(BPT) - Fall, comfort food and carbs often go together, but that doesn't mean you have to trade off on nutrition. Northwest-grown pears offer ample ways to add a sweet twist to your favorite fall recipes while ensuring the carbohydrates you consume are fueling energy, not pounds.
Carbohydrates tend to get a bad rap, and simple carbs that break down easily and cause blood sugar spikes are often to blame. Yet complex carbs are a necessary component of maintaining a healthy digestive system. The key is to choose these good carbohydrates - such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains - and complement them with lean protein and healthy fats to ensure a balanced diet. By balancing carbohydrates at every meal, you decrease your rate of absorption of glucose. In other words, you can prevent your blood sugar from spiking dramatically while gaining longer-lasting energy.
Fiber-rich fresh pears are a fall favorite that pack a powerful nutritional punch and can be found in stores almost year-round. Northwest Pear growers harvest 10 varieties each year, boasting versatility in the kitchen - from charcuterie boards and salads to main dishes and desserts - and for your health. Snack on a pear to tap these four wellness benefits:
1. Improve gut health
Fiber is critical to maintaining a healthy digestive system, but only about 7% of American adults get the recommended daily allowance. Pears are among the best fruit sources of fiber: each medium pear contains six grams of fiber, or 21% of the recommended daily value. Fiber helps ensure bowel regularity, and pears contain prebiotic fiber, which provides food for beneficial probiotic bacteria that aid in overall gut health. In addition, dietary fiber may help reduce the risk of colon cancer.
2. Enjoy a sweet without the spike
A ripe pear boasts a succulent, naturally sweet flavor, with the added benefit of being a low glycemic index (GI) fruit. This means that pears release glucose gradually and evenly, keeping blood sugar levels steady longer and helping to prevent a sugar spike. There is an important difference between added sugar and naturally occurring sugar found in fruit, which is balanced by vitamins, minerals, water and fiber - all important nutrients for those looking to improve overall health, manage their weight or manage conditions like type 2 diabetes.
3. Strengthen immunity
Pears are a source of vitamin C, with a medium pear providing seven milligrams or 8% of the recommended daily value. Vitamin C is vital for normal metabolism, tissue repair, proper immune function and protection against infectious diseases.
4. Keep your brain sharp
Emerging research has explored the connection between pear consumption and cognitive function. According to a study from the Rush University Memory and Aging Project, eating more flavonols may be associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer dementia. Flavonols are a type of flavonoid that protects cells from oxidative damage that can lead to disease, and this beneficial compound is found in foods like kale, spinach, tea, red wine, olive oil and, of course, pears!
Fall may be the harvest season for Northwest-grown pears, but this fruit keeps well and can be found in stores almost year-round - which means good nutrition is nearly always at hand. To learn more about the health benefits of pears, visit USAPears.org.