Christopher Columbus brought pineapples back to Europe after an expedition to South America. Pineapples became known as an extravagant and exotic fruit, served only at the most lavish of banquets.
Today, pineapple can be commonly found in any grocery store and many homes around the world.
In Central and South America, pineapple is not only valued for its sweet taste, it has been used for centuries to treat digestion problems and inflammation.
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Fast facts on pineapples
Here are some key points about pineapples. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
- Pineapples may help in a range of conditions, including asthma and diabetes
- One cup of pineapple contains 82 calories and 131 percent of daily vitamin C needs
- Pineapple can be added to kebabs, smoothies, and a whole range of salads
- Pineapples should be picked when ripe because they do not continue to ripen once removed from the plant
Possible health benefits of pineapples
Pineapple has a range of potential health benefits.
Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions.
Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like pineapples decreases the risk of obesity, overall mortality, diabetes, and heart disease.
It also promotes a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and an overall lower weight.
Pineapple's possible health benefits include:
Age-related macular degeneration
The risks for developing asthma are lower in people who consume a high amount of certain nutrients. One of these nutrients is beta-carotene, found in plant foods like pineapple, mangoes, papaya, apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and carrots.
Increasing potassium intake by consuming high potassium fruits and vegetables can help with lowering blood pressure. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, fewer than 2 percent of U.S. adults meet the daily 4,700-milligram recommendation.
Also of note, a high potassium intake is associated with a 20 percent decreased risk of dying from all causes.
As an excellent source of the strong antioxidant - vitamin C, pineapples can help combat the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer.
Diets rich in beta-carotene may also play a protective role against prostate cancer, according to a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health's Department of Nutrition; it has also been shown to have an inverse association with the development of colon cancer in a Japanese population.
High fiber intakes from all fruits and vegetables are associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer. According to the American Cancer Society:
"[T]here are studies suggesting that bromelain [found in pineapple] and other such enzymes may be used with standard cancer treatment to help reduce some side effects (such as mouth and throat inflammation due to radiation treatments)."
Studies have shown that individuals with type 1 diabetes who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels, and individuals with type 2 diabetes may have improved blood sugar, lipids, and insulin levels. One medium pineapple provides about 13 grams of fiber.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 21-25 grams per day for women and 30-38 grams per day for men.
Pineapples, because of their fiber and water content, help to prevent constipation and promote regularity and a healthy digestive tract.
Antioxidant-rich diets have been shown to improve fertility. Because free radicals can damage the reproductive system, foods with high antioxidant activity like pineapples are recommended for those trying to conceive. The antioxidants in pineapple, such as vitamin C and beta-carotene, and the vitamins and minerals copper, zinc, and folate have properties that affect both male and female fertility.
Healing and Inflammation
Some studies have shown that bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples, can reduce swelling, bruising, healing time, and pain associated with injury and surgical intervention. Bromelain is currently being used to treat and reduce inflammation from tendinitis, sprains, strains, and other minor muscle injuries as well as swelling related to ear, nose, and throat surgeries or trauma.
The fiber, potassium, and vitamin C content in pineapple all support heart health.
In one study, those who consumed 4,069 milligrams of potassium per day had a 49 percent lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease compared with those who consumed less potassium (about 1,000 milligrams per day).
High potassium intakes are also associated with a reduced risk of stroke, protection against loss of muscle mass, preservation of bone mineral density, and reduction in the formation of kidney stones.
The antioxidant vitamin C, when eaten in its natural form (as in a 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.
Nutritional breakdown of pineapples
One cup of fresh pineapple chunks contains approximately:
- 82 calories
- 0 grams of fat
- 0 grams of cholesterol
- 2 milligrams of sodium
- 22 grams of total carbohydrate (including 16 grams of sugar and 2.3 grams of fiber)
- 1 gram of protein
As a percentage of your daily requirements, 1 cup of fresh pineapple chunks provides:
- 131 percent of vitamin C
- 2 percent of vitamin A
- 2 percent of calcium
- 2 percent of iron
Pineapple is also a source of important vitamins and minerals, including:
- Vitamin B-6
- Pantothenic acid
- Beta-carotene (and other antioxidants)
Fresh pineapple is the only known source of an enzyme called bromelain, which may alleviate joint pain and arthritis, reduce inflammation, inhibit tumor growth, and shorten recovery time following surgery.
How to incorporate pineapples into your diet
Make your own pineapple juice! Nothing tastes better than fresh fruit juice in the morning.
Select a pineapple with a firm, plump body without bruising or soft spots and green leaves at the crown.
A green outer shell does not mean the pineapple is not ripe and, contrary to popular belief, neither does the ease in which the leaves pull from the crown.
Pineapples should be picked at their peak ripeness since, unlike other fruits, they will not continue to ripen once picked.
Whole pineapples should be stored at room temperature, while cut pineapple should be stored in the refrigerator.
If consuming canned or packaged pineapple, make sure to pick up the varieties canned only in pineapple juice, not heavy syrup.
- Add pineapple to your favorite kebabs. Try shrimp, chicken, or steak kebabs with red onions, pineapple, and cherry tomatoes.
- 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 favorite fish tacos.
Potential health risks of consuming pineapples
Beta-blockers, a type of medication most commonly prescribed for heart disease, can cause potassium levels to increase in the blood. High potassium foods 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. 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.