The pineapple is a yellow and juicy fruit with a unique flavor that combines sweetness with a distinct tart taste. In India, it is known as the Ananas (from the name of its biological source) and the Sanskrit word for this is Bahunetra phalam – a reference to the many “eyes” or thorny areas visible on the pineapple’s surface.
Although people all over the world eat it as a fruit, medical research is now proving the several health benefits of pineapple. Botanically, pineapple is a combination of several flowers that give rise to small fruitlets, joined together and arranged to envelop a core in the center. The biological source of pineapple is Ananas comosus from the family Bromeliaceae.
Ayurveda on Pineapple
In the Ayurvedic system of medicine, pineapple is recommended for the treatment of conditions such as digestive disorders, pneumonia and bronchitis, kidney stones and infections and worm infestations.
Why is Pineapple great for health?
Pineapple is a good source of dietary fiber and contains the enzyme called bromelain. This bromelain is a combination of several different components, with the cysteine proteinase enzymes being one of the most important because they help with the process of protein digestion.
Besides bromelain, pineapple is rich in thiamine (vitamin B1), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), folic acid and vitamin C. Minerals such as manganese and copper are the other components that contribute to the health benefits of pineapple. Infact Pineapple is one of the best source of vitamin C (1 cup has as much as 1.3 times of Vitamin C required on a daily basis by body!) and manganese among all fruits.
Pineapple Health Benefits
Most of the health benefits of pineapple are attributed to the bromelain enzyme which can be extracted from the fruit. However, recent studies prove that there is more to pineapple than just bromelain.
Digestive Benefits : Pineapple was an important curative for digestive problems in the indigenous systems of medicine practiced by the natives of South and Central America. This property is a result of the protein hydrolyzing property of the bromelain that aids in digestion of foods that are protein-rich. Bromelain extracted from the pineapple is a popular dietary supplement used by many people who suffer from indigestion.
Benefits against Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract : One of the well-researched health benefits of pineapple is its value in treating conditions such as Crohn’s disease; inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and ulcerative colitis. These ailments are caused due to an inflammation of the structures of the gastrointestinal tract with substances called chemokines and cytokines acing as the mediators. Biopsy samples from patients with colon cancer were treated in the laboratory with bromelain and the results show that it reduces the production of these inflammation mediators, although the exact mechanism by which it does this is not yet understood.
Antioxidant Benefits : Free radicals generated during the biochemical reactions in the body have wide-ranging deleterious effects on several body systems. Pineapple has a superior antioxidant action against such free radicals because of its rich content of vitamin C that has antioxidant properties. These health benefits of pineapple are most useful for people with heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. Some of pineapple’s antioxidant action is also due to the manganese ion, thiamine and pyridoxine which play an important role as cofactors for the several enzymes involved in reactions to prevent the harmful effects of free radicals.
Immunity-boosting Benefits : Another of the health benefits of pineapple is that it helps people resist infections that arise due to a weakness of the body’s immune systems. Conditions such as flu, ear infection and the common cold respond well to vitamin C and pineapple being a rich source of this vitamin, helps to build the body’s resistance to infections. Some studies have also found that bromelain has the ability to reduce the inflammatory and allergic responses of hay fever.
Benefits in Arthritis : Bromelain has been investigated for its action on osteoarthritis and although there is no conclusive evidence yet, one study found that it has an action equivalent to that of painkillers generally used for arthritis.
Benefits in Cancer : Bromelain has shown antitumor activity in animal studies and has also been found effective in preventing the spread of cancer cells from the tissue of origin to other organs.
How to Select and Store
When buying pineapples, choose ones that are firm, smell fresh and feel heavy irrespective of whether they are small or large. Fruits in which the “eyes” are dark in color are likely to be past their prime and may not provide all the health benefits of pineapple. If you do intend consuming the fruit after about four days, wrap it in plastic and store in the refrigerator to avoid spoilage. Use an airtight container if you wish to store the cut fruit and keep this in the refrigerator but not in the freezer because this causes a change in its flavor.
Pineapple in your daily life
Pineapple can be served in many delicious ways – be it juice, fruit salad, dressing, etc. Lot of innovative and exciting recipes can be made using pineapple – Mango-Pineapple Chutney, Caribbean Fruity Salsa, Crazy Fruit Smoothie etc.
Of course one of the best ways to have this fruit is eat as fruit salad or delicious juice!
When not to use pineapple
The bromelain in pineapple can interfere with the way your body responds to medications such as antibiotics, sedatives and blood thinners. Therefore, it is best to consult your physician about such interactions before you take pineapple.
Pineapple juice can be very tasty but the process of juicing destroys the fibers and therefore, it is best to consume this as the entire fruit cut into pieces to make the most of the health benefits of pineapple.
Pineapple is one of the tastiest fruit one can have, not only taste, the fruit is full of nutrients with great health benefits. Include this tasty fruit in your diet to stay healthy!