Perched on a cocktail glass, tossed onto a pizza, or glazed over a cake, the pineapple is perhaps one of the most recognisably “tropical” fruits around the world.
Its sweet, piercing taste calls to mind Caribbean beaches and alcoholic merriment, but this tasty fruit packs more than enjoyment within the boundaries of its tough, spiky exterior.
Technically, a pineapple is not one fruit but 100-200 fruitlets fused together; what we know to be “a pineapple” is actually the result of a composite of coalesced berries that grow at the crown of a fruiting tree.
Native to Paraguay and Brazil, pineapples got their name from the Spanish word “piña,” meaning “pinecone”. Today, the bulk of the world’s pineapples come from Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand and the Philippines; and it is also cultivated in large quantities in Hawaii, Brazil, Costa Rica and parts of the Caribbean.
Health Benefits of Pineapple
Historically, the fruit gained prominence aboard ships as a protection against the sailor’s dreaded adversary: scurvy. Today, they are well known for many health benefits.
Serving Size: One cup of pineapple chunks (165 grams)
Carbohydrates: 22 g
Sugar: 16 g
Fibre: 2 g
Of all the vitamins and minerals in pineapple, vitamin C beats them all with 131 percent of the recommended daily value. This helps with suppressing coughs, colds, and flu symptoms; and is also needed for synthesising collagen, which is essential for the body’s healthy blood vessels, organs, skin, tissue support, heavy metal absorption, and bone strength.
Pineapples provide three-quarters of the manganese needed for one day in a single serving. They contain folates, thiamin, biotin, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and minerals like copper and potassium, the latter of which offers what is needed for healthy cell and body fluid maintenance, heart rate regulation, and blood pressure. Vitamin A and beta-carotenes provide additional antioxidants for immune system support.
Along with the antioxidant compounds that protect against oral cancer, pineapples also have astringent properties, which strengthen gums and help to tighten up tissues to prevent against tooth loss, hair loss, and muscle weakness or skin loosening. Pineapples have also been connected to boosting eye health and preventing the age-related deficiencies such as macular degeneration.
As an excellent source of the strong antioxidant vitamin C, pineapples can help combat the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer. Because free radicals also can damage the reproductive system, foods with high antioxidant activity like pineapples that battle free radicals are recommended for those trying to conceive.
Pineapples contain an enzyme called bromelain, which breaks protein down into simpler substances to provide phytonutrients such as amino acids and peptides needed for digestion. It also discourages arthritis inflammation, indigestion, clotting, bruising, and harmful bacteria.
However, consume pineapples in moderation because they contain fructose, which may be harmful to your health in excessive amounts.
Note: The nutritional profile for canned pineapple is different from raw pineapple, and canned pineapple also contains fewer vitamins and minerals. If you opt for canned pineapple, try to get it with no added sugar, or look for a variety that is canned in fruit juice instead of syrup.
Uses of Pineapple
Pineapples are eaten fresh, juiced, cooked, and preserved; and their leaves are even used for wallpaper and ceiling insulation.
Pineapple is great by itself and for so many recipes: shish kebabs, lettuce and fruit salads, stir fries and salsa, to name a few. Prepare it by chopping off the top and bottom, and then placing on a flat surface to slice off the rind, top to bottom, all around. Then, just slice the fruit into “rings.”
When choosing a pineapple, remember that the heavier they are relative to size, the better – as those are riper. The ripening process stops when they are picked, so when consuming make sure it has not been picked too long ago; they should smell fragrant, not musty or fermented.
Useful tip: You can grow your own pineapple plant at home by twisting the crown off a pineapple, drying it for two to three days, and planting it.