Veggies and Fruit

Get Your Pear On

Four different varieties of pears

A pear is a sweet, mild fruit full of dietary fiber and essential antioxidants. It packs these nutrients in a cholesterol-free, fat-free package. Pear trees and shrubs are from the family Rosaceae, bearing the pomaceous fruit of the same name. Many species of pear are valued for their delicious fruit and juices, while others are cultivated for the trees itself.

Pear trees are native to mildly temperate regions of Europe, Africa, and Asia. There are around 3,000 known varieties of pears grown around the world. Pears can be eaten fresh, canned, juiced, and dried. Get your pear on with these facts about this fruit:

History

The exact origin of pears is unknown, but many experts believe that European pears and Asian pears evolved separately during the same approximate time in history, around 1,000 BC. In China, it is believed that pears are cultivated as early as 2,000 BC.

The ancient Romans cultivate pears, and Pliny’s Natural History recommends stewing pears with honey. An ancient Roman cookbook lists a recipe for a spiced, stewed-pear patina, or a soufflé.

Since the 1500s, European colonists began to bring pears to North America, where pears were not known before. While the pears were cultivated in North American lands, colonists continue to import most pears they consume from Europe, especially from France. Today, European pears have become a small part of the American diet. The United States continues to import more than 75,000 metric tons of pears a year, and the vast majority of pears come from Argentina, China, Chile, South Korea, and New Zealand.

On a worldwide basis, China is the largest grower of pears. From 21 million tons produced worldwide, China produces around 15.5 million tons.

Within the US, the state of Washington remains the largest grower of pears, accounting for half of all the pears produced in the country. California and Oregon follow next, with commercial production also coming from Pennsylvania and New York.

Nutrient Content of Pears

According to the USDA FoodData, a medium pear that weighs around 178 grams contains:

  • 101 calories
  • 27 grams carbohydrates
  • 6 grams of fiber
  • 1 gram protein
  • 4 grams of sugar

It also provides essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, and copper.

Pears contain small amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium, riboflavin, folate, and vitamin B-6. Pears, especially those with red skin, also provide carotenoids, flavonoids, and anthocyanins – compounds that all act as antioxidants. Pears with green skin contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which are compounds helpful in keeping your vision sharp.

Benefits of Pears

Pears aren’t just delicious – just like most fruits, they also offer many health benefits supported by science.

1. It promotes gut health.

Pears are great sources of soluble and insoluble fiber, which are both essential for keeping the digestive system healthy. These fibers help keep the bowel movement regular by softening and bulking up the stool. Soluble fibers feed healthy bacteria in the gut, which are associated with improved immunity and healthy aging. Insoluble fibers, on the other hand, help relieve constipation.

Since it helps relieve constipation, the pear has a laxative effect that encourages detoxification in the bile and stool.

Besides the health benefits that fiber can offer for the body, it may also help treat diverticulosis. This condition occurs when bulging sacs form in the lining of the large intestines. One of the main causes of this disease is believed to be the lack of dietary fiber.

2. It lowers the risk of heart disease.

Pear is a heart-friendly fruit, as its procyanidin antioxidants help decrease the stiffness of the heart tissue, increase good cholesterol, and lower bad cholesterol. A 2019 study on pears found that people with metabolic syndrome who ate two pears a day for 12 weeks saw a modest decrease in pulse pressure and systolic blood pressure.

3. It has anti-inflammatory benefits.

Chronic or long-term inflammation can be harmful to your health, causing certain diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The flavonoid antioxidants in pears help fight inflammation and may decrease your risk for diseases. Also, vitamins and minerals like vitamins C and K, and copper combat inflammation.

4. It has anti-cancer benefits.

Pears have high levels of antioxidants, including vitamin C, copper, and vitamin K. The anthocyanin and cinnamic acid contents have been linked to the ability to fight cancer. Some studies suggest that flavonoid-rich foods like pears can protect the body against breast and ovarian cancers.

5. It helps you lose weight.

Since pear is low in calories and high in water and fiber, it makes a perfect weight-loss-friendly food. The fiber and water in pear can make you feel full easier, which makes you less prone to eat more. A study involving 40 adults showed that those who ate two pears a day lost up to 1.1 inches off their waist circumference.

6. It lowers the risk of diabetes.

Pears, especially those red ones, can help decrease the risk of diabetes, thanks to its higher anthocyanin content. A large study involving more than 200,000 people found that eating five or more servings of anthocyanin-rich foods a week was associated with a 23% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Also, the fiber in pear slows down digestion, giving the body more time to break down carbs and regulate blood sugar levels.

Types of Pears

Pear has more than 3,000 varieties around the world. Pears vary in color, size, shape, sweetness, and crispness.

Here are the most common pear varieties in the US:

  • Barlett pear – Barlett pear comes both in yellow/green and red varieties. Other than the difference in color, the Barlett pears have delicate skin, juicy and soft flesh, and sweet taste. It’s the best-known pear variety in the US.
  • Anjou pear – Like Barlett pears, Anjou pears come in two types: red and green. The green Anjou pears are easier to find. Both varieties are compact, short-necked, and very plump. It comes with smooth skin and firm flesh.
  • Bosc pear – Bosc pear is a brown-skinned pear with a long, tapered neck. It’s taller than other pears due to its slender neck. It has a rough texture, and its white flesh is crisp and sweet. This variety is excellent for poaching and baking because it can keep its shape.
  • Forelle pear – It has a small size, smooth skin, oval-ish shape, and a red/green skin speckled like a trout. It’s sweet and delicate and makes a great snack for young children.
  • Comice pear – This pear comes in either red or green variety. This pear has skins that break very easily, and have sweet, creamy and juicy flesh. It’s popular with holiday gift fruit baskets, making it known as the “Christmas pear.” It’s excellent for baking and eating with cheese.

How to Add Pears to your Diet

Pears are available year-round and are easy to find in most grocery stores. It can be eaten whole with the skin on, or be added to main dishes. Since the skin provides around half of the pear’s dietary fiber, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory nutrients, it’s best not to peel the fruit but eat it entirely. You can slice it to remove the core. Once cut, pears oxidize quickly and turns into a brownish color like apples. Prevent this by adding some drops of lemon, orange juice, or lime to the flesh.

Here are some other ways to serve and consume pears:

  • Serve pears with a handful of nuts for a healthy and filling snack.
  • Add it to your smoothie for added bulk and flavor.
  • Serve it with goat or bleu cheese as a dessert.
  • Add chopped pears to your morning oats.
  • Incorporate it to baked goods like pies, tarts, and cakes.
  • Make jams out of it.
  • Spice it with cinnamon, ginger, or nutmeg when added to recipes.

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