strawberries contain Vitamin C and some flavonoids.
Tomatoes and tomato products are the richest source of lycopene, a carotenoid with strong cardio-protective and anticancer properties.
GRAINS AND FLOUR PRODUCTS Bread - Brown rice - Bulghur wheat - Couscous - Oats - Pasta - Sushi rice - Wheatgerm
Bread is a source of B vitamins, calcium and magnesium. It also provides dietary fibre. Wholemeal breads tend to provide more of these micro-nutrients than white breads. Granary bread is a rich source of dietary fibre. It contains rather more iron and zinc than white bread and also contains B and E vitamins.
Brown rice provides dietary fibre, and a range of B vitamins. Nutritionally superior to white rice, which has a higher glycemic index (see notes), brown rice also has a more interesting texture.
Bulghur wheat: similar to brown rice.
Couscous: similar to brown rice.
Oats are a good source of dietary fibre, and have been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels. They contain beta glucans, an excellent pre-biotic that protects the lower bowel and liver, together with B vitamins, some Vitamin E and various minerals including traces of chromium.
Pasta is a good source of carbohydrate with a medium glycemic index.
Sushi rice: rice bran contains interesting actives which lower blood pressure and induce a calming effect. See also brown rice.
Wheatgerm: traditionally one of the best sources of Vitamin E.
HERBS AND SPICES Black pepper - Cayenne pepper - Cinnamon - Coriander - Cumin - Ginger - Mustard - Oregano - Paprika - Parsley - Thyme - Turmeric
Black pepper contains a combination of pepper oils and flavonoids which have been shown to protect against ageing of the brain.
Cayenne pepper has trace pepper oils, with anti-oxidant properties.
Cinnamon is claimed to increase the activity of insulin, and to be of some use in Type 2 diabetes, but this has yet to be substantiated.
Coriander is reported to have antioxidant and digestive properties.
Cumin is reported to have anti-oxidant and digestive properties.
Ginger provides ginger flavonoids which have marked anti-inflammatory properties and are also probably cardio-protective.
Mustard contains sulphur compounds that boost synthesis of protective enzymes in the body.
Oregano (marjoram) is a rich source of flavonoids, powerful anti-oxidants with marked anti-inflammatory and anti-ageing properties; capable of stimulating the body's own detoxifying enzyme defences.
Paprika: a powdered extract of peppers (see under vegetables/peppers).
Parsley has some diuretic effect, if consumed in large amounts. It contains various anti-oxidants.
Thyme: similar to oregano.
Turmeric provides a group of flavonoids called curcuminoids, which have many therapeutic properties. They include antiinflammatory, cardio-protective, antidiabetic and anti-cancer activities.
MILK AND DAIRY PRODUCTS Cheese - Creme fraiche - Fromage frais - Milk - Quark - Yoghurt
Cheeses contain varying amounts of salt, which can contribute to increased blood pressure. They provide calcium and magnesium, but tend to be high in saturated fat.
Crème fraiche (preferably low fat) is a good source of calcium, needed for growing healthy bones and teeth.
Fromage frais has some protein and traces of B vitamins.
Milk (preferably skimmed milk for adults): similar to crème fraiche.
Quark: see fromage frais.
Yoghurt: natural live yoghurts contain pro-biotic bacterial species. Not all are effective, but some may protect against gastro-intestinal infections.
NUTS Almonds - Brazil nuts - Pecans - Pine nuts - Pistachios - Walnuts
Almonds contain MUFAs and Omega 6 PUFAs, as well as Vitamin E, which may help to prevent heart disease.
Brazil nuts contain MUFAs and Omega 6 PUFAs which may help to prevent heart disease. They also provide Vitamin E, which is additionally cardio-protective, and high levels of selenium, a mineral with powerful anti-cancer properties.
Pecans: a nut containing MUFAs, Omega 6 PUFAs and Vitamin E.
Pine nuts contain MUFAs, Omega 6 PUFAs, Vitamin E and flavonoids.
Pistachio nuts have traces of MUFAs, Omega 6 PUFAs, Vitamin E and flavonoids.
Walnuts contain MUFAs, Omega 3 and 6 PUFAs and ellagic acid, which are thought to be cardio-protective, as is their Vitamin E.
VEGETABLES Artichokes, globe and Jerusalem - Beansprouts - Beetroot - Black-eye beans - Broccoli - Carrots - Celery - Chillies - Chives - Courgettes - Cucumber - Garlic - Haricot beans - Kale - Kidney beans - Leeks - Lentils - Mushrooms - Onions - Peppers - Potatoes - Shiitake mushrooms - Spinach - Sweet potatoes - Wasabi
Artichokes (globe) are a useful source of fibre.
Artichokes (Jerusalem) are an excellent source of inulin, a pre-biotic fibre which protects the lower bowel, the liver and the heart.
Beansprouts are a good source of B vitamins and dietary fibre, with some Vitamin C.
Beetroot contain a group of flavonoids, which give them their intense red/purple colour, the most prevalent of which is called betalain. This flavonoid is not thought to be particularly therapeutic, however, as it is unstable.
Black-eye beans (or black beans) are a good source of fibre. They also contain B vitamins, and are an excellent source of carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (see Notes). They may also help to lower blood cholesterol levels.
Broccoli is an excellent source of Vitamin K, essential for healthy bones; sulphur compounds linked to cancer protection; the anti-oxidant Vitamin C; lutein, which protects the eyes, and dietary fibre.
