Valentine’s Day week is a great time to share with students “foods that fuel their heart” – starting with the RED ones. When we are having a discussion about fruits and vegetables in our classes, I like to point out that the natural chemicals in them are responsible for their color. They give fruits and veggies vibrant, bright colors! These chemicals are known as “phytochemicals” or “phytonutrients.” A good example is anti-oxidants, readily found in these foods. Although they do not contain nutrition, they are still responsible for helping to protect us from disease.
Although each color performs a multitude of disease-preventing functions that may cross over into other colors, I like to associate one color with one function to help students remember it. Sooooo, the white ones protect your immune system, the orange/yellow protect your eyes and the green prevent against cancer.
So then what do the red ones do? Protects our “red” hearts of course!
The red ones contain a chemical called “lycopene” (found in tomatoes) that is responsible for its red pigment. Lycopene may inhibit the production of cholesterol and reduce LDL or the “not so good” cholesterol in your blood. Some studies have suggested too (although results are mixed) that higher concentrations of lycopene have been associated with a reduced risk of heart attack.
So what are some of the best “red” Valentine’s Day foods you could recommend to students to help melt their “beloved-ones” heart?
- Tomato soup
- Valentine’s Day salad topped with red heart tomatoes
- Red pepper dip
- Baked red snapper
- Spaghetti with red lentil pasta sauce
- Desserts with strawberries, raspberries or cherries
A simple, luxuriously sweet, “red” recipe that you can make with your students is Poached Pears in Raspberry Sauce.
Poached Pears in Raspberry Sauce
- 3 firm Bosc or Bartlett pears
- ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (not from concentrate)
- ¼ cup raspberry jam or jelly (I use jam that is fruit-juice sweetened and not from concentrate)
- Pinch of ground cinnamon or nutmeg
- Pinch of salt
- Fresh raspberries, strawberries and mint leaves for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350º F.
- Cut pears in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and core with a spoon.
- Place pears cut side down in a baking dish.
- Combine juice, jam or jelly, cinnamon or nutmeg and salt in a separate bowl.
- Pour sauce over pears and cover dish with foil.
- Place pears in the oven and bake until they are soft (about 25 minutes).
- To serve, place pears cut side up on serving dish. Spoon sauce from baking dish over them and garish with berries and mint.
A popular option now is instead of cutting pears in half; cook them whole and then serve standing up dripped in raspberry sauce.