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Pear Nutrition – Surprising Immune & Antioxidant Benefits
November 12, 2018
In the United States alone, there are more than 10 varieties of pears grown throughout the year. Each has its own distinctive color, flavor, texture and culinary uses. And would you believe that worldwide, it’s estimated that there are more than 3,000 known varieties of pears in existence? (1) That’s a good thing, considering the wonderful benefits pear nutrition provides.
What’s there to love about pears? Besides how filling and refreshing a crisp pear can be, pear nutrition also comes loaded with benefits. For instance, pears have the ability to fight chronic diseases by supplying high levels of antioxidants. They’re also capable of lowering 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.
What are other health benefits of pears? While there aren’t many calories in a pear, pears can help lower inflammation, which is the root of most diseases. Plus, they’re one of the best sources of dietary fiber of all fruits. They provide high amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K and boron, which aid in bone health, and pear nutrition also helps reverse copper deficiency and low potassium.
Pear Nutrition Facts
Pears, which have the species name Pyrus communis, are a member of the Rosaceae plant family. They are considered a pomaceous fruit that grow on a number of different pear trees. Today, many different species of pears are eaten around the world. Of all the known pear species, there are three main varieties of pear trees that are primarily grown today: European, Asian and hybrid. (2)
Some of the most common types of pears include: (3)
- Bartlett (including red or green Bartlett). Bartlett pears account for about 75 percent of commercial pear production in the U.S.
- Anjou pear (including red or green Anjou)
- Asian (there are many different Asian pear varieties grown around the world)
Which pear is the healthiest? Different types of pears have similar health benefits, including their high fiber content, vitamin C and antioxidants. You’ll find various phytonutrients and other antioxidants mostly in the vibrantly colored skins of pears. This is why it’s a good idea to eat pears with their skins/peels on. Also, enjoy different pear varieties and choose a mix of pear colors.
In terms of pear nutrition facts, one medium pear (about 178 grams) has approximately: (4)
- 101–103 calories
- 27.5 grams carbohydrates
- 0.7 gram protein
- 0.2 gram fat
- 5.5 grams fiber
- 7.5 milligrams vitamin C (12 percent DV)
- 8 micrograms vitamin K (10 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram copper (7 percent DV)
- 212 milligrams potassium (6 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram manganese (4 percent DV)
- 12.5 micrograms folate (3 percent DV)
- 12.5 milligrams magnesium (3 percent DV)
In addition, pear nutrition contains some vitamin A, vitamin E, niacin, pantothenic acid, choline, betaine, calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.
How do calories in a pear compare to calories in other fruits? There are about 100 calories in a pear. That is similar to the amount of calories in a medium-size apple, banana or orange. Pears are a bit more calorie-dense than berries, stone fruit like nectarines or peaches, or melon such as cantaloupe, but they are still a low-calorie food overall.
Are pears full of sugar, and is this something to worry about? Although pears and other fruits or vegetables do contain natural sugars in the form of the fructose, studies show that higher fruit and vegetable intake is inversely associated with diabetes incidence, especially among women. (5)
Because pears are bigger than some other fruits, they do tend to provide a bit more sugar than smaller fruits like strawberries or plums. If you’re concerned about consuming too much sugar — for example because you follow the ketogenic diet or a low-carb diet — but you still want to include fruit in your diet for the fiber, consider having half an avocado daily. Avocado is another high-fiber fruit but contains much less carbs and sugar (and much more healthy fat!).
Related: What Is Quince Fruit? Top 6 Benefits + How to Eat It
What do pears do for your body? Below are some of the top benefits of pear nutrition.
1. High Source of Immune-Boosting Vitamin C
Why are pears healthy to eat as you age? One reason is because pears provide a good dose of the daily vitamin C you need. This vitamin is a powerful antioxidant that fights free radical damage and lowers oxidative stress. One fresh, medium-sized pear contains about 10 percent to 12 percent of the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C (also called ascorbic acid). Vitamin C is beneficial for protecting DNA, stopping cell mutation, maintaining a healthy metabolism and repairing tissue.
Are pears good for your skin? Yes, pear nutrition benefits your skin due to its vitamin C content. Consuming vitamin C from high-antioxidant foods like pears helps increase skin’s immunity. It also has anti-aging effects because it promotes skin cell renewal. Vitamin C foods also help support maintenance of connective tissue, heal cuts and bruises, and guard against a number of age-related and infectious diseases. (6)
2. Great Source of Fiber
With over five grams of fiber in every medium-size pear, pears are the ultimate high-fiber food. Eating pears is a great way to make sure you cover your bases of 25–30 grams of fiber daily. Fiber contains zero digestible calories. It 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.
