Pears are some of the world’s most beloved fruits, yet still pretty much understated. Not much information is typically passed on about pears, which makes them still relatively unknown to the public. This is why, in this article we’ll offer more information on this fruit’s history, on its nutritional value, as well as its health benefits. We’ll also talk about how you can pick the right pears and what you can do to better store them.
An Overview of the Pear
There is such a long-standing history of pears, it’s impressive we still have them around and can enjoy everything they have to offer. Pears have been around for thousands of years and proof of this are numerous documents attesting to their existence going as far back as 5,000 B.C. Even Homer speaks highly of pears in his Odyssey, referring to pears as ‘gift of the gods’.
Pears were actually a highly valuable commodity among the trading routes of the ancient world thanks to their high shelf life and increased versatility. These shapely and elegant fruits have also been depicted in many still-life paintings across the centuries.
Pears eventually entered America via the early colonists that brought these delicious fruits with them in the eastern settlements of the continent. After many challenges suffered by the crops, these fruits managed to survive and thrive throughout the years.
Pear trees truly are sun lovers and they typically love growing in fertile and deep soils. It’s also important that these soils are well-drained. Having said this, pear trees tend to deal better with heavy and poorly drained soils than most tree fruits, but they actually thrive in rich, deep soils. These trees usually flower in early spring, so they’re always at the risk of suffering from spring frosts. Pear trees start yielding fruit in the fourth to sixth year of growth, so it’s worth remembering if you’re buying your own pear trees. In fact, pears are some of the fruits that can easily be grown and due to their resistance to pests, growing pears is actually an easier challenge than growing apples.
Nowadays there are over 3,000 varieties of pears grown all around the world. The pear fruits themselves are typically oval, conical or round and their color can be either yellow, green or reddish. These fruits are typically harvested green, since they continue to ripen even after this point. This gives producers an upperhand, since it enables them to prevent pears to become overripe in supermarkets.
In the US, there are ten different types of pears being grown, each of them with their own unique set of characteristics, such as size, smell and taste. These types are:
- Bartlett – this variety becomes very sweet when ripe.
- Green Anjou.
- Red Anjou.
- Red Bartlett – this becomes as sweet as the Bartlett variety when ripe, but it maintains rather crisp.
- Starkrimson – this type of pear becomes very soft and juicy when ripe, while also providing that irresistible sweet taste.
Pears are also one of those fruits that have been molded by companies into certain shapes. Just like there are heart-shaped watermelons and star-shaped cucumbers, nowadays you can even find Buddha-shaped pears, complete with a fat tummy and a meditative smile.
Health Benefits of Pears
What people often don’t know about pears is that apart from their delicious taste and inviting aspect, they’re also nutritious, providing those who eat them with a powerful combination of vitamins and minerals that will boost the immune system. Let’s look closer at what exactly it is that pears bring to the table in terms of nutrition. It’s important thus to note that one medium-sized pear (178 grams) will provide you with the following nutrients:
- 101 Calories
- 1 gram of protein – a decent intake of protein will give your body more sustenance, by increasing the strength and mass of your muscles. Protein is also good for your bones, while also boosting your overall immune system.
- 6 grams of fiber – fiber is essential in maintaining proper functioning of the gastrointestinal processes of the body. This means that eating pears on a regular basis will regulate your bowel movements, while also helping you eat less of other snacks, since fiber brings forth a strong sense of satiety.
- 27 grams of carbs – the carbs contained by pears – and fruits, in general – are as close as they can be to their natural state and that’s what makes them healthy. Carbs usually provide the body with the energy it needs to sustain certain physical activities that otherwise would leave it drained.
- 12% of the DRV (Daily Recommended Value) of vitamin C – vitamin C is extremely important in the human body, since it helps build, repair and maintain the health of all the tissues. This vitamin also helps build collagen, supports the health of the immune system and helps heal wounds. The health of cartilages, teeth and bones will also be protected thanks to this vitamin. Additionally, vitamin C may also decrease the risk of chronic diseases and may help manage high blood pressure.
- 6% of the DRV of vitamin K
- 16% of the DRV of copper – when this mineral pairs up with copper, it forms a powerful team that will create the body’s red blood cells. When you increase your copper intake, you can actually help prevent cardiovascular diseases and osteoporosis.
- 4% of the DRV of potassium – this mineral is important in regulating muscle contractions, nerve signals and fluid levels in the body.
Apart from this, pears can truly be considered wonderful antioxidant fruits, since they contain a good amount of antioxidants. Antioxidants are the ones that will fight against the harmful consequences of free radicals in the human body. These are compounds that we absorb through external means, such as through our polluted environments or harmful habits, such as drinking or smoking. In other words, it means that antioxidants work as a shield against the body’s aging process, helping it slow down through this process.