Carrots contain, as the name implies, beta carotene. Darker red carrots contain higher levels of this micro-nutrient, and anyone lucky enough to be able to buy West Indian carrots (which are almost purple in colour) is getting maximum carotenoids and taste! Carrots also provide dietary fibre, and some Vitamin C.
Celery contains compounds that lower blood pressure (if eaten in large quantities), also fibre and traces of B vitamins.
Chillies provide flavonoids, and capsaicins, which create the sensation of 'hotness'. They trigger histamine release, which may make them troublesome for asthmatics.
Chives: similar to onions.
Courgettes have traces of B vitamins and minerals.
Cucumber contains traces of B vitamins and trace minerals.
Garlic contains sulphur compounds which may lower blood cholesterol levels. These also have anti-cancer properties.
Haricot beans: similar to black-eye beans.
Kale is similar to broccoli, but generally contains even higher levels of the same micro-nutrients.
Kidney beans: similar to black-eye beans
Leeks: similar to onions
Lentils: similar to black-eye beans.
Mushrooms contain traces of chromium, which may be helpful in adult-onset diabetes.
Onions contain a flavonoid called quercitin, which has anti-inflammatory and cardio-protective properties. They also contain pre-biotic fibres, other dietary fibre, and some of the same sulphur compounds that are found in garlic. Red onions may contain slightly more quercitin than white.
Peppers (red, orange and yellow) contain flavonoids which are anti-inflammatory, and have cardio-protective and anti-cancer properties. The red peppers are, in addition, a good source of beta carotene.
Potatoes have traces of Vitamin C and the B vitamins. They have a high glycemic index.
Shiitake mushrooms contain polysaccharide molecules which act as adjuvants, or immuno-stimulants. Similar compounds occur in Echinacea, pear skin and the cell walls of certain bacteria.
Spinach is a good source of beta carotene and Vitamin C, which may help to prevent cancers; lutein, which protects the eyes; Vitamin K, essential for maintaining healthy bones; dietary fibre; and betaine, a valuable compound that is both cardio-protective and immunosupportive.
Sweet potatoes are a rich source of beta carotene; the deeper the colour, the higher the beta carotene content.
Wasabi (Japanese horseradish) contains traces of B vitamins and trace minerals.
OTHER FOODS Chocolate - Grape juice - Green Tea - Groundnut oil - Nori seaweed - Olive oil - Salt - Sesame oil/seeds - Soy protein/soya beans - Sunflower oil - Wine
Chocolate is now gaining acceptance as a health food, especially dark chocolate. This is due to its high content of antioxidant flavonoids, which are cardioprotective, cancer-protective and antiinflammatory. The fat in chocolate (stearic acid) is metabolised in the body to oleic acid (as in olive oil), so that too may be cardio-protective. Chocolate contains a lot of calories, however, and the white and milk chocolates in particular have a high glycemic index (ie they increase blood sugar levels); so don't overdo.
Grape juice (especially red grape juice) is a good source of flavonoids shown to reduce platelet stickiness. Similar to red wine, but not quite as potent.
Green tea is another source of flavonoids, considered to be cardioprotective and cancer-protective. The combination of flavonoids and fluorides in tea probably help to ward off tooth and gum disease.
Groundnut (peanut) oil: groundnuts are peanuts. Peanut oil is a reasonable source of MUFAs, which are cardio-protective.
Nori seaweed is a good source of minerals including iodine, zinc and copper. It also provides traces of calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium.
Olive oil contains mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which can help lower ‘bad’ cholesterol in the blood, and flavonoids which are reported to reduce the risk of colon and other cancers.
Salt: high sodium is a major cause of raised blood pressure. Switch from table salt to a low sodium/higher potassium and magnesium salt alternative to help reduce blood pressure.
Sesame oil/seeds contain MUFAs, Omega 6 PUFAs, Vitamin E and flavonoids.
Soy protein is derived from soya beans and has been proven to lower blood cholesterol levels. It must, therefore, be considered to be cardio-protective. Some soy extracts contain isoflavones, reported to alleviate pre-menstrual and postmenopausal symptoms, which confer additional cardio- and some cancer protection. Some isoflavones (eg genistein) have additional anti-cancer properties. Last but not least, soy protein is of a very high quality; its amino acid composition means that it is regarded as a complete protein, similar to meat or egg, so is particularly suitable for vegetarians.
Sunflower oil is a source of Omega 6 PUFAs and some Vitamin E.
Wine: red wine contains flavonoids, antioxidant compounds with antiinflammatory properties which reduce the risk of heart disease and cancers. White wine is not as good a source. For maximal flavonoid levels, choose a wine with the deepest red colouring: Cabernet Sauvignon grapes tend to score particularly highly.
A group of compounds derived from foods which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. They are also anti-glycosylant, which means they help to reduce the cross linking of collagen and elastin which would otherwise lead to loss of elasticity of the skin, arteries, etc.
Flavonoids are vital ingredients in our diet. Often coloured, they range from curcumin (yellow) to anthocyanins (typically red, blue and purple).
The extent to which the carbohydrate elements in food increase blood sugar levels. Refined carbohydrates have a high glycemic index, while unrefined carbohydrates have, in general, a low one.
The high glycemic index of the Western diet has now been identified as a probable cause of Type 2 diabetes – so a shift to a lower GI diet is strongly recommended.