Pears are native to the Middle East, where I picked them one summer back when I was in college. During that time I got so tired of pears in all their forms and preparations – pear juice, pear jam, pear pie – that I refused to eat them for years after. Now I live in another pear mecca, Oregon (one of the three states, along with California and Washington, where 95% of the country’s pears are grown). Whether the pear is following me or vice versa, I suspect there’s something beneficial my body needs from pears and the climates that produce them. Let’s explore – it may be true for you too!

The health benefits of pears

Pears do more than appease the taste buds. Pears stimulate energy in the lungs and stomach, which may help provide relief for both chronic coughs and constipation. Rich in water-soluble fiber, especially pectin, pears outshine even apples in the fiber department, making them a good food to consider for balancing cholesterol levels and supporting the intestines.

Moreover, pears provide a wealth of essential vitamins and minerals including:

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin E

These first two make pears a good antioxidant-rich food to include in free radical fighting diets.

  • vitamin B2
  • vitamin K
  • copper
  • potassium (better than a banana because of the higher fiber and lower sugar content!)

Beyond their nutritional profile, and from the perspective of the Chinese five elements, pears serve as a remedy for clearing excess “heat” from the body (which can present itself as dry and itchy skin and lips, scratchy throat or chronic coughing, acne and constipation), making them particularly beneficial in the dryness of autumn and winter.

In fact, for all their health benefits, and because they’re hypoallergenic and well-tolerated, pears make an ideal first fruit for babies when cooked then blended or mashed.

Incorporating more pears into your diet

Incorporating more pears into your diet can be easy enough for those who like pears alone, but with what to pair the pear? My personal favorites are as follows:

  • Combine pears with seasonal greens, leeks, and nuts for a delicious salad or sauté.
  • Add chopped fresh or poached pears to cooked morning grains, and pair with warming spices like ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and/or clove.
  • Replace apples with pears in any sauce, pie or bread recipes.
  • Marry with any combination of raw cheeses on your next charcuterie board.
  • Add to fall smoothies with ginger.
  • Lastly, pears are a great accompaniment to flavors such as vanilla and honey, and they are even delicious with chocolate! Pear fondu anyone?

Buying and storing your pears

Pears are best when ripened after harvesting. Therefore it’s preferable to buy your pears on the harder, unripe side. Look for pears with no cuts or breaks. Let them ripen at home, in a cool dark place in your kitchen, with plenty of air for circulation. Be sure to store them in an open area, not in a plastic bag or the refrigerator, as it’s the air that’s going to allow them to ripen to their fullest and most delicious potential.

Navigating pear varieties:

With so many different kinds of pears available, choosing the right ones for your intended use can be challenging. For this simple and warming recipe, we recommend the Bosc variety.

Sweet & Spicy Pears with Cardamom Cashew Cream

Ingredients:

  • 10 cups water
  • 1 cup coconut sugar 
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 8 slices of fresh ginger, slightly crushed
  • 6 hard Bosc pears, peeled
  • 2 lemons

Preparation:

  1. Combine the water, coconut sugar, cinnamon sticks, and fresh ginger in a large pot. Bring to a low boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes.
  2. Rub the peeled pears with lemons to prevent them from turning brown.
  3. Squeeze the remaining juice from the lemons and add to the simmering liquid.
  4. Add the pears to the liquid and bring everything to a low boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove the pears and place in a shallow bowl.
  5. Remove two to three cups of the simmer liquid, straining out the spices, and place in a smaller saucepan. Allow to heat at a low boil for about 30 minutes, reducing the liquid to a syrup.
  6. Serve the pears on individual plates with a side scoop of the Cashew Cardamom Cream (recipe below) and a drizzle of syrup.

This recipe is adapted from Nina Simonds, A Spoonful of Ginger.

Cardamom Cashew Cream

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup cashews soaked 2-4 hours
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, honey or preferred sweetener (start small and add until desired sweetness is obtained, you can also use 4-6 drops of liquid stevia)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/2 vanilla bean seeded or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • water to blend (start with ¼ cup)

Preparation:
Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender until smooth. If not using a high speed blender, blend then scrape down ingredients, then blend again. Repeat. A good food processor can also be used, aiming to get the cream as smooth as possible.

This recipe is a favorite from my friend Andrea Livingston.


References:

Hong SY, Lansky E, Kang SS, Yang M. A review of pears (Pyrus spp.), ancient functional food for modern times. BMC Complement Med Ther. 2021;21(1):219. Published 2021 Sep 1. doi:10.1186/s12906-021-03392-1

Yang M, Lee U, Cho HR, et al. Effects of Pear Extracts on Microbiome and Immunocytokines to Alleviate Air Pollution-Related Respiratory Hypersensitivity. J Med Food. 2023;26(3):211-214. doi:10.1089/jmf.2022.K.0117

Reiland H, Slavin J. Systematic Review of Pears and Health. Nutr Today. 2015;50(6):301-305. doi:10.1097/NT.0000000000000112

Gayer BA, Avendano EE, Edelson E, Nirmala N, Johnson EJ, Raman G. Effects of Intake of Apples, Pears, or Their Products on Cardiometabolic Risk Factors and Clinical Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Curr Dev Nutr. 2019;3(10):nzz109. Published 2019 Oct 3. doi:10.1093/cdn/nzz109


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