Pineapples originated in South America, where early European explorers named it after its resemblance to a pinecone. It is packed with antioxidants and enzymes that can fight inflammation and disease.
One cup of pineapple chunks contains the following:
- Calories: 82.5
- Fat: 1.7 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Carbs: 21.6 grams
- Fiber: 2.3 grams
- Vitamin C: 131% of the RDI
- Manganese: 76% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 9% of the RDI
- Copper: 9% of the RDI
- Thiamin: 9% of the RDI
- Folate: 7% of the RDI
- Potassium: 5% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 5% of the RDI
- Niacin: 4% of the RDI
- Pantothenic acid: 4% of the RDI
- Riboflavin: 3% of the RDI
- Iron: 3% of the RDI
Most of the nutrients aren’t greatly diminished between fresh and canned pineapple, except for vitamin C, which is reduced from 131 percent of the daily value to 32 percent in canned. One cup of fresh pineapple chunks equals around 165 grams, while the same amount of canned pineapple contains 246 grams.
Pineapples also contain trace amounts of vitamins A and K, phosphorus, zinc and calcium. They are especially rich in antioxidants known as flavonoids and phenolic acids. Many of the antioxidants in pineapple are bound. This allows the antioxidants to survive harsher conditions in the body and produce longer lasting effects.
Pineapples contain a group of digestive enzymes known as bromelain, which function as proteases, breaking down protein molecules. Once protein molecules are broken down, they are more easily absorbed across the small intestine. Bromelain is widely used as a commercial meat tenderizer due to its ability to break down tough meat proteins.
Several studies have shown that pineapple and its compounds may reduce the risk of cancers. Studies point to the bromelain that cuts down oxidative stress and reduces inflammation. Two test-tube studies showed that bromelain suppressed the growth of breast cancer cells and stimulated cell death. Other test-tube studies show that bromelain suppresses cancer in the skin, bile duct, gastric system and colon.
Test-tube and animal studies have found that bromelain may stimulate the immune system to produce molecules that make white blood cells more effective at suppressing cancer cell growth and eliminating cancer cells.
In one nine-week study, 98 healthy children were fed either no pineapple, some pineapple (140g) or lots of pineapple (280g) daily to see if it boosted their immunity. Children who ate pineapples had a significantly lower risk of both viral and bacterial infections. Also, children who ate the most pineapple had close to four times more disease-fighting white blood cells (granulocytes) than the other two groups.
Another study found that children with a sinus infection recovered significantly faster while taking a bromelain supplement, compared to a standard treatment or combination of the two.
Studies have shown that bromelain can reduce markers of inflammation. Research from as early as the 1960s shows that bromelain was used to relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and recent studies have looked into the effectiveness of bromelain for treating arthritis. One study in patients with osteoarthritis found that taking a digestive enzyme supplement containing bromelain helped relieve pain as effectively as common arthritis medicines like diclofenac.
The bromelain in pineapples may reduce the inflammation, swelling, bruising and pain that occurs after surgery. Bromelain’s anti-inflammatory properties may also aid recovery after strenuous exercise by reducing tissue inflammation.
How to Buy
Pineapples are very affordable and available year-round in many American markets, as they can be purchased fresh, canned or frozen.
When choosing a pineapple, it’s good to remember that the heavier they are relative to size, the better, as those are riper. The ripening process stops when they’re picked, so to make sure it’s not been too long. A pineapple should smell fragrant, not musty or fermented. While some people think they need to eat their pineapple almost immediately for optimal benefit, new studies show that cut and refrigerated pineapple are excellent for as long as nine days with only minor losses of phenolic phytonutrients.
How to Store
A whole pineapple should retain quality for 1 to 2 days at room temperature, for up to 9 days in the fridge in an airtight container. If they are “just right” when you buy it, a pineapple can also be wrapped and stored in your refrigerator for a few days until you are ready to eat it.
Pineapple is an excellent fruit for freezing. Before you freeze pineapple, you must peel and cut the pineapple into chunks and put into airtight containers or freezer bags.
How to Cook
Pineapple is great by itself and for so many recipes: shish kebabs, lettuce and fruit salads, stir fries, and salsa. Prepare it by simply 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.”