What’s there to love about pears? Besides how filling and refreshing a crisp pear can be, pear nutrition also comes loaded with benefits — from pears’ ability to fight chronic diseases by supplying high levels of antioxidants to their capability to lower cholesterol thanks to their high fiber content.
Pears contain special phytonutrients, including anti-inflammatory flavonoids, anticancer polyphenols and anti-aging flavonoids. Studies regarding pear nutrition have linked the fruit’s consumption with lower levels of constipation, kidney stones, high cholesterol and even diabetes.
Pears, which have the species name Pyrus communis, are a member of the Rosaceae plant family. Pears are considered a pomaceous fruit grown on a number of different pear trees. Today, many different species of pears are eaten around the world.
Some evidence shows that pears have been eaten since prehistoric times, especially in China where they’ve been cultivated for 3,000 years. Even centuries ago, populations knew that pear nutrition benefited digestive health and could be used to promote regularity, fight dehydration and even reduce fevers.
With over five grams of fiber in every pear, pears are the ultimate high-fiber food and a great way to make sure you’re covering your bases of 25–30 grams daily. Fiber contains zero digestible calories and is a necessary element of a healthy diet since it helps sustain healthy blood sugar levels and promotes regularity.
One of the most researched aspects of pear nutrition is pears’ compound called pectin fiber. Pectin fiber is more than just a regulator; it’s a type of special beneficial fiber that’s water-soluble and helps lower cholesterol and increases digestive health.
Apples are usually known for providing pectin, but pears are actually a better source. As a soluble fiber, pectin works by binding to fatty substances in the digestive tract, including cholesterol and toxins, and promotes their elimination. This means pear nutrition benefits the body’s detoxifying capabilities, helps regulate the body’s use of sugars and cholesterol, and improves gut and digestive health.
2. High Source of Immune-Boosting Vitamin C
One pear provides a good dose of the daily vitamin C you need, a powerful antioxidant that fights free radical damage and lowers oxidative stress. Vitamin C is sometimes even calledthe most powerful vitamin on the planet! One fresh, medium-sized pear contains about 12 percent of the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C (also called ascorbic acid), which is beneficial for protecting DNA, stopping cell mutation, maintaining a healthy metabolism and repairing tissue.
Pear nutrition benefits your skin too. Vitamin C from high-antioxidant foods like pears helps increase skin’s immunity and has anti-aging effects because it promotes skin cell renewal. Vitamin C foods also help heal cuts and bruises and guard against a number of age-related and infectious diseases.
Diets high in fresh fruit, including pears, have also gained a lot of attention for having anti-inflammatory and cancer protective effects — due to their high levels of essential nutrients like vitamin C, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Those essential nutrients and antioxidants make pears one of the better anti-inflammatory foods around.
Another important way pear nutrition benefits you? Pears also have antioxidant and anticarcinogen effects thanks to glutathione, a “super antioxidant” known to help prevent cancer, high blood pressure and stroke.
Fruit and vegetable intake has been proposed to protect against obesity, according to extensive research. Over and over we see that the more fresh vegetables and fruit someone eats, the less likely she is to gain weight and struggle to maintain her health. Longitudinal studies among overweight adults find that a high-fiber dietcoming from fruit and vegetable consumption is associated with slower weight gain, likely because fruits and vegetables are so nutrient-dense and low in calories. A pear is a great filling, hydrating snack that won’t weight you down — plus it’s easy to toss one in your bag and take it along with you during a busy day.
5. Helps Improve Heart Health
One of the most noteworthy pear nutrition benefits? Higher fruit intake is linked with lower rates of heart disease. Epidemiological studies show a correlation between a diet high in fruit and vegetables and a lower risk for cardiovascular diseases, heart attacks and strokes. The beneficial effects of fruits and vegetables are probably due to the presence of antioxidant phytochemicals that keep arteries clear, lower inflammation and prevent high levels of oxidative stress. We also know that the specific type of fiber found in pears called pectin is very useful in helping to lower cholesterol levels naturally.
As a high-fiber food that provides essential nutrients, eating more pears is a great way to prevent or treat digestive issues. In fact, adding more fiber to your diet from whole foods is the best natural constipation relief remedy there is. Pear nutrition benefits digestive health because of the pectin found in pears, which is considered to be a natural diuretic and has a mild laxative effect. This means either eating whole pears (including the skin), blending them into a smoothie or drinking pear juice can help regulate bowel movements, prevent water retention and decrease bloating.
Higher fruit intake is also correlated with better general digestive health, especially of the colon. The phytonutrients found in pears and other fruit protect the digestive organs from oxidative stress, help alkalize the body and balance pH levels. Eating more pears might also be beneficial as a natural hemorrhoid remedy and treatment.
7. Helps Fight Diabetes
Although pears and other fruits or vegetables contain natural sugars in the form of the fructose, higher fruit and vegetable intake is inversely associated with diabetes incidence, especially among women. After following over 9,600 adults ages 25–74 for about 20 years, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that eating five or more combined fruits and vegetables daily significantly cut the risk of diabetes formation. Researchers now know that certain flavonoids in fruits, including pears, can improve insulin sensitivity, which is key for preventing and treating diabetesin addition to weight gain.
Pears are considered a fruit low on the glycemic index. Each one has about 26 net grams of carbs, but because of the high fiber content in pears, they unleash sugar into the bloodstream slowly and therefore have a low glycemic load. Compared to eating packaged sweets filled with refined sugars that can negatively impact blood sugar levels, eating pears instead is a great way to appease your “sweet tooth” naturally without negative impacts.
