Say aloha to sweet, nutritious pineapple

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When we think of pineapple, images of Hawaiian women in grass hula skirts placing flowered leis around our necks come to mind.  This exotic fruit was first introduced to the Hawaiian islands in 1813 and by 1930, nine million cases of pineapple were exported out of the state by nine different canneries.  By the 1960’s, Hawaii was responsible for growing 80 percent of the world’s pineapple.  Hawaii still grows pineapple but over the years, it is no longer a profitable place to grow and process this fruit.  Today, Hawaii currently only grows about two percent of the world’s pineapple. 

Out of all fruits, none look quite as regal as a pineapple.  Part of this may have to do with its green “crown” at the top and the patterned exterior it displays on the rest of the fruit.  Believed to have originated in Brazil, it later found its way to Europe most likely brought there thanks to explorer Christopher Columbus and crew.  The luscious and extravagant pineapple soon became a favorite and to this day, is still a commonly sold fruit around the world. 

One of the reasons for pineapple’s popularity is the sweet, luscious taste one experiences when biting into this tropical fruit.  And on top of that, it not only tastes delicious but is good for us.

Pineapple’s health benefits

When looking at pineapple’s nutritional profile, it offers a wide range of nutrients.  One cup contains around 82 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 169 milligrams of potassium, 74 milligrams of vitamin C and 50% of the mineral manganese.  Vitamin C is a known immune-enhancer and the trace mineral manganese helps our bodies form bones and connective tissue. 

Pineapple, like all fruits and vegetables, is associated with helping to reduce the risk of many lifestyle health conditions.  Some of pineapple’s possible health benefits include:

· Reducing age-related macular degeneration due to its high vitamin C content

· Help prevent asthma as it contains beta-carotene, a pigment giving pineapple it’s yellow color

· Pineapple’s high potassium content may help decrease high blood pressure

· Consuming more fruit with fiber such as pineapple may lower blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes

· Because of their fiber and water content, pineapple can help to prevent constipation, promoting regularity and a healthy digestive tract

· Heart health is improved due to pineapple’s fiber, potassium and vitamin C content

· Its rich supply of the antioxidant vitamin C coming to the rescue to help fight skin damage caused by the sun, reduces wrinkles, and improves overall skin texture.  Vitamin C is also known for playing an important role in the formation of collagen, the support system of skin.

Pineapple’s special ingredient - bromelain

An interesting fact about pineapple is that it contains bromelain, a mixture of enzymes found only in pineapple.  Bromelain helps digest protein and is one of the reasons why pineapple is often used to tenderize meat before cooking. 

For centuries bromelain was used in Central and South America to treat indigestion and reduce inflammation.  The enzyme is highly concentrated in the stem but in lower amounts within the actual fruit that is eaten. It was first isolated from the pineapple plant in the late 1800’s. This enzyme has been studied and has been found to possibly aid in reducing inflammation and decrease joint pain and arthritis.  It may also help with healing of wounds, and may minimize the severity of angina or chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart. Bromelain found in pineapple has also been used to reduce swelling related to ear, nose, and throat surgeries or trauma.

Because of the enzyme bromelain, there are some possible interactions with medications if a person consumes pineapple.  Anyone using an antibiotic should probably refrain from eating pineapple since bromelain may increase the amount of antibiotic absorbed by the body.  Anyone using a blood thinner should also avoid eating pineapple as bromelain may affect the blood’s ability to clot, raising the risk of bleeding.  In addition, bromelain may make sedative drugs stronger such as anti-seizure medications, barbiturates, or drugs used to treat insomnia such as Ambien. 

Selecting and storing pineapple

When selecting a pineapple, know that they are picked when ripe and do not ripen after being harvested.  Select pineapples that look fresh with a firm, plump body with green leaves.  Avoid fruit that looks old, bruised, dry, or has soft spots or brown leaves. 

Pineapple should be stored in the refrigerator and used within 2 to 4 days.  Cut pineapple should always be kept chilled and eaten within two days.