Pineapples: A Boon to Your Health

Even with its famously tough and spiky exterior, pineapple is one of the most popular and beloved fruits in the world. It is estimated that the world produces nearly 28 million metric tons of pineapple each year. Once found only in South America, it is now produced by over 80 countries and is widely available in many other places as well. Beyond being a versatile tropical fruit with a tasty flavor, however, the pineapple is also an excellent source of nutrients and a healthy part of any diet.  

What to Know About Pineapples     

The pineapple is a tropical plant (Ananas comosus) in the Bromeliaceae family that originated in what is now Paraguay and southern Brazil. Little is known about how long the plant has been domesticated, but archaeological evidence indicates that the edible pineapple fruit was cultivated by Mayan and Aztec cultures as early as 1200 BCE. It was then introduced to the rest of the world by Christopher Columbus and others in the late 15th century. It has now become an important ingredient in various types of cuisine around the world. 

Pineapple plants are herbaceous perennials that typically grow to be about 3-4 feet in height, and they have around 30-40 long, succulent leaves that spiral around a central stem. Each plant has only one flower stalk with a cluster of flowers that produce a multi-fruit, which is what gives the pineapple its unique look. On pineapple farms, it typically takes two to three years for the plant to complete its growth cycle. Much of the harvest is sold as fresh produce, but it can also be processed into a juice concentrate and used in commercial settings for products like cocktail mixes, beverages, and hard seltzers.     

Health Benefits of Pineapple   

The pineapple may be known and beloved for its unique tangy flavor, but it also happens to be a low calorie way to get a lot of nutritional value. One cup of pineapple chunks has about 80 calories, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 0.2 grams of fat, and 0.9 grams of protein; it also contains 2.3 grams of dietary fiber, which is 9% of the daily recommended value. Pineapple also contains numerous vitamins and minerals that bring many health benefits: 

  • Vitamins: Pineapple is an excellent source of vitamin C, and the same one cup serving has 130% of the recommended daily value. It is also a good source of other vitamins like folate, thiamin, vitamin A, and vitamin B6. 
  • Minerals: With over 75% of the recommended daily value, pineapple is also a good source of manganese. It also contains copper, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron.  
  • Immune system: Some studies have shown a link between eating pineapple and a lower risk of getting a bacterial or viral infection. This is thought to be, at least in part, due to the effect vitamin C has on the production of white blood cells, one of the body’s main defenses against pathogens.
  • Antioxidants: The various chemical processes in the body sometimes create free radicals, molecules with unpaired electrons that can cause cell damage. To prevent this, the body synthesizes some antioxidants that can protect against free radicals, but it also needs some from food. Pineapple provides antioxidants in the form of phenolic compounds called flavonoids.   
  • Inflammation: One of the historic uses of pineapple in Central and South America was to treat inflammation, and it is still used for that today. Pineapple’s anti-inflammatory properties are thought to come from bromelain, a proteolytic enzyme that is only found in the fruit and stem of the pineapple plant. While fresh pineapple contains some bromelain, it can also be extracted from the stem and made into bromelain supplements.
  • Digestion: The bromelain in pineapple can also be beneficial for digestion. This is because, as a protease enzyme, bromelain breaks down protein; this makes it easier for food to be digested and absorbed. The effect on digestion may also be helpful for weight loss.  
  • Healing and pain relief: The anti-inflammatory effects of pineapple may promote healing after an injury or surgery, and there is also evidence that bromelain can act as an analgesic and provide some pain relief as well. In one study, for instance, bromelain supplements worked as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). 
  • Other conditions: More research is needed, but the nutrients in pineapple have also been linked to improvements in osteoarthritis symptoms (joint pain), weight loss, sinusitis, macular degeneration, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. Some research even indicates that bromelain may help break up blood clots and cholesterol plaque build-up in the arteries. 

Picking a Good Pineapple      

The pineapple is a unique fruit in many ways—indeed, it is the only plant in the Bromeliaceae that produces an edible fruit. But this uniqueness can make it hard to identify a good pineapple at the grocery store. Also, unlike most other fruits, a pineapple will not continue to ripen once it has been harvested; in other words, leaving it out for a few days won’t make a difference. Here are some tips for picking the right one: 

  • color: it should have a golden color (green is unripe, and orange is too ripe)
  • eyes: the eyes are the round knots on the outside of the fruit; larger eyes mean the fruit ripened longer on the tree
  • aroma: the bottom of a good pineapple will smell sweet and fresh 
  • firmness: the pineapple should give a little but not be too soft or too hard
  • leaves: the leaves on top should be fresh and green rather than dry and brown
  • weight: the heavier a pineapple is for its size, the more pineapple juice is inside  

Pineapple as an Ingredient

Fresh pineapple can be a great addition to fruit salads, baked goods, and even tacos, but it isn’t the only way to enjoy the flavor. When processed into a concentrate or a not-from-concentrate (NFC) juice, pineapple can be a delicious and nutritious element in countless beverages, mixes, and nutraceutical applications. Juice concentrates are also generally stable and easy to store and transport. 

At FruitSmart, we know that health is an important consideration for both you and your customers. That is why we offer juices, concentrates, and essences that are healthy and nutritious without artificial colors or added sugar. To learn more about products like pineapple juice concentrate, please contact us today! We are passionate about providing high quality ingredients so you can deliver the best products for your customers. 

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