Pineapple: Health Benefits and Nutrition
Want to know about the health benefits of pineapple, the spiky-skinned fruit? And about the nutrition facts about pineapple? Read on for this info and more.
By V Saravana Kumar
"Be a pineapple: Stand tall, wear a crown, and be sweet on the inside." – Catherine Gaskin, Irish-Australian novelist
Almost everyone loves the juicy and delicious pineapple. Although it looks rough and spiny from the outside, it is soft and fleshy from the inside and has an awesome taste and aroma. All these aspects, together with the health benefits of pineapple, make it a must-have fruit. With an abundance of nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, the advantages of eating pineapple are many.
History of pineapple
The pineapple is a tropical fruit belonging to the family Bromeliaceae of the plant kingdom. Its botanical name is Ananas comosus. It is believed to have originated in South America, in the area between southern Brazil and Paraguay. The fruit was later taken across the continent of South America by the natives, and from there, it reached Central America, the Caribbean islands and Mexico.
It is believed that Columbus came across this exotic fruit in the year 1493 and brought it to Spain. Later, when the Portuguese went to South America, they brought back the pineapple to Portugal. And, when they came to India, they brought the pineapple to our country.
Pineapple: Nutrition facts
The distinctively sweet and tarty pineapple is rich in nutrients. It is low in calories and has almost no fat; but it has a high amount of sugar. It is a good source of vitamin B1 (thiamine), Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and manganese.
Here’s the nutritional value of raw pineapple (approximately 100g):
- Water 86g
- Energy 50kcal
- Protein 0.54g
- Total fat 0.12g
- Carbohydrate 13g
- Dietary Fibre 1.4g
- Sugars 9.9g
- Calcium 13mg
- Iron 0.29mg
- Magnesium 12mg
- Phosphorus 8mg
- Potassium 109mg
- Sodium 1mg
- Zinc 0.12mg
- Copper 0.11mg
- Vitamin C 47.8mg
- Thiamin 0.079mg
- Riboflavin 0.032mg
- Niacin 0.5mg
- Vitamin B6 0.112mg
- Folate 18mcg
- Choline 5.5mg
- Vitamin A 3mcg
- Beta carotene 35mcg
- Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) 0.02mg
- Vitamin K (phylloquinone) 0.7mcg
Data based on USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) - National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
Health benefits of pineapple
From averting asthma to combating cancer, pineapple has so many health benefits. Let’s find out more about the benefits of eating pineapple:
- Protects the skin: Pineapple benefits for skin include increased collagen synthesis, and improved tissue and cellular health, skin flexibility and firmness. In addition to this, the Vitamin C in pineapple reduces wrinkles, enhances skin texture, prevents acne and pimples, and protects the skin from the damage caused by sunlight and pollution.
- Aids in digestion: Pineapple contains a group of enzymes called bromelain, which help in easing digestion. The enzyme facilitates the breakdown of proteins into amino acids and peptides. This makes digestion easier, reduces bloating and improves gut health.
- Prevents cancer: Bromelain is known to prevent the growth of cancer cells and kill them by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. A research paper titled ‘Bromelain's activity and potential as an anti-cancer agent: Current evidence and perspectives’, published by NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), states, “ It is now possible to suggest that the anti-cancer activity of bromelain consists in the direct impact on cancer cells and their micro-environment, as well as in the modulation of immune, inflammatory and haemostatic systems.” Bromelain also stimulates the immune system to produce molecules which make WBCs (white blood cells) highly effective in suppressing the growth of cancer cells and eliminating them completely.
- Treats sinus: Bromelain reduces mucus and phlegm that accumulate in the respiratory tracts and sinus cavities due to viral infections. It also has curative effects on young children who have acute sinusitis. A report titled ‘Musculoskeletal Inflammation and Natural Products: What the Science Says,’ published in National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states, “Findings from a 2006 systematic review of three randomized controlled trials suggest that bromelain is helpful in relieving symptoms of acute nasal and sinus inflammation when used as adjunctive therapy with standard medications such as antihistamines, analgesics, and/or antibiotics.”