8. Makes a Good Pre- or Post-Workout Snack
Like all fruit, eating pears can provide you with a quick boost of energy before a workout. Pears are a natural source of fructose and glucose that the body uses quickly to enhance physical performance, concentration and stamina, which makes pears excellent pre-workout snacks. You also need glucose after a workout to replenish glycogen reserves and help heal muscle tears, so consider having a pear along with a healthy source of protein as a post-workout meal or snack following exercise.
9. Helps Maintain Bone Health
Pears are a good source of two nutrients key to skeletal health: vitamin K and boron.Vitamin K deficiency puts you at great risk for bone-related disorders since it works with other essential nutrients like calcium, magnesium and phosphorus to prevent bone breakdown. In fact, some experts even consider vitamin K to potentially be the most important nutrient there is for fighting osteoporosis — vitamin k even builds bones better than calcium.
Boron uses include the ability to help keep bones strong by adding to bone mineral density, preventing osteoporosis, treating inflammatory conditions like arthritis, and improving strength and muscle mass. Boron is often underutilized in terms of preventing osteoporosis, but many health experts consider it an important part of preventing age-related bone disorders.
History of Pears and Interesting Facts
The pear is native to coastal temperate regions of Western Europe, North Africa and Asia. Pear trees can withstand cold temperatures, which is one reason they’re harvested year-round and grown in nearly every continent on Earth. Records show pears date back thousands of years, especially to Asia and areas of eastern and northern Europe around the Swiss lakes.
The pear tree first originated in present-day western China in the foothills of the Tian Shan mountain range. The pear was also cultivated by the Ancient Romans, who ate the fruit both raw or cooked, just like apples, and liked to stew them with honey to create a simple dessert. Over the course of many years, pears have spread throughout every continent, and today it’s believed there are over 300 species all related to two original wild subspecies!
Today, pears are grown primarily in China, the U.S., Argentina, Italy and Turkey. Some types of pears found in markets across the world today include: bosc pears, Bartlett pears, Anjou pears, European pears, Manchurian pears, almond leave pears, Chinese pears, Algerian pears, Plymouth pears and many more. While they all differ a bit in terms of taste and appearance, pear nutrition benefits for all types are pretty similar.
Botanically speaking, pear fruit is the upper end of the flower stalk of the pear plant and inside its edible flesh are five “cartilaginous carpels,” known as the “core.” This makes pears very similar to apples, and depending on the color of both, sometimes you might not even be able to tell them apart. One major difference between pears and apples is that the flesh of pear contains stone cells (also called “grit”) while apples don’t. Because pears and apples have similar molecular qualities and fiber contents, we see that pear nutrition benefits closely mimic those of apples.
How to Buy and Use Pears
Whenever possible, look for organic pears. Just like with apples, pears are commonly sprayed with high levels of common pesticides and chemicals, which places them high on the Environmental Working Group’s list of fruits and veggies to buy organic. In fact, the Environmental Working Group’s latest report on “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides” lists pears as one of the 12 foods most frequently containing pesticide residues. Buying organic pears lowers your risk of exposure to unwanted pesticides, contaminants and other potential risks associated with agricultural chemicals.
Pears can be eaten fresh, cooked, juiced, frozen and dried. The juice of pears is a great way to sweeten smoothies and recipes without adding refined sugar. In fact, pear juice is used in many ways around the world, including fermenting it to make “perry” or hard pear cider.
Skip store-bought pear juices (or any fruit juices for that matter), which are usually pasteurized, loaded with sugar and missing most of the pear nutrition benefits described above. Instead, simply make your own by blending or juicing a whole pear. While pear juice can be a good addition to recipes on occasion, remember the skin and pulp are where the fiber lays — so try eating these too as often as possible.
After buying pears, keep in mind that they ripen at room temperature. They ripen faster if they’re placed next to bananas in a fruit bowl because of chemicals that bananas give off, but if you want them to ripen slowly, you can put them in the refrigerator (which is useful if you buy a lot all at once and can’t use them in time). Pears are ripe when the flesh around the stem seems soft when you give it gentle pressure. Once ripe, try eating them within two to three days before they begin going bad, or else freeze them to use later on.
Healthy Pear Recipes
What can you do with pears? Just like apples, pears are really versatile when it comes to creating both sweet and savory recipes.
Aside from eating fresh pears, add them to a chicken or turkey roast with onions and herbs for extra flavor, throw some into your morning oatmeal or smoothie, top a salad with some diced pear, or incorporate them into homemade muffins or low-sugar desserts. Ever use applesauce in place of butter, sugar or extra oil when you bake? Well you can do the same thing with blended pears.
Pears are often recommended by health care practitioners because they’re considered a hypoallergenic fruit, so compared to many other fruits (like stone fruit or berries), someone is much less likely to suffer from digestive issues or reactions when eating a pear. This makes pears a good choice even for infants and making homemade baby food.
Although pears have multiple benefits, as with all fruit they do contain sugar and it’s best to have them in moderation, as part of a diet that’s also filled with plenty of vegetables, healthy fats and proteins. How much fruit is right for you depends on a few factors like your level of physical activity, history of medical conditions and current weight, so plan to eat pears (and all fruit) in moderation balanced by other low-sugar foods.
To get the most benefits of pears without consuming excess sugar, always have them with their skins and limit the amount of pear juice you have, which eliminates fiber.