Pineapple, a delicious tropical fruit, has been celebrated for centuries not only for its unique taste but also for its miraculous health benefits. The health and medicinal benefits of pineapple include boosting the immune system, respiratory health, aiding digestion, strengthening bones, reducing inflammation, curing coughs and colds, and weight loss.
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What is Pineapple?
Pineapple, also known as ananas, is a delicious tropical fruit that is surrounded by thorny spikes and topped with hard, waxy leaves that are sometimes up to thirty per fruit. The fruit is up to a foot long and has a combination of sweet and tart taste.
Pineapple belongs to the Bromeliaceae family and is actually a composite fruit made of coalesced berries that grow at the crown of a fruiting tree. The name pineapple evolved in the 17th century due to its structure and appearance being similar to pine cones.
Historically, Hawaii had the largest production of pineapples, but they are now cultivated in large quantities in Brazil, the Philippines, and Costa Rica. That being said, the fruit is native to Paraguay and Brazil, and possibly parts of the Caribbean. The exact evolution of pineapple as a popular global fruit is still unknown; however, it is believed that pineapple was first brought to Europe following Christopher Columbus’s return there in 1493.
The fruiting season of pineapple runs from March until June, and each tree can produce a number of fruits. It is eaten fresh, juiced, cooked, and preserved, and its leaves are even used as wallpaper and ceiling insulation. Pineapple and its juice are enjoyed around the world, even as a popular flavor in alcoholic beverages, the most famous of which is the tropical drink, pina colada!
Nutritional Value of Pineapple
Pineapple is a storehouse of several health benefits due to its wealth of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, including potassium, copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, beta-carotene, thiamin, vitamin B6, and folate, as well as soluble and insoluble fiber, and bromelain.
Health Benefits of Pineapple
The pineapple fruit is known to offer several benefits. Let us discuss each benefit in detail below.
One of the most celebrated uses of pineapple in terms of health is its ability to reduce the inflammation of joints and muscles, particularly those associated with arthritis, a debilitating disease that affects millions of people around the world. Pineapple contains a relatively rare proteolytic enzyme called bromelain, which is primarily associated with breaking down of complex proteins and has serious anti-inflammatory effects. Bromelain is also positively correlated with reducing the signs and symptoms of arthritis in many.
A single serving of pineapple has more than 130% of the daily requirement of vitamin C for human beings, making it one of the richest and most delicious sources of ascorbic acid. Vitamin C helps in reducing illnesses and boosting the immune system by stimulating the activity of white blood cells and acting as an antioxidant to defend against the harmful effects of free radicals. Free radicals are dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism that can damage various organ systems and disrupt function, as well as cause healthy cells to mutate into cancerous ones. The vitamin C content of pineapple defends against this.
Speeds-up Wound Healing
One of the commonly overlooked benefits of vitamin C is its essential role in creating collagen. This is partly the reason why it is seen as a healing vitamin because collagen is the essential protein base of blood vessel walls, skin, organs, and bones. High vitamin C content in pineapple helps you heal wounds and injuries quickly, along with defending your body against infections and illnesses.
Pineapple has been directly related to preventing cancers of the mouth, throat, and breast, as it is rich in various antioxidants, including vitamin A, beta carotene, bromelain, various flavonoid compounds, and high levels of manganese. Manganese is an important cofactor of superoxide dismutase, an extremely potent free radical scavenger that has been associated with a number of different cancers.
Eating pineapple regularly can protect you from a vast amount of health conditions, including constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, atherosclerosis, and blood clotting, as well as high blood pressure. Pineapple, rich in fiber, promotes the passage of food through the digestive tract at a normal rate and stimulates the release of gastric and digestive juices to help food dissolve. It also bulks up the loose stool, which helps in treating diarrhea and IBS. Furthermore, bromelain in pineapple stimulates protein digestion, reduces gut inflammation, and therefore, treats digestive diseases.
Treats Cough and Cold
Pineapple is rich in both bromelain and vitamin C, therefore eating pineapple helps in preventing and treating respiratory illnesses, and eliminating phlegm and mucus from your body if you’ve already contracted an illness or infection. The immune system boosting property of vitamin C is well known, but that special enzyme, bromelain, is also connected with the reduction of phlegm and mucus build up in the respiratory tracts and sinus cavities.
Improves Bone Health
Although pineapple is not famous for having strong calcium content, which most people immediately associate with bone health, it does have an impressive amount of manganese. Manganese is another trace mineral essential for the strengthening of bones, as well as its growth and repair. It is the most prominent mineral in pineapple, and a single serving can provide you with more than 70% of your daily requirement of this mineral.
Improves Oral Health
Along with the antioxidant compounds that protect against oral cancer, pineapple also has astringent properties, which strengthen gums and teeth. Astringent agents help to tighten up tissues and tone the body so that tooth loss, hair loss, and muscle weakness or skin loosening do not occur. Pineapple is a very powerful astringent and is often prescribed as a natural remedy to fix the loosening of teeth or for the retraction of gums.
The eye is the most important sensory organ of the human body and pineapple has the ability to improve eye health and prevent other age-related eye diseases. Macular degeneration affects many elderly people, and beta-carotene present in pineapple can help delay this vision problem.
Regulates Blood Pressure
Pineapple is a valuable source of many minerals, and potassium is among them. Potassium deficiency can result in a wide array of health hazards. The vasodilator action of potassium eases the tension and stress of the blood vessels and increases blood circulation to various parts of the body. When your blood vessels relax, the blood pressure is reduced and the flow of blood is less restricted. This can prevent clots from blocking the flow of blood and reduce the accumulation of plaque in the arteries and vessels which, in turn, help prevent conditions like atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. So, eat pineapples for a healthy heart!
Improves Blood Circulation
In a related benefit to the vasodilating potential of potassium, pineapple also provides the body with copper, another essential mineral that functions in a number of enzymatic reactions and compounds in the body. Most notably, copper is a necessary element for the formation of healthy red blood cells. High red blood cell count increases oxygenation to the various organ systems and makes them function at optimal levels. It also increases cognitive abilities and can maintain neural pathways to prevent neural disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Word of Caution
The benefits of eating pineapple are clear from the impressive list of qualities that you just read, but any food or fruit should be eaten in moderation, including pineapple. The bromelain enzyme present in pineapple is primarily a meat-tenderizing enzyme, which helps in the digestion of tough foods. This can result in the softening or tenderness of your ‘meat’ as well, meaning that your lips, gums, and tongue may experience some tenderness or sensitivity if you eat too much pineapple. Bromelain and vitamin C are present in high proportions in pineapple, and an “overdose” can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and nausea. Also, bromelain has been known to stimulate menstruation, so pregnant women should avoid excessive intake of pineapple in order to prevent any chances of a miscarriage.
Keeping the health concerns in mind, grab one of these spiky tropical fruits and dig in. Your body will thank you for it!