Pineapple is a delicious and juicy spherical fruit that is surrounded by a tough segmented skin, with green waxy leaves that looks like a tuft on top. It is up to a foot long and has a combination of sweet and tangy taste.
Also known as ananas comosus, pineapple belongs to the Bromeliaceae family, from which one of its most important health-promoting compounds, the enzyme bromelain, was named.
The name pineapple, derived from the Spanish word piña, evolved in the 17th century due to its structure and appearance being similar to pine cones. This tropical fruit is actually made of many individual berries that fuse together around a central core. Each pineapple scale is an individual berry.
Historically, Hawaii had the largest production of pineapples, but they are now cultivated in large quantities in Brazil, Thailand, China, the Philippines, Mexico and Costa Rica.
It is eaten fresh, juiced, cooked, or preserved, and its leaves are even used as wallpaper and ceiling insulation. Pineapple canneries use every bit of the pineapple. The skins, core and end portions are used to make a variety of products, including vinegar, alcohol and animal food.
Pineapple and its juice are enjoyed around the world most famously as the tropical drink, pina colada, and even as a popular flavour in alcoholic beverages. Pineapple can be added to kebabs, smoothies, and a whole range of salads.
Although the season for pineapple runs from March through June, they are available year-round in local markets.
Nutritional Value of Pineapple
Pineapples are a source of several health benefits due to its wealth of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, including potassium, copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, beta-carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, and bromelain, as well as soluble and insoluble fibre.
Possible Health Benefits of Pineapples
The pineapple fruit is known to offer several benefits. It:
A single serving of pineapple has more than 130% of the daily requirement of vitamin C for human beings, making it one of the richest and most delicious sources of ascorbic acid. Vitamin C helps in reducing illnesses and boosting the immune system by stimulating the activity of white blood cells and acting as an antioxidant to defend against the harmful effects of free radicals. Free radicals are dangerous by-products of cellular metabolism that can damage various organ systems and disrupt function, as well as cause healthy cells to mutate into cancerous ones. The vitamin C content of pineapple defends against this.
Eating pineapples regularly can protect you from a vast amount of health conditions, including constipation, diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), atherosclerosis, and blood clotting, as well as high blood pressure. Pineapple, being rich in fibre, promotes the passage of food through the digestive tract at a normal rate and stimulates the release of gastric and digestive juices to help food dissolve. It also bulks up the loose stool, which helps in treating diarrhoea and IBS. Furthermore, the bromelain in pineapple stimulates protein digestion, reduces gut inflammation, and therefore, treats digestive diseases.
Speeds-up Wound Healing
One of the commonly overlooked benefits of vitamin C is its essential role in creating collagen. This is partly the reason why it is seen as a healing vitamin because collagen is the essential protein base of blood vessel walls, skin, organs, and bones. High vitamin C content in pineapple helps you heal wounds and injuries quickly, and also defends your body against infections and illnesses.
Aids Treatment of Arthritis
One of the most celebrated uses of pineapple in terms of health is its ability to reduce the inflammation of joints and muscles, particularly those associated with arthritis. Pineapple contains a relatively rare proteolytic enzyme called bromelain, which is primarily associated with breaking down complex proteins and has serious anti-inflammatory effects. Bromelain is also positively correlated with reducing the signs and symptoms of arthritis in many.
May Treat Cough and Cold
Pineapple is rich in both bromelain and vitamin C, therefore eating pineapple helps in preventing and treating respiratory illnesses, while eliminating phlegm and mucus from your body if you’ve already contracted an illness or infection. The immune system boosting property of vitamin C is well known, but the special enzyme, bromelain, is also connected with the reduction of phlegm and mucus build up in the respiratory tracts and sinus cavities.
Improves Bone Health
Although pineapple is not famous for having strong calcium content, which most people immediately associate with bone health, it does have an impressive amount of manganese. Manganese is another trace mineral essential for the strengthening of bones, as well as their growth and repair. It is the most prominent mineral in pineapple, and a single serving can provide you with more than 70% of your daily requirement of this mineral.
May Prevent Cancer
Pineapple has been directly related to preventing cancers of the mouth, throat, and breast, as it is rich in various antioxidants, including vitamin A, beta carotene, bromelain, various flavonoid compounds, and high levels of manganese. Manganese is an important cofactor of superoxide dismutase, an extremely potent free radical scavenger that has been associated with a number of different cancers.
Improves Oral Health
Along with the antioxidant compounds that protect against oral cancer, pineapple also has astringent properties, which strengthen gums and teeth. Astringent agents help tighten up tissues and tone the body so that tooth loss, hair loss, muscle weakness and skin loosening do not occur. Pineapple is a very powerful astringent and is often prescribed as a natural remedy to fix the loosening of teeth or for the retraction of gums.
Improves Skin Health
The antioxidant vitamin C, when eaten in its natural form, by eating pineapple or applied topically, can help to fight skin damage caused by the sun and pollution, reduce wrinkles, and improve overall skin texture. Vitamin C also plays a vital role in the formation of collagen, the support system of the skin.
The eye is the most important sensory organ of the human body and pineapple has the ability to improve eye health and prevent other age-related eye diseases. Macular degeneration affects many elderly people, and beta-carotene present in pineapple can help delay this vision problem.
Improves Blood Circulation
In a related benefit to the vasodilating potential of potassium, pineapple also provides the body with copper, another essential mineral that functions in a number of enzymatic reactions and compounds in the body. Most notably, copper is a necessary element for the formation of healthy red blood cells. High red blood cell count increases oxygenation to the various organ systems and makes them function at optimal levels. It also increases cognitive abilities and can maintain neural pathways to prevent neural disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Regulates Blood Pressure
Pineapple is a valuable source of many minerals, and potassium is among them. Potassium deficiency can result in a wide array of health hazards. The vasodilator action of potassium eases the tension and stress of the blood vessels and increases blood circulation to various parts of the body. When your blood vessels relax, the blood pressure is reduced and the flow of blood is less restricted. This can prevent clots from blocking the flow of blood and reduce the accumulation of plaque in the arteries and vessels which, in turn, help prevent conditions like atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.
