Pears: Cooking, Baking, Nutrition and Health Benefits
What's your favourite fruit, just off the top of your head? Maybe it's juicy oranges, or perhaps succulent strawberries, the eccentric and surprising (and messy) experience of consuming a pomegranate? Or perhaps your answer to the above question was 'the humble pear'?
The pear fruit (and the tree) belongs to the genus Pyrus, and is related to the apple and the quince. With shapely curves swelling out from a narrow stem, it is an aesthetically pleasing creation, if not a great many people's first choice from the list of available fruits. The flavours of different varieties, including Conference, Bartlett and Anjou, varies from sweet and mild to tangy and not quite sharp. The fruit lends itself well to combinations with chocolate or dairy produce such as cheese.
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But what are the nutritional qualities and health benefits of pears? Do they have any interesting therapeutic properties? According to the Nutritiondata website, a hundred and forty-eight grams of raw pears contains one gram of protein, twenty-three grams of carbohydrate and a precise zero grams of fat. The fiber content constitutes an impressive eighteen per cent of the daily value depending on your calculations (bearing in mind a woman's daily National Academy of Sciences recommendation of twenty-five grams and a man's of twenty-eight grams.) How is this beneficial? Fiber's benefits have been enumerated as including the elimination of cholesterol from the body, reduction of bacterial problems from the intestines and the improved management of blood sugar levels. 
One hundred and forty-eight grams of raw pears is accounted to contain ten per cent of the daily value of Vitamin C, which is an essential vitamin and serves multiple functions in the body. It has antioxidant qualities and assists in the maintenance of the body's connective tissues. How can you use pears in your diet and everyday cooking? They are great chopped into yoghurt, added into muffins or juiced along with a little ginger root. Baked pears and red wine are also a very popular restaurant dessert.
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The sugar contained within European pears is mostly of the fructose type. This has been hailed as potentially beneficial for conditions relating to heart health and blood sugar control in some studies, but the subject is somewhat contentious and controversial.
Pears have been recommended by some writers as useful for those aiming to follow a hypoallergenic diet or with problems with food allergies and sensitivities, along with lamb and rice, although these offer no guarantee of allergy-free ingestion. If you suffer from a life-impacting condition then your doctor is an excellent first port of call!
Are pears a good choice as a fruity, nutritious addition to increase the variety in your diet? Low-fat, high-fiber, packed with nutrients and tasty too: take a look at the evidence and consider them seriously!
1. Wikipedia. 'Pear'. Wikipedia website. 18/10/2010. Available at: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pear> Accessed on 18/10/2010.
2. Purba, M., BSc., MCN, Kouris-Blazos, A., PhD, Wattanapenpaiboon, N., PhD, Lukito, W., MD., PhD, Rothenberg, E.M., PhD, Steen, B.C., MD, Phd, Wahlqvist, M.L., MD. 'Skin Wrinkling: Can Food Make a Difference?.' Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2001;20:1-pp. 71-80
3. Elkins, R.B. 'Pear production and handling manual.' Oakland: University of California (System). Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources; 2007, pp.177-179.
4. Price, R.A. 'Glycemic Matrix Guide to Low GI and GL Eating.' West Conshohocken: Infinity Publishing.com; 2008.
5. Malhotra, P.B. 'Benefits of Vitamins'. Elgin: New Dawn Press Group; 2006.
6. Kole, C. 'Fruits and Nuts'. Berlin: Springer-Verlag; 2007
7. Robertson, L., Flinders, C., Ruppenthal, B. 'The new Laurel's kitchen: a handbook for vegetarian cookery & nutrition.' Berkeley: Ten Speed Press; 1986.
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