Wouldn’t you agree that the pineapple has an intimidating je ne sais quoi about it? I mean, you’d never guess that the fruit’s flesh is luxuriously sweet-sour by just looking at its weird rough, tough and scaly skin! And cutting the spiky bugger properly (without wasting a lot of the flesh) is a work of art. Plus have you ever seen a pineapple plant? Baby pineapples look like they’re growing on top of a giant, buried pineapple… But what I find the most amazing about this fruit is all of its amazing health properties and how it gives a big bang of flavor to dishes. In this article, you’ll discover why the pineapple can do so much more than simply act as a lovely garnish for your tropical cocktails. I’ll also bust a few myths regarding how to select the perfect pineapple.
6 awesome facts about the pineapple you probably didn’t know
Call me a nerd, but history and facts fascinate me! Keep reading to find out what I mean – don’t worry; you’re not about to go through a tedious history lesson.
1. Contrary to popular belief, the pineapple does not originate from Hawaii – there are reports that Christopher Columbus discovered this fruit in 1493 on the island of Guadeloupe.
2. The word ‘pineapple’ in the English language was originally used to describe pine cones.
3. The pineapple is called ananas in French – this comes from the word nanas which meant ‘excellent fruit’ in the now extinct Tupi language spoken by the indigenous people of Brazil.
4. Before it became widely available, the pineapple was considered as a fruit of status – since it was not grown in Europe before the 1600s, only the elites and members of the nobility had access to the fruit.
5. The pineapple plant bears flowers with breathtaking hues ranging from lavender to bright red. But what’s most astonishing is that the flowers produce fruitlets that combine around the pineapple’s core. So, the pineapple fruit is, in fact, a collection of several fruitlets fused together.
6. Pineapples take two to three years to reach maturation!
Fun fact: If you plant the crown of the pineapple in soil, you can have your own pineapple plant. But you won’t get any giant pineapple growing underneath it… Disappointed? I feel you – I waited in vain for the giant pineapple when I was five …
Not-so-fun fact: Conventionally grown ones tend to be loaded with pesticides; about 20kg of active ingredient per hectare per cycle to be precise. So, if possible, go for organic pineapples.
Scientifically proven health benefits of the pineapple
1. Terrific source of vitamin C
One cup of pineapple chunks (165g) contains a whopping 78.9mg of the immune boosting vitamin C! The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is as follows:
- Women aged 19 and above: 75mg/day
- Pregnant women: 85mg/day
- Lactating women: 120mg/day
- Men aged 19 and above: 90mg/day
- Smokers require 35mg/day more vitamin C than non-smokers
Besides offering protection against the common cold, vitamin C is also involved in:
- The production of collagen, the structural protein found in the skin, muscles, hair and bones where it acts as a scaffolding that provides strength and structure. As we age, the body’s production of collagen naturally begins to decline, paving the way for sagging skin, wrinkles and joint pain due to weakening cartilage.
- Wound healing and repair of sunburnt, dried or irritated skin.
- The synthesis of certain neurotransmitters.
- The absorption of iron, especially non-heme iron found in plant-based foods.
Did you know? The body’s requirements for vitamin C increases when you are stressed out or if you suffer from HPA-axis dysfunction.
2. Excellent source of various nutrients
The pineapple is also naturally rich in:
1. Bromelain – Researchers began extracting and studying bromelain, a mixture of two protein-digesting enzymes in the 1890s. Since then, over 1600 studies describing the medicinal properties of bromelain have been published! These have been smmarized below.
One common misconception is that the flesh of the pineapple is rich in bromelain, but that’s not entirely accurate. You see, the flesh contains only a small amount of bromelain which is found mostly in the stem and core.
2. Manganese – As a component of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD), which helps fight free radicals, this trace mineral can contribute to strengthening the body’s antioxidant defense system. Manganese is also necessary for healthy brain and nerve function.
3. Potassium – This multi-tasking, electricity conducting mineral is crucial to heart function as well as skeletal and muscle contraction. In fact, dietary potassium has been found to improve blood pressure in those who are potassium deficient while also offering protection against ischemic strokes and heart disease. Potassium is also involved in preserving bone mineral density.
4. Thiamin – Also known as vitamin B1, thiamin assists the body in converting the carbohydrates you eat into glucose for energy. As all B-vitamins, thiamin is necessary for optimal brain and nervous system function. In fact, a thiamin deficiency can cause depression, irritability, fatigue, and headaches.
5. Tryptophan – Our body needs this amino acid to produce sufficient amounts of serotonin, also known as the ‘feel-good’ hormone.
3. Rich in insoluble fiber
You’ve probably guessed it: insoluble fibers are those that remain practically unchanged when exposed to water. According to research, insoluble fibers act as a sponge in the intestines – they bind with water, adding bulk to the stool. This facilitates intestinal transit and can help improve constipation. By improving gut health, insoluble fibers can also ameliorate your skin’s health.
Research also shows that insoluble fiber:
- Increases satiety.
- Reduces risks of colon cancer by maintaining an optimal pH in the intestines thereby speeding up the removal of toxins from the body.
4. Improves digestion
Ever heard of using pineapple slices to tenderize meat? That’s not just another old wives’ tale. As mentioned earlier, the pineapple is rich in bromelain, a proteolytic enzyme that can break the peptide bonds that hold amino acids together. Once bromelain breaks these bonds, the meat tissue starts losing its firmness – in other words, the meat becomes tender.
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