3. Provides Antioxidants
In addition to vitamin C, pear skins (or peels) also contain important phytonutrients. That includes polyphenols, phenolic acids and flavonoids. These are mostly found in the skin of pears and can help ward off disease formation, so don’t peel your fruit! In fact, when researchers studied the antioxidant capacity of pears and apples, they found that diets that included the fruit peels had a significantly higher level of healthy fatty acids (higher plasma lipid levels) and antioxidant activity than diets that discarded the peels and only ate the fruit’s pulp. (7)
Diets high in fresh fruit, including pears, have also gained a lot of attention for having anti-inflammatory and cancer-protective effects. This is 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. Glutathione is a “super antioxidant” known to help prevent cancer, high blood pressure and stroke.
According to studies by the National Cancer Institute, consuming fresh fruit daily shows positive effects on the body’s ability to prevent cancer growth, reduce inflammation, remain in pH balance, decrease oxidative damage to lipids and improve antioxidant status in healthy humans. (8) It’s also true that eating more fruits and veggies is the best way to detox your body of harmful substances and toxins. This is the primary reason that every year U.S. national policymakers set a national dietary goal to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among both children and adults.
4. May Help with Reaching Satiety and Weight Loss
Why are pears good for weight loss? Fruit and vegetable intake can help 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. (9)
Longitudinal studies among overweight adults find that a high-fiber diet coming from fruit and vegetable consumption is associated with slower weight gain. That’s likely because fruits and vegetables are so nutrient-dense and low in calories, but they are filling. A pear is a great satiating, hydrating snack that won’t weigh you down. Plus, it’s easy to toss one in your bag and take it along with you during a busy day.
5. Supports Heart Health
Why are pears good for your heart? One of the most noteworthy pear nutrition benefits is that pears can protect your heart by providing antioxidants, vitamins and fiber. Higher fruit consumption is linked with lower rates of heart disease in certain studies. 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. (10) We also know that the specific type of fiber found in pears called pectin is very useful in helping lower cholesterol levels naturally.
When researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health followed adults over a 15-year period, they found that overall greater intake of fruits and vegetables was associated with lower risk of all-cause death, cancer and cardiovascular disease. This supports the general health recommendation to consume multiple servings of fruits and vegetables (ideally five to nine a day of different types). (11) There’s also evidence accumulating for fruit having a protective role in strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diverticulosis and hypertension too.
6. Improves Digestion and Can Fight Constipation
As a high-fiber food that provides essential nutrients, eating more pears is a great way to prevent or treat digestive issues. Why are pears good for constipation? Yes, 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. Pectin is considered 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. They also help alkalize the body and balance pH levels. Eating more pears might also be beneficial as a natural hemorrhoid remedy and treatment. (12)
Do pears make you poop more if you have diarrhea? It’s possible, so this is something you might need to test. Fiber can both speed up or slow down bowel movements, so it depends on your reaction. Start by consuming small amounts of pears (some people find that cooking pears can help them to be digested more easily) and increase consumption depending on your reaction.
7. Helps Fight Diabetes
Researchers now know that certain flavonoids in fruits, including pears, can improve insulin sensitivity. That is key for preventing and treating diabetes in addition to weight gain. 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 servings of combined fruits and vegetables daily significantly cut the risk of diabetes formation. (13)
Pears are considered a fruit low on the glycemic index. Each one has about 26–28 net grams of carbs. 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. That makes pears excellent pre-workout snacks. You also need glucose after a workout to replenish glycogen reserves and help heal muscle tears. 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 that are key to skeletal health: vitamin K and boron. Vitamin K deficiency puts you at great risk for bone-related disorders. 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. Believe it or not, 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. (13) Boron is often underutilized in terms of preventing osteoporosis, but many health experts consider it an important part of preventing age-related bone disorders.
Pears in Ayurveda, TCM and Traditional Medicine
Historians have evidence that pears have been eaten since prehistoric times, especially in China where they’ve been cultivated for an estimated 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.
In Ayurvedic medicine, it’s recommended that fruits, including pears, be eaten when they are ripe and in season. Seasonal fruits are said to provide rasa, or “nutritional fluid,” which supports maintenance of body tissues. Fresh, ripe fruit is also beneficial because it holds nutrients that are easy to digest, enhances immunity, can increase pleasure and happiness, balances the doshas, and builds strength.
