What are the benefits of eating pineapple?
Perhaps one of the more common fruits in America is the pineapple. This ubiquitous fruit turns up in everything from cocktails to cakes. Many of us probably take pineapple for granted since it is so easy to find. But the benefits of eating pineapple are considerable.
Most of us who enjoy pineapple either on its own or in other foods eat it simply because it is delicious. That familiar mix of sweet and tangy that creates the signature flavor of pineapple is enough for most people. But the benefits of eating pineapple can add more reason for including it in our diet.
Even to begin to consider the benefits of eating pineapple we should get an understanding of what exactly a pineapple is and the different types of pineapples. Since the simple pineapple is so familiar, it’s possible that most people don’t know much about the nature of pineapples and their nutritional value.
What are pineapples? Are there different kinds of pineapples? And what are the many benefits of eating pineapples? This guide will give you all the information you need about the simple pineapple and how you can begin getting the benefits of eating pineapple.
What are pineapples?
Pineapples, or Ananas comosus, are native to South America. The name pineapple comes from its resemblance to pinecones. About 10 percent of the world’s pineapples now come from Hawaii, however, pineapples are still a major crop from Mexico, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and China.
It is a low-growing plant with spiky leaves. The plant takes about two years to begin producing fruits. The fruit is a yellowish fibrous flesh. Relatively inexpensive, pineapples have become a major addition to diets around the world.
Types of pineapples
We tend to think of pineapples as one particular fruit. There are many types of pineapples, each with its signature flavor profile. Pineapples come in a few principal varieties.
Pineapples are mostly grouped into four main classes: Smooth Cayenne, Red Spanish, Queen, and Abacaxi, but some outliers don’t fit into any of these classes. Some varieties are more resistant to disease and are better for commercial transport, while others are more tender and cannot be shipped long distances. Pineapple varieties also differ as to sweetness, acidity, and fiber content.
Also called smooth cayenne or Cayena Lisa, this was first cultivated in Venezuela and introduced to other parts of the world as early as 1820. The cayenne variety is the most common pineapple. More than 70 percent of the pineapples cultivated for canning and general consumption are cayenne pineapples. This is the familiar yellow fibrous fruit.
Hilo pineapples are a variant of cayenne pineapples that were developed in Hawaii. A clone of the cayenne, the Hilo pineapple is also a familiar form we find in grocery stores.
Abacaxi pineapples are sweeter than the common pineapples. They are also resistant to disease. These are a delicious variety of pineapple, but they are too delicate for canning or widespread shipping.
These are found mostly in Australia and South Africa. Queen pineapples are smaller than the pineapple we commonly find. They do not hold up well to canning and must be eaten fresh.
Red Spanish pineapples
This variety is orange-red and largely comes from the Caribbean. The fruit is yellowish like the familiar pineapple, and they are high in fiber.
Mostly cultivated in Brazil, this variety is white with a juicy and mild flavor. They are known for distinctively long and spiky leaves.
Kona sugarloaf pineapple
These are a variety of cayenne pineapple. Kona sugarloaf pineapples are, as the name implies, high in sugar. One of the great things about the Kona sugarloaf is that the core is not woody and is completely edible.
This pineapple is named after the Indian tribe who grew it in Venezuela. The fruit is bottle-shaped and orange-colored. The flesh is deep yellow, slightly fragrant, and has a small core.
Pineapple nutrition facts
The basic nutrition facts for pineapples come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They are as follows:
Serving size: 1 cup chunks (165 g)
Amount per serving:
Total Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 2 mg
Potassium 206 mg
Total Carbohydrate 19.5 g
Sugars 13.7 g
Vitamin C 28 mg
Calcium 21 mg
This profile is for fresh pineapple. Canned pineapple is different since canned pineapple has more calories and higher sugar concentrations. To get the most nutrition from pineapple, you should eat fresh since canned pineapple often contains syrup that also has high fructose corn syrup added.
Benefits of eating pineapple
In addition to its nutritional value, pineapples have several other important benefits. The unique chemistry of pineapples makes them great for many common issues.
Antioxidants help your body fight oxidative stress. The presence of free radicals in the body causes stress on organs and organ systems This leads to what is called oxidative stress and is the origin of many common illnesses like chronic inflammation and a weakened immune system.
Pineapples contain chemicals called flavonoids which are powerful antioxidants. What is more, the flavonoids in pineapples tend to last longer than other natural antioxidants and provide lasting benefits.
Help with digestion
Pineapples contain a digestive enzyme called bromelain. This function like digestive enzymes in the body called proteases that break down proteins into the basic building blocks like peptides and amino acids.
Once proteins are broken down, they become available to the metabolism to build things like muscles and enzymes. For people who have compromised digestive systems, for example, people suffering from certain types of pancreas disorders, pineapples can help with the digestive process.
Reduce cancer risk
Researchers have linked the unrestrained growth of cancer cells to oxidative stress. Several studies have found that pineapple can help reduce this risk and reduce the overall risk of cancer. The active chemical agent that appears to fight cancer is the digestive enzyme bromelain.
