Despite its rough exterior, the pineapple is a symbol of welcome and hospitality. This dates from the 17th century, when American colonists braved dangerous trade routes to import pineapple from the Caribbean Islands and share it with guests. Pineapple is also quite hospitable to your immune system: One cup has more than 100% of your daily value of cell-protecting, collagen-making vitamin C.
The mineral manganese plays an essential role in the way your body metabolizes food, clots blood, and keeps your bones healthy. One cup of pineapple has more than half of the manganese you need every day. This mineral is also present in whole grains, lentils, and black pepper.
In addition to large amounts of vitamin C and manganese, pineapples add to your daily value of vitamin B6, copper, thiamin, folate, potassium, magnesium, niacin, riboflavin, and iron.
Pineapples are the only known food source of bromelain, a combination of enzymes that digest protein. That's why pineapple works as a meat tenderizer: The bromelain breaks down the protein and softens the meat. In your body, bromelain makes it easier for you to digest food and absorb it.
When you eat, your body breaks down food. This process creates molecules called free radicals. The same goes for exposure to tobacco smoke and radiation. Pineapples are rich in flavonoids and phenolic acids, two antioxidants that protect your cells from free radicals that can cause chronic disease. More studies are needed, but bromelain has also been linked to reduced risk of cancer.
Bromelain, the digestive enzyme in pineapple, has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. This helps when you have an infection, like sinusitis, or an injury, like a sprain or burn. It also offsets the joint pain of osteoarthritis. The vitamin C in pineapple juice also keeps inflammation levels low.
Intense workout? The anti-inflammatory benefits of the bromelain in pineapple can help muscles recover quicker and keep you from feeling sore.
Fresh pineapple can make your mouth tingle or burn. That's because our tissues are made of protein, and the bromelain in pineapple breaks down protein. This is normal. It's temporary and doesn't mean you're allergic to pineapple. It may help to eat a dairy food along with the fruit.
The most common allergic reaction to pineapple is swelling, hives, or trouble breathing. If you have a latex allergy, you may also be allergic to pineapple.
Smell the end of the pineapple first. Does it smell like pineapple? Good. Does it smell fermented? Keep looking. It should feel heavy and not have any soft spots or bruises.
A ripe, whole pineapple will keep on the counter for 2-3 days. Once you cut it, it'll stay good in the fridge for 5-7 days, or in the freezer for 6 months or more. You can store it on its own or in its juice.
They may be the world's friendliest fruit, but pineapples can be confusing to cut. Here's how to get from the rough skin to the juicy fruit: Cut off the top, also called the crown, and the bottom. Dig out any "eyes" left behind. Stand it up and slice off the outer skin from top to bottom. Cut it in half from top to bottom, and then cut those halves into quarters. Slice off the core from all four pieces, then cut into smaller chunks.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
- Indiana University of Pennsylvania: “The Significance of the Pineapple."
- Danielle Feinberg, MS, RD, New York.
- National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements: “Vitamin C,” “Manganese."
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Pineapple, raw, all varieties."
- University of Melbourne: “The Flesh-Eating Pineapple,” “Be careful! Pineapple is digesting your mouth!"
- Mount Sinai: “Bromelain."
- Mayo Clinic: “Antioxidants."
- Journal of Medicinal Plants Research: “Flavonoids and phenolic acids: “Role in biochemical activity in plants and human."
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: “Bromelain."
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Bromelain as a Treatment for Osteoarthritis: a Review of Clinical Studies."
- Arthritis Foundation: “What Is Arthritis,” “Best Drinks for Arthritis."
- Allergy & Asthma Network: “Latex Allergy and Foods."
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Acute protease supplementation effects on muscle damage and recovery across consecutive days of cycle racing."
- USDA EatFresh.org: “Pineapple."
- University of Illinois Urbana-Campaign: “How to Cut a Pineapple."
- Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology: “The many flavors of pineapple reactions."