In Ayurvedic cuisine, fruits like pears and apples are often consumed as chutneys and preserves or cooked with beneficial spices, such as cinnamon, fennel, dry-roasted ground cumin, ginger and coriander. They may also be combined with ghee, milk, yogurt or salt. It’s recommended that fruit be eaten in the morning or for a snack, ideally separate from other foods. Fruits should ideally be sourced from farmers markets or local orchards to increase nutritive value. (14)
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), pears are said to help to cool and lubricate the lungs and large intestine. This aids in detoxification and clearing excess fluid or heat. Benefits of pears according to TCM include clearing coughs, improving breathing, reducing constipation and moisturizing the skin. (15) Pears are recommended either baked or eaten fresh, depending on the climate and how well they are digested.
Pears vs. Apples
What is healthier, a pear or apple? Here’s how these two fruits compare:
- Botanically speaking, pear fruit is the upper end of the flower stalk of the pear plant. Inside its edible flesh are five “cartilaginous carpels,” known as the “core.” This makes pears very similar to apples. Depending on the color of both, sometimes you might not even be able to tell them apart. Both are from the Rosaceae family and are believed to have originated in Asia.
- One major difference between pears and apples is that the flesh of a 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. They both also have cores that contain small seeds.
- Apples are known for providing pectin, but pears are actually a better source of this special type of fiber. 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. Apples are also a good source of pectin and have similar benefits.
- There are a similar number of calories in a pear and an apple. Both provide about 100 calories and have between 17–19 grams of sugar. They also contain similar quantities of carbohydrates, little fat and little protein. Pears and apples both provide about 10 percent to 14 percent of daily vitamin C needs.
- Apples and pears are really versatile when it comes to creating both sweet and savory recipes. Pears are a bit softer, while apples tend to be crisper. They can be cooked/baked to make apple or pear sauce and can be added to baked goods, marinades, salads, etc.
Where to Find and How to Use
Pears are described as having a soft, sweet, buttery texture that makes them great for cooking or baking with. They’re also excellent to eat raw. 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.
How many pears can you eat in a day? Because pears are high in fiber, it’s best to introduce them to your diet slowly if you currently don’t eat much fiber. One pear daily is a great place to start, although when they are in season and widely available, it’s not out of the question to eat two pears a day.
Here are tips for buying and storing pears:
- Whenever possible, look for organic pears. Just like with apples, pears are commonly sprayed with high levels of common pesticides and chemicals. That 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.
- Skip store-bought pear juices (or any fruit juices for that matter). They 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. 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. If you want them to ripen slowly, you can put them in the refrigerator. (This 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. You can also freeze them to use later on.
What can you do with pears? Aside from eating fresh pears, add them to a chicken or turkey roast with onions and herbs for extra flavor. You can also 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.
Here are a few ways to try using pears in recipes at home:
- Pear Cranberry Salad Recipe
- You can add some pear to any of these Green Smoothie Recipes
- Make a sweet crepe for breakfast (or dinner) using pears in this Breakfast Quesadilla Recipe
- Use pears in place of apples in this Raw Apple Crisp Recipe or this Apple Quinoa and Kale Salad Recipe
The pear is native to coastal temperate regions of Western Europe, North Africa and Asia. Pear trees can withstand cold temperatures. That 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 fruit 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. Today it’s believed there are thousands of 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.
Risks and Side Effects
What are potential side effects of eating pears? Pears can cause allergies in some people. They may also raise digestive issues, such as bloating or diarrhea, in people sensitive to FODMAP foods. This is due to certain types of carbohydrates found in pears that can be difficult to properly digest.
Pears are often recommended by health care practitioners because they’re considered a hypoallergenic fruit. Compared to many other fruits (like stone fruit or berries), someone is much less likely to suffer from digestive issues or allergic reactions when eating a pear. This makes pears a good choice even for infants and making homemade baby food.
Can you eat too many pears? Although pears have multiple benefits, as with all fruit they do contain sugar. It’s best to have them in moderation. Include pears 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. These include your level of physical activity, history of medical conditions and current weight. 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.
- Pears (Pyrus communis) are a member of the Rosaceae plant family that are native to Asia. They come in thousands of varieties, with about 10 types of pears most common in many countries. There are three main varieties of pear trees that are primarily grown today: European, Asian and hybrid.
- Pear nutrition benefits include supplying a high amount of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, copper and boron. This fruit also contains antioxidants (especially their skins) that fight diabetes, support heart health and nourish the skin.
- Pear nutrition can help to treat constipation and high cholesterol. It also may be helpful for staying full and achieving weight loss goals.
- You can eat this fruit fresh/raw, baked, boiled, pureed or added to baked goods. Use pears in the same way you would apples, such as making pear sauce, adding some to smoothies or oatmeals, using them to moisten muffins, etc.