- Promotes weight loss: When you drink pineapple juice, the bromelain present in it metabolises a protein which, in turn, burns excess belly fat. Working with other enzymes like lipase, bromelain also suppresses the appetite by digesting fats.
- Improves hair health and growth: Vitamin C in pineapple makes the hair soft and shiny. Moreover, bromelain plays a big role in enriching the hair follicles, and improving the elasticity and thickness of hair. It also helps in treating hair fall and scalp infections.
- Reduces inflammation: Bromelain is known to decrease the production of molecules that cause inflammation in the body. This helps decrease the incidence of joint pain, inflammatory bowel disease, and other inflammatory disorders.
- Boosts immunity: Pineapple is rich in healthy antioxidants which help the body in fighting diseases. The flavonoids and phenolic acids found in pineapple have antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiallergic properties. They boost immunity, thereby improving the body's disease-resisting ability.
- Combats respiratory infections: Viral infections cause mucus and phlegm to accumulate in the respiratory tracts and sinus cavities. Bromelain helps in decreasing this collection. It also has curative effects on young children who have acute sinusitis.
- Relieves arthritis: The bromelain in pineapple has anti-inflammatory properties and provides relief from arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
- Prevents asthma: Pineapple has beta-carotene, which, along with bromelain, plays a significant role in offering protection against asthma.
- Improves heart health: Pineapple plays an important role in improving heart health by preventing atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty material gets deposited on the inner walls of the arteries. The antioxidants in pineapple increase the HDL (good cholesterol) and decrease the LDL (bad cholesterol), thus preventing atherosclerosis.
- Boosts eye health: Pineapple contains vitamin A and beta-carotene, which help in improving eye health and preventing age-related vision deficiency. These compounds also reduce the risk of vision loss due to macular degeneration and the development of cataracts.
- Enhances blood circulation: Pineapple contains potassium, a vasodilator which widens the blood vessels and improves blood flow. Also, the copper present in pineapple facilitates the formation of healthy red blood cells which deliver oxygen throughout the body.
- Controls blood pressure: Potassium eases the tension and stress of the blood vessels, thereby promoting blood circulation to various parts of the body. It relaxes the blood vessels and reduces the accumulation of plaque in the arteries. This helps to lower the blood pressure.
- Supplies good carbs: The carbohydrate in pineapple is made of simple sugars like fructose, sucrose and glucose. These are easily digestible and don’t alter the blood sugar levels much. Pineapple also has insoluble dietary fibres in the form of cellulose, hemicellulose and pectin. These reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Strengthens the bones: Pineapple contains large amounts of manganese, a trace mineral that the body needs to build bones and connective tissues. It also plays a major role in preventing osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
- Strengthens the gums: Pineapple contains powerful astringents which tighten the gums and prevent teeth loss.
- Reduces stress: Pineapple contains serotonin which is a natural stress buster. It helps us relax and soothes our nerves, thus decreasing stress.
Benefits of pineapple juice
According to restorativemedicine.org, “Pineapple juice and fruit are long-standing folkloric remedies for treating poor digestion and digestive upset, supporting weight loss, and treating diabetes, inflammation, and pain. Eating fresh pineapple or regular consumption of fresh pineapple juice is also a traditional remedy for treating intestinal parasites and worms, particularly pinworms.”
So, when you find it difficult to have pineapple chunks (especially in the case of children), go for pineapple juice. It retains most of the nutrients of the fruit and offers all its benefits in a more easy-to-consume way. Pineapple juice can be consumed directly as juice, added to smoothies, used as marinade for meat, mixed with dips and sauces, or as flavouring in sweets and desserts.
When to introduce pineapple to your baby
With so many health benefits, is pineapple an ideal food for your baby? Of course, it is.
As your baby nears the 1-year milestone, you can introduce small portions of pineapple in her diet, along with other solid foods. You can either mash the pineapple or make a purée or smoothie to feed your little one. However, begin by feeding only a small portion, as you would need to check if your child suffers from pineapple allergy.
