This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Pears provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Pears can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Pears, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.
- Health Benefits
- How to Select and Store
- Tips for Preparing and Cooking
- How to Enjoy
- Individual Concerns
- Nutritional Profile
Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Support
While pears are not an unusual source of conventional antioxidant or anti-inflammatory nutrients (for example, vitamin E or omega-3 fatty acids), the phytonutrient category is where this fruit excels. For example, in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (1,638 participants, average age range 62-69 years), the combination of apples/pears ranked as the second highest source of flavonols among all fruits and vegetables - partly due to the epicatechin richness of pears. Average flavonol intake in the study was about 14 milligrams per day, and one pear can provide about half of this amount all by itself. The list of phytonutrients found in pears has been of special interest to researchers, and the list below summarizes their findings about key phytonutrients provided by this fruit.
- chlorogenic acid
- gentisic acid
- syringic acid
- vanillic acid
- coumaric acid
- ferulic acid
- 5-caffeoylquinic acid
Flavanols, also known as Flavan-3-ols
Anthocyanins (in red-skinned varieties, including Red Anjou, Red Bartlett, Comice, Seckel, and Starkrimson)
Virtually all of these phytonutrients have been shown to provide us with antioxidant as well as anti-inflammatory benefits. As a result, intake of pears has now been associated with decreased risk of several common chronic diseases that begin with chronic inflammation and excessive oxidative stress. These diseases include heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Decreased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease
As a very good source of dietary fiber, pears might logically be expected to help protect us from development of type 2 diabetes (or DM2, which stands for "diabetes mellitus type 2) as well heart disease. Adequate intake of dietary fiber is a long-established factor in reducing our risk of both diseases, and in the case of pears, this benefit may be even more pronounced due to the helpful combination of both soluble and insoluble fiber in this fruit. In addition to their fiber content, however, pears have other ways of helping to protect us against these diseases. In the case of DM2, scientists now know that pear flavonols (including isorhamnetin, quercetin, and kaempferol), flavan-3-ols (especially epicatechin), and the anthocyanins (found in red-skinned varieties including Red Anjou, Red Bartlett, Comice, Seckel, and Starkrimson) all help improve insulin sensitivity. (More and more research attention is being given to mechanisms of action in this area, including regulation of the enzyme NADPH oxidase.) In the case of heart disease, recent research has shown that pear fibers are able to bind together with bile acids in the intestine, lowering the pool of bile acids and decreasing the synthesis of cholesterol. In addition, the phytonutrients in pear may play a special role in these fiber-bile acid interactions. The ability of pear fibers (and other fruit fibers) to bind bile acids has actually been compared to the cholesterol-lowering drug cholestyramine, with pears showing about 5% of the ability of the drug to accomplish this result. (Among commonly eaten fruits, only bananas and pineapples showed more bile acid-binding ability at 9% and 6%, respectively.)
Reduced Cancer Risk
The health benefits of pear fiber also extend into the area of cancer risk. Fiber from pear can bind together not only with bile acids as a whole, but also with a special group of bile acids called secondary bile acids. Excessive amounts of secondary bile acids in the intestine can increase our risk of colorectal cancer (as well as other intestinal problems). By binding together with secondary bile acids, pear fibers can help decrease their concentration in the intestine and lower our risk of cancer development. In the case of stomach cancer (gastric cancer), intake of pears has also been shown to lower cancer risk. Here the key focus has not been on pear fiber, however, but on pear phytonutrients, especially cinnamic acids (including coumaric acid, ferulic acid, and 5-caffeoylquinic acid). In a recent study from Mexico City, it took approximately 2 total fruit servings per day and 4 daily vegetable servings to accomplish a decrease in gastric cancer risk. Pears and mangos were among the key foods determined to provide cinnamic acids in the study.
Esophageal cancer (specifically, esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, or ESCC) is a third cancer type for which pear intake helps lower risk. In a very large-scale study conducted by the National Institutes of Health and the American Association of Retired Persons (involving 490,802 participants), pears were found to be a key food associated with reduced risk of ESCC. Interestingly, numerous foods belonging the rose (Rosaceae) family were also found to lower risk of ESCC, including apples, plums, and strawberries.
Other Health Benefits
It's become fairly common to hear both laypersons and healthcare practitioners talking about pear as one of the more easily digested fruits. In fact, many practitioners recommend that pear be one of the first fruits considered when it comes time to introducing an infant to his or her first pureed fruits. Even though we have been unable to find large-scale human studies to support these digestibility claims, we don't question the fact that easier digestion has been experienced by many individuals in the context of pears versus other fruits. One factor that may come into play here is the low acid nature of pears, especially in comparison to widely enjoyed citrus fruits like lemons, grapefruits, and oranges.