The antioxidants contained by pears are:
- Vitamin C
One such antioxidant is vitamin C itself, which plays a tremendously important role in the human body. Another type of antioxidants are polyphenols, which also prevent oxidative damage. Make sure you eat the entire pear, including and especially the peel, since this part contains more polyphenol antioxidants than the actual flesh, according to one study, Characterization and Quantification of Fruit Phenolic Compounds of European and Tunisian Pear Cultivars.
Pears also contain some compounds that give these fruits their different coloring. For example, anthocyanins in pears give some of these fruits that reddish hue we’re used to – they may improve heart health and play an important part in strengthening the blood vessels.
The kind of pears you see that have green skin most likely also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two essential compounds in maintaining macular health, in other words eye health, as you age. These amazing fruits also contain flavonoid antioxidants, which help fight inflammation and may also decrease your risk of developing diseases. Studies, such as Flavonoids intake and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, indicate that a high-flavonoid intake may decrease the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.
It seems that pears may also play an important part in preventing certain cancers, such as bladder, stomach and lung cancers. Women may also benefit from regularly eating these fruits, since pears may also safeguard against ovarian and breast cancers. However further research is needed before a pear-based diet can act as a basis in preventing cancer.
Pears may also help you lose weight, due to their fiber intake, low-calorie count and high-water content. This particular combination is a winning one when looking to lose weight, since the fiber and high-water content will help you keep feeling full. When you are full, you don’t typically need to indulge in unnecessary snacking anymore.
Overeating can result in many negative results. Eating the wrong kind of foods like those with high content of refined carbohydrates and sugar can lead to cholelithiasis or gallstones. When you have gallstones in your gall bladder, you get to feel acute pain on your abdomen that keeps on returantioxidant-fruits.comng over and over. To make matters worse, you will also encounter indigestion, gas and constipation. A quick remedy for this condition is to eat pears.
Pears are natural laxatives. It has high fiber content, copper and antioxidants which can help you with chronic gall bladder disorders. Somehow, eating pears regulates your bowel functions and somehow cleanses your gall bladder and rids you of gallstones.
It’s actually been shown that pears contain pectin, the compound that binds to cholesterol-filled gallstones and help them find their way out of your body. Although more evidence is needed in order to support the claim that pears can help you completely get rid of gallstones, more than one health sources claim that these fruits are at least great in performing an efficient gallbladder cleanse. Some gallstones may not be large enough to block a bile duct in your gallbladder and this is why it’s worth pursuing a treatment that includes pears or pear juice. In case the situation is a bit worse and the gallstones represent a threat to the normal functioning of your gallbladder, operation is needed immediately. You will know this by having symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, jaundice and a fever. Having said this, you can eat pears for gallstones, providing the condition is not advanced and you may notice positive effects in your health.
Other benefits come with eating pears. Pears also keep your heart healthy and your colon gets a cleansing from the natural fibers of this fruit. You can also mix pears with apples, cranberry, grapes, pineapple or papaya to get a more potent concoction against gall bladder disorders, indigestion, colon disorders, urinary infections and constipation.
How to Pick the Right Pears?
If you’re harvesting the pears yourself, it’s important to remember that these are some of the few fruits out there that don’t ripen well in the tree. They actually ripen better when they’re not on their stem anymore. If left too long on the plant, the fruit will become too soft in texture and its flesh too sweet and high in sugar.
If you’re buying your pears, make sure to take into consideration all aspects of the fruit: the size, the texture, the smell and the color. Of course, each type of pear will have different characteristics, but granted you know the basics of the type you are buying, you will be able to pick the ripe one. You will be able to feel the ripeness in the smell – the aroma will feel rich and when you touch the pear, you can expect it to have a certain degree of softness.
If you’ve bought unripe pears, you can still leave them on a counter for a few days more to ripen or in a paper bag. The process will smoothly carry on without you needing to do much about it.
Storing Your Pears
It’s recommended that you store your pears at 30F – any less than this and your fruits will suffer damage, any higher and they will become overripe. You can also leave your pears in the refrigerator – the Bartlett type of pears will be able to sit at these temperatures for about two or three months.
In order for your pears to ripen, allow them each some time to sit outside on the counter – 4-5 days for the Bartlett variety, 5-7 days for the Comice and Bosc varieties, 7-10 for the Anjou pears. In order to speed up the pears ripening process, you can put your pears in a paper bag, together with a ripe banana or apple.
When it comes to pears, it’s important to remember that they’re not perishable fruits at all, which means you can expect them to take their time to ripen. Apart from this, you won’t have unpleasant surprises where they turn mushy and inedible overnight.
As you can see, pears are not only delicious, versatile and easy to maintain fresh, but they also come with a myriad of health benefits that can boost your overall well-being. Some of these health benefits are well documented and others may still need additional research. However this makes pears an excellent fruit to include in your regular diet either way – they may help you be well on your way to a healthier and leaner body.
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