Healthy Harvest Highlight – Pears

pear varietyPears are native to Europe and Asia and they are packed with nutrients, fiber and antioxidants. They come in many different varieties and are high in vitamin C, K, and copper.  A natural source of fiber, pears are good for the heart.  Studies have shown that fiber can lower levels of bad cholesterol by binding to bile salts—which are made from cholesterol—and carrying them out of the body. Eating pears can also reduce risk of stroke by up to 50 percent.  In addition to binding to cholesterol, the fiber in pears can also bind to and help remove cancer-causing chemicals in the colon, thus reducing risk of colon cancer.

Because they are high in fiber and have a low glycemic index, pears make a smart snack for those with diabetes. The bloodstream slowly absorbs a pear’s carbs (just about 26 grams per pear), preventing a spike in blood sugar and helping to control blood glucose levels. Lightly sweet, pears can also satisfy the sweet tooth in a healthier way than other sweets. Many health benefits of the pear can be found in the skin, so be sure to wash the fruit well and leave that skin on.  It is also interesting to note that pears have an edible core.

Pears have a water content from 83 to 88 percent, which explains why they help you rehydrate and prevent muscle cramping.  Adequate hydration aids recovery from illness, especially lower respiratory infections such as pulmonary pneumonia, an illness that peaks in the winter months (peak season, August – December).  Referring back to a previous article on eating seasonally, many fruits and vegetables are available during the time of the year when our bodies need it.

Pears can be eaten in a variety of healthy ways.  I add them to my salad for extra crunch and sweetness, throw them into my baked pork chops, and love how fancy they make a dessert look – pear tarts are a favorite; they can also be baked and sauteed.  Here is a simple, healthy and fast dessert to put together that’s elegant enough to serve at a dinner party, but practical enough for any family meal.

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