Pineapple: nutrition facts and health benefits

Pineapple

The pineapple is the fruit of a tropical plant having the same name. It has the shape of a huge pine cone with green and hard leaves on the top. Its bark, consisting of scales, contains a more or less juicy yellow flesh, sweet and tangy according to varieties. The bark has sometimes black dots. At the center of the flesh there is a ligneous stem, hard and fibrous.

The story of the pineapple

The pineapple is native to Paraguay and the south of Brazil. It might have been domesticated for thousands of years by the Tupi-Guarani Indians. They could have released it in South and Central America. The Caribbean Indians established it in Guadeloupe and other Caribbean islands. They were excellent sailors. Christopher Columbus discovered the fruit in 1493. When he arrived in America, cultivated pineapple differed from the wild pineapple by many features. The Indians already knew the biological cycle and the cultivation of this fruit very well. Since that time, research on the pineapple by the Europeans and the Americans has failed to bring significant improvements in terms of size, flavor, uniformity, etc.

The Spanish and the Portuguese introduced the pineapple in Spain, Africa, China, the Philippines, and India. From the end of the 16th century, it is grown in almost all tropical regions of the world. Temperate European countries have attempted to produce pineapples in glasshouses, but the experience proved to be unprofitable. Brazil, India, China, Thailand, the Philippines and Nigeria are the main world producers of pineapple.

There are a few wild species of pineapple. Two of them (a. bracteatus and a. fritzmuelleri) would be the ancestors of the cultivated species, but their fruit is not edible. Among the many cultivars that have been selected, only a few are a crop to be sold. The cultivar ‘Smooth Cayenne’ is by far the most widespread (it represents 70% of world production and 95% of the transformation products). However, the cultivar ‘Hawaian Gold’, selected by the Hawaii Pineapple Research Institute, is taking hold on markets. Less acidic and sweeter and ‘Smooth Cayenne’, it is particularly suitable for the consumption of fresh fruit.

Pineapple is also grown for its richness in bromelain. In addition to its therapeutic uses, this enzyme has many industrial uses, ranging from tenderizing of meats to tanning of leather paintings, through stabilization of paintings with latex. In addition, from the leaves of some selected varieties, fibers are pulled for making baskets, nets, ropes as well as papers and fine textiles.

Pineapple health profile

Pineapple, a tropical fruit by excellence, is available all year in supermarkets. Very rich in manganese, it contains mostly bromelain which would have many health virtues, among other things, on cardiovascular disease and blood circulation.

The benefits of pineapple

Cancer. Clinical observations and several studies on animal and cell-based models suggest that bromelain, an enzyme contained in pineapple, may have a direct effect on cancer cells and their microenvironment. They would have an effect, among others, in the regulation of immune, inflammatory and hemostatic systems (favoring blood clotting). However, more studies will be needed to measure the effect of bromalin among humans.

Cardiovascular disease. Bromelain is known for its anti-inflammatory, antithrombotics, antiplatelet and fibrinolytic properties (to dissolve blood clots). In the past, studies have also shown that bromelain would lead to a reduction in the risk of angina, would exercise an action against hypertension and could reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. However, few clinical studies were conducted among humans. Most of them were in vitro or in vivo studies performed on animals.

Osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease). Some studies have shown that, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, bromelain, which is very present in pineapple, may be a safe alternative treatment against osteoarthritis.

What contains pineapple?

Bromelain

The plant of the pineapple and its fruit contains bromelain. This is an enzyme which would have multiple beneficial actions on health: anti-tumor, anti-edematous and anti-inflammatory. In addition bromelain helps digestion and improve the circulatory and cardiovascular systems. These effects have been observed among humans, animals and in vitro studies following ingestion of bromelain extracts (from pineapple or synthesized).
The beneficial effects of bromelain extracts have been observed from doses of 160 mg per day, but more significantly to daily doses of 500 mg and more. According to empirical data, these doses correspond to 1 to 2 cups (250 ml to 500 ml) of fresh pineapple.
Bromelain is only found in fresh pineapple. Canned and cooked pineapples do not contain bromelain.

Phenolic compounds

Polyphenols and flavonoids are phenolic compounds present in plants. They have antioxidant properties. They can contribute to the prevention of many diseases (cardiovascular disease, cancers and various chronic diseases) by neutralizing free radicals in the body. Phenolic compounds were identified in the pineapple, such Gallic acid, but this fruit doesn’t stand out particularly, compared to other exotic fruits (mango, khaki, lychee, etc.). Pineapple has a high antioxidant potential, but lower than a dozen other common fruits like apple, strawberry, orange, lemon, and raisin. Moreover, vitamin C content of the pineapple would contribute to slightly more than 30% of its antioxidant potential.

Selection and conservation

Choose

The scent of a pineapple is a good indicator of the degree of ripeness and sugar content. It should be full and fruity, but not too pronounced, a sign likely to a start of fermentation.
On the other hand, the color of the bark is not necessarily a good indication: a fruit with green bark can be perfectly ripe.

Equal in size; choose the heaviest fruit, whose leaves are firm, fresh and a nice green dark. Avoid those that appear to be old, dry, damaged or showing soft parts, or those whose leaves are brown.

It is best to avoid fruit canning, drinks and juice when they contain large amounts of added sugar.

Keep

Refrigerator. The pineapple can be kept for 1 or 2 days at room temperature, but it is better to keep it in the fridge (up to 4 or 5 days). We put it in a perforated plastic bag in the fruit and vegetable tray. Peeled and cut into pieces, it will keep a few days in an airtight container. Cover the pieces with water.

Freezer. Peel, remove the heart and cut the pineapple into pieces or mash it and put it in a freezer bag. It is recommended to not freeze for more than 3 months because of the risk that it loses its flavor.

Pineapple to lose weight?

Bromelain contained in pineapple is an enzyme that is able to split proteins. It has also the property to curdle milk. It takes part in the digestion process like many other enzymes in the body.

But its action is unfortunately not on the fat, as many advertisements suggest. Weight loss is the result of higher energy expenditure than energy intake. It’s not the consumption of pineapple or bromelain which allows you to lose weight, but rather the calorie restriction that accompanies several diets.

Consumption of bromelain supplements could, however, facilitate digestion among some people, but its effectiveness is still uncertain due to lack of studies.

Precautions

Pineapple consumption causes the release of histamine in the body. This is also the case for other foods, including tomato and strawberry. Among some people, this can cause the appearance of mild reactions, such as urticaria. It is important to note that these reactions are not allergies, but rather food intolerance. When stopping the consumption of the food the symptoms also stop. The real pineapple allergy is quite rare, though some cases have been noticed. Cross-reactions are also possible with latex and pollen. People with allergies to these 2 compounds can demonstrate a hypersensitivity to the pineapple (as well as other fruits, such as banana and kiwi), and inversely. People intolerant or allergic to pineapple should avoid consuming the fruit, but also taking bromelain supplements. It is recommended to consult an allergist to determine the cause of the reactions to certain foods and the precautions to be taken.

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