It's also become fairly common to hear pears being described as a "hypoallergenic" (low allergy) food. Healthcare practitioners often allow clients to continue eating pears when following a low-allergy diet plan, and many individuals report having fewer allergy-related symptoms when consuming pears versus other fruits. Of course, no fruits are classified as major allergens according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and their rules for identification of allergenic foods on product labels. In addition, we have been unable to find large-scale research studies to support any low-allergy claims for pears. Still, we do not question the fact that many people seem to do much better when consuming pears versus other fruits in terms of allergic response.
It's very possible that these two experiences - better digestibility and decreased allergic response - are related, and that future research will help us understand why pears may provide us with special health benefits in these areas.
Pears are a member of the rose family of plants (Rosaceae), which, in addition (of course) to roses, contains a long list of fruits including apples, apricots, cherries, chokeberry, crabapples, loquats, peaches, plums, quinces, raspberries, serviceberries, and strawberries as well as the tree nut, almonds. The many different varieties of pears commonly found in U.S. groceries all belong to the same category known as European Pear (Pyrus communis). These pears typically have a rounded body that tapers into a neck of various lengths.
They are distinct from (but closely related to) the fruit we commonly call "pear apple." Pear apples are completely round with no necks, and while they remind of us of apples in shape, their skins make us think they are pears. Contrary to popular belief, pear apples are not a cross between apples and pears. Pear apples belong to a second category of pear, broadly referred to as Asian pear. Included in this second category are Chinese pear, Japanese pear, and Korean pear (Pyrus pyrifolia) as well as Siberian/Manchurian pear (Pyrus ussuriensis). When these categories are combined, they account for more than 3,000 varieties of pears that people enjoy worldwide.
Pears are found in a variety of colors, including many different shades of green, red, yellow/gold, and brown. Many varieties fail to change color as they ripen, making it more difficult to determine ripeness. (For more about selection of pears, please see our How to Select and Store section.)
The list below describes some of the more commonly enjoyed varieties of pears:
- Bartlett: best known of the pear varieties in the U.S., and most often the variety found in cans. Bartletts are yellow/green and speckled, and sometimes called Williams pears
- Bosc: cinnamon brown-skinned pears with long tapered necks with a honey-like but complex flavor
- Comice: round, short pears with either green and red coloring, or sometimes almost completely red with especially soft and juicy flesh
- Concorde: tall, skinny, and golden/green pears with flesh that is firmer and more dense than many other varieties
- Forelle: red/green and speckled like a trout, and thus the name, meaning "trout" in German. A small-sized pear that yellows as it ripens.
- Green Anjou: a widely available, compact, and short-necked pear. It doesn't change color much while ripening, so you'll need to use the stem test described in our How to Select and Store section.
- Red Anjou: very much like its green counterpart, except a rich reddish maroon in color and higher in anthocyanins (which is the main reason for its rich red color)
- Red Bartlett: very much like its yellow/green counterpart, except with an all-round bright red skin, they sometimes feature light vertical striping, and like Red Anjou, they are rich in anthocyanins
- Seckel: smallest of the commonly eaten pears, usually yellow/green or olive green in color, and mixed with broad patches of red
- Starkrimson: bright crimson red color, more narrow-necked that Red Anjou, but equally rich in anthocyanins and especially gorgeous in a salad
There is some debate about the exact origins of the European pear, but many experts believe that European pears (Pyrus communis) and Asian pears (both Pyrus pyrifolia and Pyrus ussuriensis) evolved separately and during the same approximate time in history (roughly 1000 BC). Certain species of pear are also native to parts of Africa.
Beginning in the 1500's, Eurpoean colonists began to bring pears to North America, where they apparently were not native or enjoyed before that time. While pears were cultivated there during those years, the colonists continued to import most of the pears they consumed from Europe, and especially from France. Today, pears grown in Europe have become a very small part of the U.S. diet. While the U.S. continues to import over 75,000 metric tons of pears each year, the vast majority now come from Argentina, Chile, China, South Korea and New Zealand.
On a worldwide basis, China has become the world's largest grower of pears. Out of 21 million tons produced worldwide, China now produces about 15.5 million tons, or nearly three-quarters of the world total. Of the remaining 5.5 million tons, another 2.7 come from Europe, 1.1 from Argentina and Chile, 0.8 from the U.S., and smaller amounts from New Zealand, South Korea, and other countries.
Within the U.S., the state of Washington is by far the largest grower of pears, accounting for about half of all U.S.-produced pears. California and Oregon follow next, with significant commercial production also occurring in New York and Pennsylvania.
How to Select and Store
Since pears are very perishable once they are ripe, the pears you find at the market will generally be unripe and will require a few days of maturing. Look for pears that are firm, but not too hard. They should have a smooth skin that is free of bruises or mold. The color of good quality pears may not be uniform as some may feature russetting where there are brown-speckled patches on the skin; this is an acceptable characteristic and oftentimes reflects a more intense flavor. Avoid pears that are punctured or have dark soft spots.
