Pears: Your Sweetest Secret Weapon
Published on December 13, 2016
Last updated May 31, 2017
What You Need To Know:
- It’s peak season for Red Anjous, Barletts, Boscs, Comices, and other types of pears.
- Pears can act as an appetite suppressant: Packed with 1/4 of your daily recommended fiber, they fill you up despite being a mere 100 calories each.
- One study found that eating three small pears a day may help you lose weight.
- Pears contain flavonoids, which keep your heart healthy, and the antioxidant glutathione, which may help prevent cancer, high blood pressure and stroke.
By Colleen de Bellefonds
If there is a tangy hole in your heart where apples have resided for the past few months, listen closely: Beloved by Greek goddesses (Aphrodite) and domestic ones (Nigella), the humble pear has quietly become the new favorite fruit of chefs and nutritionists alike.
And right now is prime time to eat them: Most varieties, including Red Anjous, Barletts, Red Bartletts, Boscs, Comices and Concordes, are in season from September through early spring. They’re an ideal food during the holiday season, both as a sweet-and-sour, tangy accent (they’re a natural with a wedge of crumbly blue cheese and a cracker) or just as a light, filling snack between meals. Plus they’re an ideal food during the holidays, when all of us are eating too much, since they can help keep cravings in check. “Pears help suppress your appetite,” says Karen Ansel, R.D. “The combination of fiber and water really fill you up. Plus a medium pear only has 100 calories.”
Pears Are Surprisingly Healthy
Studies have shown that eating pears actually help you lose weight. An average pear serves up 6g of fiber. That’s nearly a quarter of your daily needs, says Ansel—more than you’d get in two slices of whole wheat bread or a serving of oatmeal. And despite their celebrated juicy sweetness, they’re lower on the glycemic index (a measure of how quickly a food raises your blood sugar) than many other fruits, she adds. On a scale of 100, pears are a 38 while grapes ring in at 59, and watermelon at 72. And, one small study found that eating three pears a day may help women lose weight.
“Pears contain flavonoids, which keep your heart healthy by keeping your blood vessels in good condition,” says Ansel. They’re also rich in soluble fiber (3g), which helps lower your bad LDL cholesterol naturally. That’s two to three times more than you’ll get from most other fruits, Ansel notes. “They also have anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, as well as the antioxidant glutathione, which may help prevent cancer, high blood pressure and stroke,” says Nutritious Life’s Keri Glassman, R.D.
Pears Are Multitaskers
A super versatile fruit, pears add zest and juice to all kinds of dishes, both sweet and savory. Add them to a smoothie with plain Greek yogurt, cinnamon, vanilla extract and almond butter. Slice a super ripe pear into your oatmeal with cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom; it’ll disintegrate and naturally sweeten your bowl. Top thin slices with Gorgonzola cheese and pecans. Cut into eighths and wrap with prosciutto, then roast in the oven for a warm, crisp version of prosciutto and melon. Or slice a very ripe pear onto a sandwich with nut butter as a healthier alternative to jelly.
Bake with onions and root veggies as an accompaniment to meats like pulled pork. Spray with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, roast, and top with sweet vanilla yogurt. Personal chef Amy Kayne says she loves adding chunks of fresh pear and red onion into vegetable broth as a sweet base for butternut squash soup. Or try the Roasted Pears with Delicata Squash (below) for a warming winter treat.
All Pears Are Not Created Equal
Firmer varieties like Bosc and Concorde are best for cooking, especially if you’re poaching or roasting, since they’re less likely to fall apart. Anjou, Bartlett and Comice pears are better for eating fresh.
Pears at the store are always unripe because they bruise so easily, so buy them firm and without bruises. Store in a bowl on the countertop to ripen. You’ll know they are ready to eat when the flesh yields from a gentle thumb press near the stem. And you’ll know never to pare pears out of your diet again.
Roasted Pears with Delicata Squash
1 small delicata squash
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses* See Note
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 Red Anjou pears, halved, cored and cut into 6 wedges
8 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (keep any loose leaves)
3 large shallots, peeled, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
1/4 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
Preheat the oven to 425F. Halve the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Cut into 1/2-inch thick, moon-shaped slices.
Whisk together the olive oil, pomegranate molasses, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the squash, pears, Brussels sprouts and shallots and toss to coat evenly.
Spread the mixture on a large rimmed baking sheet in a single layer with the cut sides down. Roast tender and browned on one side, 20 to 25 minutes.
Loosen the pears and vegetables from the baking pan with a firm spatula and toss together.
Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds. Serve hot or at room temperature.