Pears: Sweet And Still Healthy

Pears are a sweet temptation and make both desserts and savory dishes a highlight. Despite the relatively high sugar content, pears can be helpful in diabetes and contribute to gut, stomach, and skin health.

Don’t compare pears to apples

It is popularly said that one should not compare apples with pears. And yet the two fruits have something in common. Both are pome fruit plants that belong to the rose family. They grow on trees, shine in the same shades – from pale yellow to green to fiery red, can be eaten with the skin and some pears are even round like an apple.

In general, however, a distinction is made between the elongated bottle pears, the irregularly shaped apothecary pears, and the rounded bergamot pears.

If you bite into one of the two fruits, you immediately realize what you are dealing with. Because pears have a finer aroma and taste sweeter due to the lower acidity. In addition, their pulp has a completely different consistency. This is due to the fact that stone cells are distributed in the flesh of the pear, while these are only in the core of the apple.

There are so many types and varieties of pears

There are about 28 species of pears and more than 5,000 varieties.

The origin of the pear

Pears are ancient fruits that have been eaten since prehistoric times. According to studies at Nanjing Agricultural University, the pear originally came from southwest China, from where it made its way to central and western Asia and finally to Europe.

Since cultivation in Asia and Europe took place completely independently of one another, a distinction is made between Asian and European pears. Our cultivated pear (Pyrus communis L.) originated from various wild species as early as the Stone Age.

The wild pear – also known as the wood pear – can still be found in mountainous and alluvial forests from western Europe to the Caucasus.

The Nashi pear: an Asian pear

The Nashi pear is spherical and looks like an apple. It is also known as the Chinese or Japanese pear and is one of the Asian pears. This is by no means a variety of our cultivated pear, but an independent type of pear.

Originally from China, the Nashi is now widespread throughout East Asia. In Japan alone there are more than 1,200 varieties. Incidentally, the Japanese word “nashi” means nothing other than “pear”. For several years, the Nashi pear has also been cultivated in European countries such as Germany and Italy.

Myths and legends about the pear

In ancient China, the pear tree was a symbol of eternal life and the ancient Greeks immortalized the cult tree in myths as a gift from the gods. The ancient Romans, on the other hand, were already intensively involved with breeding. The scholar Pliny the Elder, for example, already mentioned 38 varieties of pears.

In the Middle Ages, the pear tree was a welcome guest in the monastery gardens and the nobles enjoyed the noble fruit. It also served as a love oracle: while the young men consulted the apple tree, young girls sought advice from the pear tree. The Baroque era was a golden age for cultivated pears, especially in France: Hundreds of new varieties emerged.

In contrast to the cultivated pears, the wild pear trees were viewed with ambivalence for a long time. They were considered the dwelling places of dragons, demons, and witches, but were also considered medicinal plants. For example, pear blossom tea was used to treat inflammation of the kidneys, and pear honey to treat headaches. Pear juice, on the other hand, served as a cure for detoxifying the body.

Table pears, cooking pears, and cider pears

Depending on their use, varieties of pears are assigned to three groups:

  • Table pears are also known as table pears, butter pears, or noble pears because they smell intensely even when raw and taste wonderfully sweet. They are called butter pears because they have a very juicy and soft flesh. Table pears are also used in the kitchen and are used to make fruit brandies and liqueurs. Well-known varieties include B. the Williams Christ and Alexander Lucas.
  • Cooking pears primarily include old varieties such as the Gieser-Wildeman pear, some of which are the forerunners of today’s table pears. They are not suitable for eating raw as they are neither sweet nor juicy and are quite hard even when ripe. However, if the spicy cooking pears are boiled or baked, they taste wonderful. Cooked pears are an integral part of traditional North German cuisine.
  • Cider pears, on the other hand, are a cross between wild pears and edible pears. The sour fruits do not taste good raw, but they are ideal for making must and fruit wines. Cider pears are often cultivated in meadow orchards. While grafted pear trees live an average of 70 years, cider pear trees can reach an age of 200 years. The old varieties include B. the Gelbmöstler and the Upper Austrian Weinbirne.

The nutrients in pears

Pears are low in fat and protein, but high in carbohydrates and moderately high in sugar. Per 100 grams fresh pears contain:

The Calories of Pears

In terms of calorie content, pears and apples are on par. Both fruits have 52 kilocalories (kcal) per 100 grams of fruit.

The vitamins in pears

Compared to other types of fruit, pears are certainly not among the vitamin bombs. If you eat one large pear or two smaller pears with a total weight of 200 grams, you can cover about 10 percent of the daily vitamin C requirement. With the same amount of oranges, it would be almost 100 percent.

The percentage value indicates how many percent of 100 g of fresh pears can cover the daily requirement of the respective vitamin.

