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Pear Nutrition Facts

While the cultivation of pears has been traced back in western Asia for three thousand years, there is also some speculation that its history goes back even further and that this marvelous fruit was discovered by people in the Stone Age. Whatever their origins, pears have been revered throughout time.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, advances in pear cultivation greatly improved their taste and quality. In 1850 pears were so popular in France that the fruit was celebrated in song and verse, and the wealthy held friendly contests to see who could grow the best specimen.

Today, much of the world's pear supply is grown in China, Italy and the United States.

Pears are a good source of dietary fiber. However, pear's fiber does a lot more than help prevent constipation and ensure regularity. Fiber helps to control the absorption of glucose (sugar) and digested fats from the intestine into the circulation, says Dr. Steve Carroll in his book The Which? Guide to Menís Health. People who eat sufficient fiber are less likely to develop an abnormally high blood cholesterol level and less likely to suffer sudden changes in their blood sugar level, which can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and fatigue.

According to the website The World's Healthiest Foods (http://whfoods.org), "fiber also binds to cancer-causing chemicals in the colon, preventing them from damaging colon cells. This may be one reason why diets high in fiber-rich foods, such as pears, are associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer. Additionally, the fact that low dietary intake of copper seems to also be associated with risk factors for colon cancer (increased fecal free radical production and fecal water alkaline phosphatase activity) serves as yet another reason in support of why this delicious fruit may be very beneficial for colonic health."

Pears are also a good source of vitamin C and copper. Treat your tastebuds to a delectable, juicy pear, and you'll be treating your body to 11.1% of the daily value for vitamin C along with 9.5% of the daily value for copper.

Vitamin C and copper can be thought of as antioxidant nutrients that help protect cells in the body from oxygen-related damage due to free radicals. Vitamin C functions as an antioxidant in all water-soluble areas of the body, and in addition to its antioxidant activity, is critical for good immune function. Vitamin C stimulates white cells to fight infection, directly kills many bacteria and viruses, and regenerates Vitamin E (an antioxidant that protects fat-soluble areas of the body) after it has been inactivated by disarming free radicals.

Copper helps protect the body from free radical damage as a necessary component of superoxide dismutase (SOD), a copper-dependent enzyme that eliminates superoxide radicals. Superoxide radicals are a type of free radical generated during normal metabolism, as well as when white blood cells attack invading bacteria and viruses. If not eliminated quickly, superoxide radicals damage cell membranes.

Pears are also a good source of vitamin K. Vitamin K is commonly known to aid in blood clotting. When the body is injured, vitamin K initiates the process of healing by slowing and stopping the bleeding. Recent studies have suggested that vitamin K can help prevent or treat osteoporosis and the loss of bone density. If you have a family history of osteoporosis, it is important to make sure you maintain healthy levels of vitamin K. Vitamin K also prevents the hardening of the arteries, which aids in preventing heart disease and heart failure.

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. The website The World's Healthiest Foods recommends that you 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.

Pears should be left at room temperature to ripen. Once their skin yields to gentle pressure, they are ripe and ready to be eaten. 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.

Since most of the vitamin C is concentrated in the skin of the fruit, you should eat pears unpeeled, adds Dr. Barry Sears in his book The Top 100 Zone Foods.

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