Let’s talk about pineapple. It’s an odd looking fruit. Its name doesn’t make sense (it has no direct connection to apples or pine). Historically it’s a symbol of hospitality. But most importantly – it’s a sweet, tropical fruit with many health benefits and culinary applications.
Nutrition and Health Benefits
1 Cup, Chunks provides:
- 82 Calories
- 2.3 grams Fiber
- > 100% DRI Vitamin C
As covered in recent posts, vitamin C is an important antioxidant. Need a quick recap? Here are some of vitamin C’s roles:
- Protect and repair cells from free radical damage
- Aid in wound healing
- Promote healthy gums
- Boost immune system
- Aid in skin care and protection
Pineapple is also a source of bromelain. Bromelain is a general name for proteolytic enzymes obtained from the stem and fruit of the pineapple. It has been used for medicinal purposes for years. Such applications include:
- Reducing inflammation caused by infection or injury
- Reducing symptoms associated with sinusitis
- Relieving digestive problems
- Fighting bacterial and viral infections
- Reducing arthritis pain
While these are possible applications of the enzyme, it is important to note that there is no conclusive evidence as to its effectiveness. Also, while it is found in pineapple, the fruit does not contain high enough amounts to be used for medicinal purposes. Bromelain supplements can be purchased, but as with any supplement or medication, you should always check with your primary care physician before consuming.
Choosing, Storing, and Preparing Pineapple
Choose pineapples that are fragrant, feel heavy for their size, and have dark green leaves. Avoid fruits that have soft spots or leaves that appear dry. While you don’t want a pineapple that is past its prime, you also don’t want one that is unripe. Unripe pineapples are inedible and may cause severe throat irritation, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Pineapples are often purchased canned. While they retain their nutrients, it is important to use caution when choosing canned fruit, since calorie counts can vary greatly. The guidelines for canned peaches also apply to canned pineapple.
Pineapples can be left at room temperature for 1-2 days. They do not become sweeter once harvested, but they will soften and increase in juice content. If two days pass and you have still not eaten the fruit, store it in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. Once cut, it should be kept in the refrigerator. Unlike some fruits, pineapples do not freeze well, as the process creates an undesirable flavor.
Unsure how to cut a pineapple? Watch this video from EatRight.org. Make sure to keep the stem; it makes a great centerpiece for a fruit tray.
- Cut it into chucks or rings, and enjoy!
- Grill or broil it – The heat will caramelize the natural sugars, enhancing its sweetness
- Dice it and add it to a sweet or spicy salsa. Pineapple pairs great with seafood
- Make a refreshing smoothie. Pineapple tastes sweeter than other fruits making it a great addition for green smoothies. Try Heather’s popular Fruit and Greens smoothie
- Make your own Hawaiian pizza. Top whole-wheat crust with tomato sauce, low-fat cheese, diced pineapple, and low-sodium ham
- In the mood to bake? Make a pineapple upside down cake. Try using half whole-wheat flour
- Use pineapple juice in a marinade. It will add flavor and (thanks to the bromelain) help to tenderize the meat
- Add pineapple to low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese. Add it right before eating – The protein-digesting bromelain may affect the flavor and consistency if left on too long