The minerals in pears

The mineral content of pears isn’t exactly breathtaking, only the copper content stands out a little. A pear weighing 200 grams helps you to cover 14.5 percent of your daily copper requirement. The trace element is important for the formation of connective tissue, blood, and the functioning of the nervous system.

The percentage value indicates to what percentage 100 g of fresh pears can cover the daily requirement of the respective mineral.

The glycemic load of pears

100 grams of pears have a low glycemic load (GL) of 4.7 (values ​​below 10 are considered low). The fruits therefore only have a minor effect on the blood sugar level and the release of insulin.

In comparison, the glycemic load of 100 grams of white bread, for example, is 38.8. This clearly shows why you can use it as a snack instead of e.g. B. a roll could eat a piece of fruit better.

Pears in the low carb and ketogenic diet

With both low-carb and ketogenic diets, carbohydrate intake is reduced. The difference between the two forms of nutrition is that with a low-carb diet, between 50 and 130 grams of carbohydrates should be consumed per day, and with the ketogenic diet a maximum of 50 or just 30 grams.

If 100 grams of pears already provide 15 grams of carbohydrates, you can calculate for yourself that you cannot eat very many pears on a low-carb diet, and ideally not at all on a ketogenic diet.

Pears are healthy

Although the pear is not particularly high in vitamins and minerals, it is considered a very healthy fruit. It contains a lot of secondary plant substances that have a positive effect on health in many ways. According to a study from 2019, these include:

  • phenolic compounds such as B. the antidiabetic and blood pressure lowering chlorogenic acid
  • triterpenoids such as B. the anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic ursolic acid

A review was prepared at the University of Minnesota that includes all medicinal pear articles published in the PubMed and Agricola databases from 1970 to 2015. It was found that the pear was a stepchild of research for a long time. It was often simply lumped together with apples since the two fruits are quite similar in terms of the composition of the ingredients.

Nevertheless, it is clear that pears contain many phytochemicals that have a strong antioxidant effect. There are also initial indications that pears protect against gastrointestinal ulcers and promote fat metabolism.

Better not to peel pears

As is the case with apples, many people prefer to peel pears and only eat the juicy flesh. While there’s no arguing about taste, there’s no denying its health implications of it. In 2017, French researchers analyzed the skin and flesh of 19 varieties of pears.

The content of secondary plant substances (phenolic compounds) per kilogram of pears varied between 0.1 and 8.6 grams in the flesh and between 1.6 and 40.4 grams in the skin. Peeling pears is therefore not recommended, as the peel is an even better source of phytochemicals than the pulp.

This pear variety is the best

As the previous study showed, the content of phytochemicals in the skin and flesh of pears depends on the variety. Among the 19 pear varieties examined were 8 table pears from Tunisia, 8 European table pears, and 3 French cider pears.

In the Plant De Blanc variety, the most secondary plant substances were found in the pulp, while the Arbi Chiheb variety emerged as the winner in terms of skin. In addition, the French and Tunisian pear varieties had a higher content of oligomeric procyanidins (OPC).

OPC can e.g. enhance the positive effects of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E and be helpful in cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Most of the time you can’t see the ingredients in a pear, of course. It therefore pays off not only in terms of taste to let diversity prevail when selecting the variety.

That’s why some pears are red

Pears like the Rote Williams Christ and the Schweizer Wasserbirne have red skin. In this case, the secondary plant substances can be recognized by their color. These are anthocyanins. The red, violet, or blue dyes belong to the group of phenolic compounds – more precisely to the flavonoids – and are characterized by their strong antioxidant effect.

A study at the University of East Anglia with 2,375 subjects examined the extent to which various flavonoids affect inflammation. The anthocyanins performed best. The researchers came to the conclusion that regular consumption of pears, apples, strawberries and red grapes has a positive effect on inflammation levels and thus reduces the risk of chronic diseases.

Pears for type 2 diabetes

The fruit has long been discouraged for people with type 2 diabetes because it contains sugar. But you would have to eat kilos of pears regularly every day for a negative effect to occur. Moreover, pears do not belong to those types of fruit with a very high sugar content such as e.g. B. ripe bananas, and are therefore a very good source of food for diabetics.

Because pears have few calories, a low glycemic load, and contain valuable fiber and many bioactive substances. In addition, the sugar in pears consists mainly of fructose and contains little glucose, so the blood sugar level rises only slightly when eaten. In contrast to the natural fructose in fruit (fruit sugar), industrially produced fructose (a component of numerous soft drinks and preserves) is extremely unhealthy.

