The Sweet Health Benefits of Pineapple

A slice of pineapple is like a burst of sunshine. This tropical fruit’s happy yellow hue and juicy sweetness can’t help but bring a smile to our faces. I’d like to think that Christopher Columbus reacted in this way when he found them on the island of Guadeloupe in 1493.

Native to South America (particularly Paraguay and Brazil), pineapple counts as its largest producers today Brazil, Costa Rica, the Philippines and Hawaii. Along with the spread of pineapple cultivation came the broader enjoyment of its health benefits. Among them are aiding digestion, reducing inflammation and pain, and boosting the immune system.

Bromelain is a digestive enzyme found in the juice and stem of pineapple. This robust enzyme doesn’t break down in the digestive tract as most others do, enabling it to be absorbed into the bloodstream to do its work. As a natural digestive aid, bromelain can help with some of the common symptoms of celiac disease through its ability to prevent bloating and gas. 

As reported in Clinical Rheumatology, treatment with a bromelain-containing enzyme for three to four weeks is effective for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis. Following an extended study of 16 weeks, patients had reduced pain and stiffness, and improved function.

Pineapple is great for the immune system as it’s teeming with vitamin C, but fresh is better than canned. One cup of fresh pineapple contains nearly 100 percent of the U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance of vitamin C, which is reduced to 28 percent in canned.                  

You can easily incorporate pineapple into your daily diet. Starting with breakfast, top gluten-free oatmeal and cereal with pineapple chunks, spread crushed pineapple on gluten-free toast, or pop fresh or frozen pineapple chunks into your green breakfast smoothie. Make lunch a bright spot in your day by tossing diced pineapple onto a salad or into collard, Swiss chard and coconut flour wrap sandwiches. Charm your taste buds at dinnertime with pan-seared chicken or fish topped with pineapple chunks, sliced green onions and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Then wrap up the day with sweet-tart pineapple sorbet.

Choosing a fresh pineapple is a breeze! Look for one with a yellowish-orange lower third—it’s OK for the upper two-thirds to remain green—and no bruises. Here’s my tried and true tip, which I call the Goldilocks test: Pull on the innermost leaf of the crown—if it comes out with barely a tug, the pineapple is likely overripe; if it won’t budge, it’s unripe; if it comes out with a quick, gentle pull, this is the pineapple for you. Keep a less-than-ripe pineapple at room temperature until it’s ready to eat. Once placed in the refrigerator, pineapples will no longer ripen. 

The following recipes are refreshing, flavorful and fun to make. Enjoy!

1. Pineapple, Cucumber and Mint Cooler 

2. Shrimp Tacos with Pineapple-Mango Salsa

3. Pineapple-Apricot Granola over Honeyed Greek Yogurt

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