Pineapple is a tropical fruit available in any grocery store and a staple in many homes around the world. Christopher Columbus brought pineapples back to Europe after an expedition to South America. They became known as an extravagant and exotic fruit, served only at the most lavish of banquets.
However, nowadays there are plenty of ways to enjoy this juicy yellow fruit at home. You can grill slices and serve them with meat or as a tasty side, or you can toss frozen chunks into a smoothie. You can also, of course, snack on bite-sized pieces. No matter how you prefer to eat it, you’ll want to begin incorporating pineapple into your diet if you haven’t already. Here are a few reasons why:
Eating fruits and vegetables of all types has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions. Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like pineapples decreases the risk of obesity, overall mortality, diabetes, and heart disease.
It also promotes a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and an overall lower weight. The following are possible benefits of eating pineapple.
Age-related eye damage (macular degeneration)
In one prospective study from 2004, people who ate 3 or more servings per day of all fruits demonstrated a decreased risk and slowed progression of age-related macular degeneration.
The risks of developing asthma are lower in people who consume a high amount of certain nutrients. One of these nutrients is beta-carotene. It is found in orange, yellow and dark green plant foods, such as pineapple, mangoes, papaya, apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and carrots.
Some smaller studies have suggested bromelain can also contribute to reducing asthma symptoms.
Increasing potassium intake by consuming high potassium fruits and vegetables can help with lowering blood pressure. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), fewer than 2 percent of U.S. adults meet the daily 4,700-mg recommendation.
A high potassium intake is associated with a 20 percent decreased risk of dying from all causes.
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As an excellent source of vitamin C, a strong antioxidant, pineapples can help combat the formation of free radicals. These are linked to the development of cancer. Older studies have shown beta-carotene to have an inverse association with the development of colon cancer in a Japanese population.
A 2004 case-control study linked beta-carotene to a protective effect on prostate cancer. However, more recent studies have demonstrated that this may not be the case. High fiber intake from all fruits and vegetables is associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer.
Individuals with type 1 diabetes who consume high-fiber diets tend to have lower blood glucose levels, and individuals with type 2 diabetes may have improved blood sugar, lipids, and insulin levels.
One medium pineapple provides about 13 g of fiber. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 21 to 25 g per day for women and between 30 and 38 g per day for men.
Pineapples, because of their fiber and water content, help to prevent constipation and promote regularity and a healthy digestive tract.
Pineapples are also rich in bromelain, an enzyme that helps the body digest proteins. Bromelain also reduces inflammatory immune cells, called cytokines, that damage the digestive tract lining.
The inedible stems are the most concentrated source of bromelain, which can be extracted and is readily available in supplement form.
Antioxidant-rich diets have been shown to improve fertility. Because free radicals can damage the reproductive system, foods with high antioxidant activity like pineapples are recommended for those trying to conceive.
The antioxidants in pineapple, such as vitamin C and beta-carotene, and the vitamins and minerals copper, zinc, and folate have properties that affect both male and female fertility.
Healing and Inflammation
Some studies have shown that bromelain, primarily in the stem, can reduce swelling, bruising, healing time, and pain associated with injury and surgical intervention.
The fiber, potassium, and vitamin C content in pineapple all promote heart health.
In one study, people who consumed 4,069 mg of potassium per day reduced the risk of death from ischemic heart disease 49 percent when compared with those who consumed less potassium.
Researchers link high potassium intakes to a reduced risk of stroke, protection against loss of muscle mass, preservation of bone mineral density, and reduction in the formation of kidney stones.
The antioxidant vitamin C, when eaten in its natural form or applied topically, can help to fight skin damage caused by the sun and pollution, reduce wrinkles, and improve overall skin texture.
Vitamin C also plays a vital role in the formation of collagen, the support system of the skin.
Adding Pineapples to your Diet
Whole pineapples should be stored at room temperature, while cut pineapples should be stored in the refrigerator. When eating canned or packaged pineapple, make sure to pick up the varieties canned in pineapple juice, not heavy syrup.
Here are a few preparation tips for including more pineapple in the diet:
- Add pineapple to your favorite kebabs. Try shrimp, chicken, or steak kebabs with red onions, pineapple, and cherry tomatoes.
- Make a fruit salad with strawberries, pineapple, mandarin oranges, and grapes. Top with unsweetened shredded coconut for a fresh twist.
- Add some pineapple slices to your salad at lunch or dinner. Compliment the pineapple with walnuts or pecans, a crumbled cheese, and light balsamic or citrus vinaigrette dressing.
- Make your own juice. Nothing tastes better than fresh fruit juice in the morning. When you make your own, you can be sure there are no added preservatives or sweeteners.
- Make a fresh salsa with pineapple, mango, jalapeño, red peppers, and chipotle pepper and use as a topper for your favorite fish tacos.
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Beta-blockers, a type of medication most commonly prescribed for heart disease, can cause potassium levels to increase in the blood. High potassium foods should be consumed in moderation when taking beta-blockers.
Consuming too much potassium can be harmful to people whose kidneys are not fully functional. If your kidneys are unable to remove excess potassium from the blood, it could be fatal.
Those with gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) may experience an increase in symptoms, such as heartburn and regurgitation, when consuming highly acidic foods. However, individual reactions vary.
Focus on keeping the overall diet varied and adding a range of nutrients to the overall diet, rather than specific foods.