The benefits of eating pineapple listed above along with its sweetness could lure anyone to stock the fridge with dozens of pineapples, but one must always remember that all foods or fruits should be eaten in moderation, including pineapple.
The bromelain enzyme present in pineapple is primarily a meat-tenderizing enzyme, which helps in the digestion of tough foods. This can result in the softening or tenderness of your ‘meat’ as well, meaning that your lips, gums, and tongue may experience some tenderness or sensitivity if you eat too much pineapple. Bromelain and vitamin C are present in high proportions in pineapple, and an “overdose” can lead to vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, and nausea.
Also, bromelain has been known to stimulate menstruation, so pregnant women should avoid excessive intake of pineapple in order to prevent any chances of a miscarriage.
Pineapple is very sweet and must never be taken by those who are diabetic or has low blood sugar level. If you are normally healthy, the sweetness will not pose any problem. However, if you find that it is too sweet but would still like to enjoy its goodness, by all means mix with a little water or other less sweet juices, like green juices. Avoid canned pineapple as they’re usually soaked in thick sugar water with artificial food additives to preserve them in the cans.
Beta-blockers, a type of medication most commonly prescribed for heart disease, can cause potassium levels to increase in the blood. High potassium fruits such as pineapple should be consumed in moderation when taking beta-blockers.
Consuming too much potassium can be harmful to those whose kidneys are not fully functional. If your kidneys are unable to remove excess potassium from the blood, it could be fatal.
Those with gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) may experience an increase in symptoms such as heartburn and regurgitation when consuming highly acidic foods or fruits like pineapple. However, individual reactions vary.
It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to eat a varied diet than to focus on individual foods or fruits.
How to Select and Store
Choose pineapples that are nicely golden and heavy for their size. While larger pineapples will have a greater proportion of edible flesh, there is usually no difference in quality between a small and large size pineapple.
Pineapples should be picked when ripe because they do not continue to ripen once removed from the plant, so choose fruit with a fragrant sweet smell at the stem end. Check that the bottom stem is not decayed or has mouldy spots. Avoid pineapple that smells musty, sour or fermented. Pineapples should be free of soft spots, bruises and darkened "eyes," all of which may indicate that the pineapple is past its prime. A fully ripe pineapple can bruise and rot quickly.
While pineapple is quite perishable, it can be stored at room temperature for one or two days before serving, though, this process will not make the fruit any sweeter, it will help it to become softer and juicier. However, if it is refrigerated, it can last five to seven days.
Pineapple that has been cut up should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. It will stay fresher and retain more taste and juiciness if you also place some liquid, preferably some juice from the pineapple, in the container. Although pineapple can be frozen, this process greatly affects its flavour.
If consuming canned or packaged pineapple, make sure to pick up the varieties canned only in pineapple juice, not heavy syrup.
The area closer to the base of the fruit has more sugar content and therefore a sweeter taste and more tender texture. For this reason, few hours before you plan to eat the pineapple, cut off the crown and then turn the fruit upside down on a plate and leave in the fridge. The sweetness of the juice which is at the bottom of the pineapple will be nicely distributed throughout the entire fruit when turned over.
Pineapple can be cut and peeled in a variety of ways. If you find the taste of the pineapple to be too acidic, sprinkle a little lime on it. This will help take the acidic taste away.
Many people often feel intimidated when faced with a whole pineapple, mainly because they don’t know how to start slicing it up. So how do you cut a pineapple easily and safely?
Here’s how you should cut a pineapple:
After lopping off the top and the bottom, stand the pineapple up and use a sharp knife to shave off the skin. The sweetest part of a pineapple is its outermost flesh, however, which means you should slice the skin off the sides as thinly as possible and you should leave the “eyes” (brown spots) or you will lose too much juicier flesh. You’ll notice that the eyes all line up in diagonal rows and you can easily cut them out in a small “V” cut to preserve as much outer flesh as possible.
When you put the pineapple on its side again and slice it, you’ll notice the rounds look like flowers because of the “V” cuts.
How to incorporate pineapples into your diet
Add pineapple to your favourite kebabs. Try shrimp, chicken, or steak kebabs with red onions, pineapple, and cherry tomatoes.
Combine diced pineapple with chopped shrimp, grated ginger and a little olive oil. Season to taste and serve this fragrant shrimp salad on a bed of romaine lettuce.
Make a fruit salad with strawberries, pineapple, mandarin oranges, and grapes. Top with unsweetened shredded coconut for a fresh twist.
Add some pineapple slices to your salad at lunch or dinner. Compliment the pineapple with walnuts or pecans, a crumbled cheese, and light balsamic or citrus vinaigrette dressing.
Make your own juice. Nothing tastes better than fresh fruit juice in the morning. When you make your own, you can be sure there are no added preservatives or sweeteners.
Make a fresh salsa with pineapple, mango, jalapeño, red peppers, and chipotle pepper and use as a topper for your favourite fish tacos.
Drizzle maple syrup on pineapple slices and grill until brown. Serve plain or with yogurt.
Chopped pineapple, grated fennel and cashews go well together and are especially delicious as a side dish to chicken.
Grow your own pineapple plant at home by twisting the crown off a store-bought pineapple, drying it for two to three days, and planting it. However, while pineapple plants can produce fruit for as long as 50 years in the wild, it takes two years to yield one fruit.
Besides fruit salads and tropical drinks, pineapples are also used to make wine.