Pears protect against type 2 diabetes

Studies are mounting that state that fruit can even protect against type 2 diabetes. Researchers at Zhejiang University have shown that regular consumption of pears and apples can reduce the risk of diabetes by 18 percent. Just one pear a week reduces the risk by 3 percent.

In addition, an epidemiological study with 24,808 test persons showed the following: People who regularly eat pears are much less likely to be overweight than those who spurn this fruit. Pears are also used to prevent diseases such as diabetes, which can be caused by being overweight.

But even people who already have diabetes can benefit from pears, according to researchers from the University of Massachusetts. According to a study, the fruit can make it much easier to control early-stage diabetes and reduce the dose of diabetes medication.

Pears for the stomach and intestines

Pears are easier to digest than apples because they contain less acid. In particular, people with sensitive stomachs can benefit from it. Furthermore, the University of Massachusetts study just mentioned showed that fermented pear juice inhibited the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which can lead to gastritis, gastric and duodenal ulcers, and stomach cancer.

Pears usually have a very positive effect on intestinal health because they contain valuable dietary fiber. Pears can help with constipation as they have a mild laxative effect. According to researchers, it is not just the fiber that is responsible for this, but also the high fructose content.

Pears in fructose intolerance

However, those who suffer from fructose intolerance usually cannot tolerate pears because of their high fructose content. In addition, pears hardly contain any glucose, so the fructose-glucose ratio is very unbalanced. This further worsens the tolerability.

Pears for histamine intolerance

Although pears do not contain histamine, they are only moderately tolerated in the case of histamine intolerance. This is due to the fact that the fruits contain histamine-like substances that can cause symptoms either directly or by preventing histamine degradation.

In addition, pears are so-called histamine liberators. This means that they unspecifically release histamine in the body. However, the symptoms are usually only minor. At least occasional consumption of small amounts is often tolerated.

Pears protect against urinary stones

Urinary stones can have various causes. These include e.g. B. inflammation of the kidneys or the urinary tract and diabetes. According to researchers from the University of Ferrara, the formation of urinary stones can be prevented or at least reduced by changing your diet.

Citrates are among the most important substances that counteract calcium-containing urinary stones. On the one hand, pears contain many antioxidant secondary plant substances and, on the other hand, a significant amount of malic acid, a precursor of citrates.

The scientists, therefore, recommend eating pears to prevent the formation of urinary stones or to prevent the formation of new stones. The disease recurs in 50 percent of all those affected. In addition, meat and salt consumption should be reduced.

Pears increase performance in sports

It’s no longer a secret that bananas can improve performance in sports. American researchers have investigated whether pears also have this potential. 20 male athletes took part in the study.

Each of the subjects cycled a distance of 75 kilometers on three different days. They either consumed water only, bananas and water, or pears and water before training. As a result, it was found that performance could be increased by consuming bananas and pears. In addition, the regeneration phase after training has been improved.

The head of the study, Dr. David Nieman criticized the fact that many athletes only drink water before training and before competitions. Because performance can be optimized with the help of natural fructose and bioactive ingredients.

Pears Against Aging

The pear has long been a symbol of eternal youth. Chinese researchers got to the bottom of this myth in 2018. They took a close look at 13 ingredients in the pear. In particular, the secondary plant substance quercetin showed an extraordinarily strong effect against free radicals. The scientists concluded that pears may be helpful in preventing age-related diseases.

A 2019 study conducted at the Islamia University of Bahawalpur in Pakistan examined whether a gel containing 5 percent pear extract could rejuvenate the skin. 13 subjects used the pear gel or a placebo product for 3 months. It was studied how the treatments affect redness, melanin, moisture, sebum, and elasticity of the skin. In contrast to the placebo, the pear gel was able to score in every area.

Drying pears

Dried pears are a tempting delicacy. You can use a dehydrator or dry the fruit in the oven. Proceed as follows:

  • Cut the pears into evenly thick slices or rings and immerse them in lemon water (1 lemon in ½ liter of water).
  • Cover a rack with parchment paper and place the pear pieces next to each other on it.
  • Put the fruit in the oven at 40 °C and with the oven door slightly open for 30 minutes.
  • The temperature is then increased to 70 °C. Drying takes about 6 hours in circulating air. With top and bottom heat, you have to calculate about 12 hours, and the oven door should open a crack.
  • Turn the fruit slices several times so that they can dry evenly.
  • The pear slices are desiccated until leathery and pliable but no longer moist. If you squeeze them between two fingers, no more juice should come out.
  • Let the dried pears cool down completely before packing them in airtight freezer bags or filling them into screw-top jars. The shelf life is 1 year.
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Written by Micah Stanley

Hi, I'm Micah. I am a creative Expert Freelance Dietitian Nutritionist with years of experience in counseling, recipe creation, nutrition, and content writing, product development.

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