In one study, researchers found that bromelain was effective in slowing the growth of breast cancer cells. Other studies found that the bromelain found in pineapples can suppress the growth of skin cancer, colon cancer, and cancer of the digestive system.
In addition to inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, bromelain from pineapples has also been found to stimulate the immune system. Bromelain appears to stimulate the growth of white blood cells which actively fight the development of cancer and also work to eliminate cancer cells from the body.
Boost immunity and fight inflammation
The collection of vitamins, minerals, and the enzyme bromelain may all work together to help boost immunity and fight inflammation.
In studies that involved children, researchers found that the children who regularly ate pineapple have stronger immune systems than children who did not eat pineapple. The children who ate pineapple had significantly less risk of viral and bacterial infections. These children also had a higher level of white blood cells, the cells that fight disease, in their systems.
These results led researchers to treat some infections directly with the enzyme bromelain derived from pineapples. This study discovered that children who suffered from sinus infections recovered faster than a control group who were not given bromelain.
Further studies demonstrated that bromelain was also effective in reducing inflammation.
May help with arthritis
One of the main causes of many types of arthritis is inflammation. Arthritis currently afflicts approximately 54 million people in the US.
Since pineapples contain the powerful anti-inflammatory bromelain, it is believed that pineapples can help treat arthritis. What is more the bromelain concentrations in pineapples may be effective in treating the pain of arthritis.
In fact, since the 1960s, doctors have recommended eating pineapples for people who suffer from arthritis.
One study compared the effects of taking bromelain from pineapples with a common medicine used to treat arthritis. This study found that the bromelain from pineapples was just as effective in treating arthritis pain as the prescription drug diclofenac.
Researchers have concluded that for many people who suffer from arthritis, simply eating more pineapple may be one of the best treatments for inflammation and pain.
May speed recovery from surgery and exercise
Pineapples appear to speed recovery times from surgery and after strenuous exercise. This is again due to the anti-inflammatory properties of the enzyme bromelain.
Several studies have revealed that bromelain can reduce inflammation enough to reduce things like swelling, bruising, and pain that can come from surgery. Also, the inflammation that is a natural response to surgery responds well to bromelain.
As most of us know, strenuous exercise also causes tissue damage. This is part of the process of building muscle. Unfortunately, this leads to some serious soreness after a workout.
Bromelain is a protease, and these compounds are known to speed recovery times from intense workouts. The anti-inflammatory properties of pineapples can reduce inflammation sufficiently to help with the soreness that follows a workout.
How to prepare pineapple
There is nothing more to preparing pineapple than to remove the flesh from the thorny husk.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the base and leafy top from the pineapple.
- Rest the pineapple on its base and cut the husk downward in a curved motion to preserve as much of the flesh as possible.
- Cut the remaining flesh of the pineapple into rounds and remove the woody core.
- One of the easiest ways to get rid of the core is to use a cookie-cutter.
An alternate method is to slice the peeled pineapple into fourths and then cut away the woody core. This will not give you pineapple rings, but it's easy and you will have plenty of pineapple chunks for snacks.
There are plenty of recipes online for cooking with pineapple. Pineapple juice from fresh pineapple is another great and delicious way to include pineapple in your diet.
How much pineapple should I eat per day?
Doctors recommend that we eat about one cup of fresh fruit per day. This provides basic nutritional requirements and fiber from fruit. A serving is one cup. That said, having fresh fruits, including pineapple, ready to eat is a great and nutritious way to avoid eating unhealthy snacks.
One cup of fresh pineapple every day will provide the basics of all the benefits of fresh pineapple. If you are eating pineapple for specific health reasons, talk to your doctor about adding pineapple to your diet or including something like a bromelain supplement.
Pineapple side effects and risks
Eating pineapple can cause tenderness in the mouth. This is because the enzyme bromelain is a meat tenderizer. It can have the same effect on the tissue of your mouth as it has on meats.
Eating too much pineapple can lead to nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or heartburn. Some people who are especially sensitive to pineapple may experience rashes.
Bromelain in pineapple can interact with some medications like antibiotics, anticoagulants, insomnia drugs, and antidepressants.
Eating unripe pineapple or drinking the juice of unripe pineapple can be toxic and may lead to severe vomiting and diarrhea.
Most people are well-aware of pineapples. They are not exactly an exotic addition to the American diet. Pineapples have been available in grocery stores for decades. What few people are aware of is just how healthy pineapples can be.
In addition to numerous vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, pineapples have tremendous health benefits. From antioxidants to fighting cancer, pineapples are a powerful fruit that can do much more than most of us know.
From a local fruit in South America to a worldwide favorite, pineapples are delicious and versatile. Most of us only know about one type of pineapple. There are multiple varieties of pineapple, each with its unique flavor and appearance.
But again, the most important thing about pineapples is that they are amazingly healthy. Eating fresh pineapple is just one more way you can boost your health and stay fit. The fact that pineapples are delicious simply makes it easier to include them in your diet.