nav-left cat-right

Pear: A Lucious Fall Fruit

In case you missed the chill in the air, the abundance of seasonal autumn produce – crisp apples, colorful squash, and pears should tell you that winter is just around the corner. Why pears? Why now? They are a truly versatile, luscious, flavorful and healthful fall fruit. Most North American pears are grown in Oregon and Washington. Though you can find some variety from August through May as some type is harvested year-round, true ‘pear season‘ begins in September/October. That is when they are most abundantly available, less expensive and flavorful. In case there is any doubt – just look at the range of skin colors among pear varieties. They match the gorgeous hues of the fall leaves: gold, russet, mauve, pale green, ginger, crimson and more.

Pear Varieties

Not a fan? Perhaps it’s because you’ve always eaten canned pears or rock hard, out-of-season green Anjou pears which are available almost year-round in supermarkets. It’s time to broaden your horizons and enjoy new varieties…as there are many. The first pear varieties to explode on the scene in September are Bosc (russet-colored and firm even when ripe), Bartlett (green and red, ultra juicy) and Comice (green with brown flecks, firm flesh). By October you can find Anjou (red and green), Concorde (pale green), Forelle (green skin spotted with red flecks) and Seckel (shiny skin, often mostly a muted green color with a patch of reddish-orange) appear…and that’s hardly a comprehensive list!

Some varieties might be harder to find in your region than others but make it your goal to try at least one new variety this season. You’ll find in-season pears to offer a firm but juicy texture and flavors that range from very sweet to tart. Use this as a guideline, but keep in mind most pears, as with many fruits and vegetables, can be eaten raw or cooked (except Bartlett).

Eating versus Cooking

Best for eating raw: Bartlett (soft, lose their shape when cooked), Comice (also juicy, very sweet, may not cook well), French butter, Anjou and Asian (‘crisp’ flesh, like an apple, good for dicing and adding to salads or using in tarts or crisps)

Best for cooking: Bosc, seckel (tiniest variety, very firm, slightly acidic) and forelle (sweet-tart, snacking or cooking)

Pear Nutrition and Health Benefits

The pear is a relatively low-calorie fruit. One medium-sized fruit, or about 175 grams, offers about 95 calories. Calories per fruit vary according to variety and size. They are fat, cholesterol and sodium-free but high in dietary fiber, providing roughly 6 grams per medium-sized fruit. Pears (and apples) contain an appreciable amount of soluble fiber, which may help to lower cholesterol levels and stabilize blood sugar levels (slows the release of glucose into the bloodstream).

Selecting and Storing

Choose firm, blemish-free, stem-on pears with unbroken skin. They ripen quickly and bruise very easily so handle with care. Store them at room temperature until they reach desired ripeness. Though you can store them in the refrigerator for a couple of days to ‘hold’ them at a certain ripeness, pears are best, and juiciest, when eaten at room temperature. They are ripe when the flesh ‘gives’ gently when pressed at the neck of the fruit.

Moderate Exercise Promotes Gut Health

Studies have shown that engaging in physical activity at a moderate level of intensity has a positive effect on metabolism and the microbiome. Intense training (over 70% of VO2max) reduces microbiome diversity but only in the short term. Elite endurance athletes have high levels of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) in the gut. SCFAs are producers of healthy gut bacteria.

A sedentary lifestyle, however, is associated with, not only the development of chronic disease, but a loss of muscle mass. This loss of muscle mass, according to experiments conducted in experiments studying the effect of weightlessness on the body, occurs in conjunction with a decline in the amount of SCFA produced, and the microbes that are produced from them.

Other ways to increase SCFA in the gut? Lactobacillus is a bacteria that makes short-chain fatty acids in the intestine. To promote optimal lactobacillus levels, eat more veggies, such as leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, onions and garlic. Other foods, such as Kefir, sauerkraut, miso, bananas, yogurt and sourdough bread are helpful.

Comfort Foods Revisited

Comfort foods are foods that make us feel good eating them, like a warm hug. Classic comfort foods include Mac ‘n’ cheese, pizza, mashed potatoes, creamy pasta dishes, cheesy casseroles, stews and rich desserts, for example. If it is comforting and delicious, it can live in this category. Unfortunately, many classic comfort food dishes are high in fat and calories and typically high in carbohydrates, usually refined, which offer fewer nutrients and dietary fiber. However, you can make a few modifications to decrease the fat and calories so you can still enjoy occasionally, without feeling as though you are compromising on your efforts to maintain a healthful diet.

Adjust your comfort foods for health with these 4 tips:

  1. Make substitutions: Swap out ultra-rich, heavy ingredients for lighter alternatives. Even if you substitute only 1/2 of the original ingredient, such as cream (and leave the other half untouched), that is an improvement. Lower fat milk, olive oil in place of butter (typically 3/4 of the amount), Greek yogurt for sour cream, part-skim cheese, etc.
  2. Add healthful ingredients: Try adding healthful ingredients to make the dish more nutritious, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains or beans. Diced or pureed veggies work well in sauces. Remember, even small changes are worth making. Don’t overdue, you still want to preserve the original mouthfeel and flavor.
  3. Serve smaller portions: Consider serving a comfort food dish as a side versus a main dish. Or cut it down by 1/3 to 2/3 and serve with a healthy pairing, such as a large green salad. You are preserving the integrity of the dish but, by cutting down on the amount eaten, are saving on a significant amount of fat and calories.
  4. Save some dishes for special occasions: Some recipes are very difficult to modify while preserving flavor and texture. If you are craving a cheeseburger with French fries, sure, you could opt for a turkey burger with baked potato fries, but it is definitely a different dish. For these types of comfort dishes, eat smaller portions and reserve them for special occasions or celebrations.