Allergic reactions in babies
Pineapple can sometimes be hard on your baby’s digestive system. The acidic nature of the fruit may cause rashes around the baby’s mouth and diaper rash. So, it’s a good idea to feed pineapple only in small amounts at a time, preferably with other foods. Also, avoid giving pineapple wedges or chunks, as this could pose a choking hazard.
Side effects of eating pineapples
Although consuming pineapple provides us with many benefits, it has the flipside in the form of side effects and allergic reactions. Bromelain and vitamin C, the major compounds behind the goodness of pineapple, are responsible for most of these adverse effects. Some of the common side effects of pineapple include:
- Swelling of the mouth and cheeks
- Nausea and vomiting
- Skin rashes
- Anaphylactic shock
- Heartburn and regurgitation
Other adverse reactions
- Staining of the teeth and damage to the enamel
- Tenderness or sensitivity of the lips, gums and tongue
- Risk of abortion and miscarriage
- Aggravation of certain kidney disorders
- Increase in blood potassium level
- Interaction with medication like antibiotics, anticonvulsants and anticoagulants
However, it should be noted that these side effects are usually the result of excessive consumption of pineapple.
How to spot pineapple allergy
Signs of pineapple allergy show up within a few minutes to hours of consuming the fruit. Here are some of the common symptoms of pineapple allergy.
- Swelling of the face, tongue, throat and lips
- Flushing of the face
- Stomach pain
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Difficulty in breathing
- Intense itching or hives
- Sinus problems and congestion
- Metallic taste in the mouth
- Dizziness and fainting
- Anaphylactic shock
Interesting facts about pineapple
Having gone through the serious stuff, let’s now get to know some amusing facts about pineapple:
- Pineapple is neither a pine nor an apple; it is a berry.
- The word ‘pineapple’ was first used to refer to pine cones, way back in 1398. When Europeans first saw the fruit during their expedition to South America, they named it pineapple because it resembled a pine cone.
- People from the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilisations were the first ones to grow pineapples.
- A wild pineapple plant can live and bear fruits for up to 50 years.
- A pineapple plant can be easily grown, by just slicing the top part of the fruit and planting it in the soil.
- Costa Rica is the largest producer of pineapples in the world, followed by Brazil and Philippines. India is the fifth largest producer.
- We don’t eat the skin, core and ends of a pineapple. However, these are used in the manufacture of products such as vinegar, alcohol and animal food.
- A pineapple plant produces more than 200 flowers in different colours, like lavender, light purple and red. Each of these flowers develops scale-like fruits, which then join to create a pineapple.
- A pineapple plant looks like a giant pineapple buried in the soil.
- A pineapple plant produces only a single fruit in a season.
- A pineapple ripens only when attached to the plant. Once harvested, the fruits don’t ripen anymore.
How to choose a ripe pineapple
Pineapples are available at most grocery stores and fruit shops near you. But, do you know how to choose the right fruit? Here are some tips:
- The colour of a ripe pineapple is usually green with a yellow shade at the bottom.
- The leaves should look fresh and green.
- Smell the bottom of the pineapple. If it smells fresh, buy it.
- Squeeze the fruit gently. It should neither be too hard nor squishy, but just give in a little.
- You can keep pineapples fresh by refrigerating them in a perforated plastic bag for up to 3–5 days.
The pineapple has been most people’s favourite fruit over the years. With changing tastes, the fruit has also adapted itself to modern trends, and now we can have pineapple tikka, grilled pineapple, pineapple-topped pizza, pineapple cheesecake and more. So, go ahead and make this storehouse of nutrients and numerous health benefits an integral part of your child’s diet.
About the author:
Written by V Saravana Kumar on 11 October 2019; updated on 14 October 2019
The author is a writer, translator, editor, artist, graphic designer and a start-up enthusiast. He is also learning the art of parenting through his two teenaged children.
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