Contrary to popular belief, pineapples, which came to be known as such because of their resemblance to pinecones, did not originate in Hawaii. Christopher Columbus brought pineapples back to Europe after one of his expeditions to South America, where they are believed to have originated from. 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 in many homes all-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.
Possible health benefits of pineapples
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 and overall mortality, diabetes, heart disease and promotes a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, overall lower weight.
Pineapple's possible health benefits include:
Age-related macular degeneration: A higher intake of all fruits (3 or more servings per day) has also been shown to decrease risk of and progression of age-related macular degeneration.
Asthma prevention: 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.
Blood pressure: 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% of US adults meet the daily 4700 mg recommendation.1
Also of note, a high potassium intake is associated with a 20% decreased risk of dying from all causes.1
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 Nutrition7 and has been shown to have an inverse association with the development of colon cancer in the Japanese population.8
High fiber intakes from all fruits and vegetables are associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society:
"there 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)."
Diabetes: Studies have shown that type 1 diabetics who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels and type 2 diabetics 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 g/day for women and 30-38 g/day for men.
Digestion: Pineapples, because of their fiber and water content, help to prevent constipation and promote regularity and a healthy digestive tract.
Fertility: Antioxidant-rich diets have been shown to improve fertility. 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. The antioxidants in pineapple such as vitamins C, beta-carotene and the vitamins and minerals and copper, zinc and folate have properties that affect both male and female fertility.5
Healing and Inflammation: Some studies have shown that bromelain, the 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.9
Heart health: The fiber, potassium and vitamin C content in pineapple all support heart health.
In one study, those who consumed 4069 mg of potassium per day had a 49% lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease compared with those who consumed less potassium (about 1000 mg per day).1
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.1
Skin: 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 your skin.
On the next page we look at the nutritional breakdown of pineapples, the ways in which to incorporate more pineapple into your diet and the possible health risks of consuming pineapples.