Pears and Diabetes: Benefits, Risks, and Nutrition

Pears have been a part of Eastern medicine for centuries. They play a part in helping with everything from inflammation to constipation to hangovers.

We also know that pears can help control blood sugar and lower your chances of type 2 diabetes and stroke. They can even help you digest food better.

And, as a bonus, they’re a good way to make you feel like you’ve had a small treat with some added nutrition.

How Pears Affect Blood Sugar

The glycemic index (GI) rates food and its effect on your blood sugar on a scale of 1 to 100. The higher the GI level, the faster it makes your blood sugar go up.

Pears fall between 20 and 49 on the glycemic index. That makes them a low-GI food, mostly because they’re high in fiber. One small pear has about 7 grams of it. That's as much as 20% of the fiber you need each day. (Women should get about 25 grams of fiber a day, while men should shoot for 38.)

Some studies suggest that the pigments that give pears their color, called anthocyanins, can lower your chances of type 2 diabetes. We need more research to understand why this is and how eating pears might help if you have diabetes.

Other Health Benefits of Pears

In addition to being a good source of fiber, pears are also high in vitamins C and K, as well as potassium and antioxidants. They’re also especially good for gut health, and they may help keep you regular, too.

What's more, there’s evidence that the antioxidants in fruits like pears may make you less likely to have heart disease or trouble with cholesterol.

Things to Consider

When you have diabetes, it’s always important to think about carbohydrates. A small pear has about 22 grams of carbs, which is about 1.5 servings. You’ll want to factor that in when working pears into your diet.

As with any fruit, the best way to eat a pear is to eat the whole thing. The skin is where most of the nutrients are, particularly the fiber and antioxidants. That said, be sure to wash it thoroughly before you eat it.

Continued

If fresh pears aren't a good option for you, canned ones can be a good alternative. But read the label carefully. You don't want ones packed in light or heavy syrup. That’s another way of saying “sugar added.” Instead, look for labels that say “packed in water,” “packed in their own juices,” or “100% juice.”

Dried pears keep their fiber and nutrients. But they can have a lot of sugar. Make sure to keep an eye on your serving size.

How to Get Pears Into Your Diet

They can be prepared in many ways, including:

Of course, you can always eat them simply in slices or diced as a topping on a salad.

'Pears' That Aren't Pears

While the U.S. has many varieties of pears -- Bartlett, Anjou, and Bosc are among the most common -- some things with the word “pear” in their names aren’t pears at all. While it does have a lot of fiber and experts say it could help with blood sugar, the prickly pear is the fruit part of a type of cactus found mostly in the American Southwest and Mexico.

The balsam pear is also high in fiber, but it more closely resembles a cucumber, with its oblong shape and rough texture. They’re common in China and India, where people call them “bitter cucumbers.”

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on May 01, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

National Institutes of Health: “Systematic Review of Pears and Health.”

American Diabetes Association: “Fruit.”

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “What Is Glycemic Index?” “Easy Ways to Boost Fiber in Your Daily Diet,” “Are Canned Foods Nutritious for My Family?” “9 Fall Produce Picks to Add to Your Plate.”

New Hanover Regional Medical Center: “Low Glycemic Meal Planning.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Food Data Central, Pears, Raw.”

Depts.washington.edu: “The Nutritional Story of Pears.”

CDC: “Diabetes.”

Harvard Health Publishing: "Should I Be Eating More Fiber?" “Is Eating Dried Fruit Healthy?”

Home Orchard Society: “Common Pears In The USA.”

U.S. Forest Service: “Plant of the Week: Prickly Pear (Opuntia basilaris P. Mill).”

Wilderness & Environmental Medicine: “Picking Edible and Medicinal Plants: Exotic ‘Apples’ and ‘Pears.’”

Mayo Clinic: "I've seen prickly pear cactus promoted as a superfood. What's behind the hype?"

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination