A heart healthy recipe with beneficial nuts, oats, and dark chocolate all in one serving for National Heart Month! These Hazelnut Oatmeal Baked Pears will have you and your loved ones reaching for seconds!
Thinking about a rich chocolate cake for Valentine’s Day? How about a heart healthy dish of baked pears drizzled in rich dark chocolate? As we express our love for others this month, let’s also show love for ourselves by promoting a healthy heart!
Not all Fats are Equal
Based on current research, replacing of-the-moment saturated fats found in meats and dairy with unsaturated fats still have a greater benefit to prevent heart disease risk. Unsaturated fats, especially the polyunsaturated fatty acids (known as PUFAS) help lower our bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise our good type (HDL). Saturated fats are not the enemy. A little butter on your toast or sweet potato is not going to hurt us. In fact, saturated fats are also known to help raise our good cholesterol.
One key suggestion by the American Heart Association is to not avoid these fats, but to focus on limiting to 10% or less of total calories. Based on an average 2,000 calorie diet, that is 200 calories or 20 grams saturated fat on a typical day. To summarize the fat dillemma, if we aim at a majority of our total fat intake (25-30% of total calories) being unsaturated fats, we reap greater benefit for our heart health. For more excellent recommendations for heart health, visit online the Healthy Living section of the American Heart Association here.
Taste the Rainbow!
In addition to eating healthier fats to benefit a healthy heart, an abundance of colorful and vibrant fruits and vegetables will also do the trick! This has been shown in studies for many years following the Mediterranean diet (who also consume mainly olive oil). As the USDA recommends, fill half your plate with these crunchy and luscious plants to feel more satiated and dramatically reduce excess calories at meals. Extra bonus? Fruits and vegetables are boosting with antioxidants that fight excessive free radicals that can potentially lead to chronic illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes, and you guessed it, heart disease.
Chocolate Lovers Unite!
Speaking of antioxidants, flavonoids found in natural dark chocolate may also benefit our heart. These antioxidants have been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve the blood flow to the heart. These factors can benefit the prevention of heart disease and even risk of stroke. Now that we know there are potential benefits, that doesn’t mean to have entire bar of chocolate or huge slice of chocolate cake. Moderation is key, so let’s all try to aim at a small square for a daily serving (it’s not easy I know!).
In this recipe…
These Hazelnut Oatmeal Baked Pears include all of the top heart healthy foods in just one recipe! Nuts, check. Fruit, check. Dark chocolate, check. Did I also mention the oatmeal topping is another hearth health food winner? Oats, naturally high in soluble fiber, can benefit our cholesterol levels!
For the topping, I used a small amount of butter (only 3-4 tablespoons for the entire recipe). Want a vegan alternative? Replace the butter with benefical coconut oil for the same great taste and fat effect for the baking. Gluten sensitive? Make sure to buy certified gluten free oats. Nut allergy? Replace the hazelnuts with some delicious pumpkin seeds! I hope you enjoy these baked pears as a healthy dessert option for you and your loved ones! Happy National Heart Month!
These baked pears can last in the refrigerator in a covered container for up to three days. To make a great breakfast dish, serve with protein-rich yogurt for a balanced meal.
- 3 whole pears, such as Anjou or Bosc
- 3/4 cup rolled oats, gluten free optional
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (or pure honey if preferred)
- 3-4 tablespoons unsalted melted butter (or coconut oil if preferred)
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup hazelnut pieces*
- 3 ounces dark chocolate bar, for chocolate drizzle, optional
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Cut the pears in half and scoop out the middle with a tablespoon or melon ball scooper.
- Place the halved pears face up in a shallow pan. Fill enough water on the bottom to keep the pears from drying out during baking time, about 1/4 to 1/2 cup.
- In a medium bowl, mix the all of the remaining ingredients except the chocoate for the topping. Scoop the topping into the pears to just fill the top.
- Place in the oven and let bake for 30-45 minutes, or until pears are soft and the topping is crisp.
- Optional: While the pears bake with just 5-10 minutes remaining, melt dark chocolate in a small metal bowl over a boiling pot of water (or a double boiler if available).
- Remove the pears from the oven and drizzle the melted chocolate on top
* I used the bottom of a heavy liquid measuring cup with a piece of parchment paper covering the hazelnuts to break into pieces.
Kathryn Pfeffer-Scanlan MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and recent transplant to Boulder, CO. After working as an inpatient dietitian for almost five years in Boston, she is expanding her expertise in the health and wellness industry. Katie is passionate about cooking and food photography, sharing her culinary adventures on her food blog, One Hungry Bunny, and exploring her new Rocky Mountain surroundings. Follow Katie on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.