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Health food of the month - Pears

August 2012  

Previous Health Foods of the Month...

Pecan nuts





Diet & Supplements Index


PearsPears are lovely, soft to eat and full of flavour and sweetness.

It is this sweetness that deters many people from eating pears - how can anything that is so lovely and sweet be good for you? But pears are in fact surprisingly nutritious and they also release their energy slowly, which is excellent for maintaining blood sugar levels.

It is thought the fruit is native to the Caucasus region on the borders of Europe and Asia and spread east and west from there. Pears are one of the world’s oldest cultivated fruits; there are records from 4,000 BC of a Chinese diplomat eating cultivated pears and grafting and cross-pollination to grow new varieties was certainly commonplace as far back as 300 BC.

In the past, pears were considered far superior to apples.

The first important English pear was the Wardon, a cooking pear developed by Cistercian monks in Bedfordshire, and by the mid 1600s there were 64 varieties of pear growing in the UK. Just 200 years later over 700 different varieties were recorded in Britain.

Today, while there is still a wide range of pears being grown, the conference pear is by far the most popular. This is the long, thin pear and accounts for over 70% of pears eaten here. Other popular varieties include Willams pears, which are golden yellow or red tinged and the Cornice, a French variety which is aromatic.

Pears have lots of nutrients as well as their great flavour and juiciness. They are a very good source of vitamin B6 and also vitamin C and copper. These last two can help protect cells it the body from oxygen-related damage due to free radicals. Pears also contain useful levels of potassium and copper plus vitamin K.

Pears are also a very good source of natural fibre which is so essential in modern health. Fibre rich foods can be associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer because they help to bind matter in the colon; they can certainly help to prevent constipation and are also thought to contribute to lower cholesterol levels.

Fruit does contain natural sugar. In the case of pears, it is a two-unit sugar called a disaccharide, which is about half glucose and half fructose. But eaten sensibly, natural fruit is an essential part of a diet.

Pears usually are sold slightly under-ripe but once fully ripe they do need to be eaten quickly. They do not last as long or as well as apples.



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