It is possible, of course, that you may find ripe pears at the market. When trying to determine whether a pear is ripe, don't start by squeezing the whole fruit. Instead, we recommend gently pressing only at the top of the pear, near its stem. If that spot gives in to pressure, the pear is probably optimally ripe for eating. If the flesh feels extremely soft, almost to the point of being squishy, the pear is overripe. For food safety reasons, we recommend that overripe pears only be used in cooked recipes rather than eaten raw.
As with all of the World's Healthiest Foods, we recommend that you purchase certified organic pears to lower your risk of exposure to unwanted pesticides, sewage sludge contaminants, and any potential risks associated with irradiation or genetic engineering. Fortunately, over 250 certified organic farms in the U.S. now produce over 20,000 tons of organic pears, and so these delicious fruits are getting easier to find in organic form.
If you will not be consuming the pears immediately once they have ripened, you can place them in the refrigerator where they will remain fresh for a few days. If you want to hasten the ripening process, place them in a paper bag, turning them occasionally, and keep them at room temperature. Storing pears in sealed plastic bags or restricted spaces where they are in too close proximity to each other should be avoided since they will have limited exposure to oxygen, and the ethylene gas that they naturally produce will greatly increase their ripening process, causing them to degrade. Pears should also be stored away from other strong smelling foods, whether on the countertop on in the refrigerator, as they tend to absorb smells.
Tips for Preparing and Cooking
Fresh pears are delicious eaten as is after gently washing the skin by running it under cool water and patting it dry. Since their skin provides about half of the pear's total dietary fiber as well as its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients,, it is best to not peel the fruit but eat the entire pear. To cut the pear into pieces, you can use an apple corer, cutting from the fruit's base to remove the core, and then cutting it into the desired sizes and shapes. Once cut, pears will oxidize quickly and turn a brownish color. You can help to prevent this by applying several drops of lemon, lime or orange juice to the flesh.
How to Enjoy
A Few Quick Serving Ideas
- Combine pears with mustard greens, watercress, leeks and walnuts for a delicious salad.
- Serve pears with goat or bleu cheese for a delightful dessert.
- Add chopped pears, grated ginger and honey to millet porridge for a pungently sweet breakfast treat.
- Core pears, and poach in apple juice or wine.
WHFoods Recipes That Feature Pears
Pears are not a commonly allergenic food, not known to contain measurable amounts of oxalates or purines and also not included in the Environmental Working Group's 2012 report "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides" as one of the 12 foods most frequently containing pesticide residues.
Between 2008-2011, concerns arose in both the U.S. and Canada over contamination with arsenic of certain brand-name pear juices. While we have never seen official reports pinpointing the exact source of the contamination, it would not be uncommon for a food like pear juice - made from pears that may have been imported from nearly a dozen countries throughout the world - to pick up unwanted heavy metal residues (like arsenic) from groundwater contamination, soil contamination, sewage sludge fertilization, or some combination of these sources. Pear juices found to be contaminated were recalled by the U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and the FDA also set a Level of Concern for arsenic in fruit juices (including pear juice) of 23 parts per million (for long-term, routine consumption of pear juice). Companies who voluntarily chose to monitor their pear juice production were then able to use this standard as a guideline. These events are one of the reasons we encourage selection of organic pear juice (and fresh pears). Organic food regulations greatly lessen the chance of exposure to heavy metals like arsenic not only in pear juice and pears but in all other foods as well.
Pears are a concentrated source of phenolic phytonutrients, including hydroxybenzoic acids (chlorogenic acid, gentisic acid, syringic acid, and vanillic acid); hydroxycinnamic acids (coumaric acid, ferulic acid, and 5-caffeoylquinic acid); hydroxyquinones (arbutin), flavanols (catechin, epicatechin); flavonols (isorhamnetin, quercetin, kaempferol); anthocyanins (in red-skinned varieties, including Red Anjou, Red Bartlett, Comice, Seckel, and Starkrimson); and carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin). Pears are a very good source of dietary fiber and a good source of copper, vitamin C, and vitamin K.
For an in-depth nutritional profile click here: Pears.
In-Depth Nutritional ProfileIn addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, an in-depth nutritional profile for Pears is also available. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.
Introduction to Food Rating System ChartIn order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn't contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food's in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients - not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good - please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you'll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food's nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling." Read more background information and details of our rating system.
|fiber||5.52 g||22||3.9||very good|
|vitamin C||7.65 mg||10||1.8||good|
|vitamin K||7.83 mcg||9||1.5||good|
Density>=7.6 AND DRI/DV>=10%
Density>=3.4 AND DRI/DV>=5%
Density>=1.5 AND DRI/DV>=2.5%
In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Pears
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- Much grattidtude to George Mateljan,and the George Mateljan Foundation for www.whfoods.com