Pineapples are a tropical fruiting plant that is indigenous to South America and may have originated centuries ago between Brazil and Paraguay, although the exact origin of pineapple is unknown to this day.
Explorers from Southern Brazil and Paraguay spread the pineapple throughout South America, and it eventually made its way to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America. At this point, it was cultivated by Aztecs and Mayans. It’s believed that Christopher Columbus first encountered pineapple in 1493 on the island of Guadeloupe and returned with it to Spain. The Spanish, in turn, introduced it to the Philippines, Hawaii, Zimbabwe, and Guam. In fact, Hawaii first met the pineapple in the 1500s.
Because it was so incredibly expensive to import and to grow, requiring a temperate, tropical climate, the pineapple became a symbol of wealth. Wealthy Europeans would grow the pineapples in hothouses called “pineries.” They would often use them as decoration, placing them on dinner tables, rather than eating them.
In the early 1900s the Dole family began harvesting pineapples on Hawaii. Once synonymous with pineapple in the United States, the Dole and Del Monte labels both became significant players in the growth and distribution of pineapples throughout much of the 20th century, until both companies sold off most of their land and their companies. Today Del Monte only contributes to about .1% of the pineapples in the world. Dole continues to grow pineapples, but the farm is more of a tourist attraction these days than a major contributor to the pineapple industry.
Costa Rica, Brazil, and the Philippines produce nearly one-third of the world’s pineapples.
Pineapple Health Benefits
Pineapple contains more vitamin C than many other favorite fruits, including oranges! Vitamin C has been linked to many significant health benefits ranging from supporting the immune system, to promoting eye health, to reducing inflammation. Pineapple is also high in manganese and bromelain. Manganese has been shown to help protect bone health and bromelain has a reputation for blood clot reduction.
Here are some of pineapple’s health benefits broken down.
Pineapple and a Healthy Immune System
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that is known to fight cell damage. According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, “Even in small amounts vitamin C can protect indispensable molecules in the body, such as proteins, lipids (fats), carbohydrates… from damage by free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that are generated during normal metabolism, by active immune cells, and through exposure to toxins and pollutants.”
If you’re feeling overworked, stressed, not getting enough sleep, or any combination of these stressors, your immune system may be overloaded and overextended. Introducing pineapple into your routine can help boost your body’s natural ability to fight off infection. Just one serving of pineapple contains the entire recommended daily value of vitamin C, making it a powerhouse fruit to include in your diet when you are particularly susceptible to catching a cold.
Pineapple and Digestion
Pineapple is rich in dietary fiber, thus keeping your digestion and digestive issues in check. As mentioned above, pineapple also contains a significant amount of bromelain, which is a natural meat tenderizer (and yes, pineapple juice as a meat tenderizer is a remarkable natural option to break down your dinner steak). Within the digestive process, it helps to break down protein further so it is easier to digest and process through the body.
Pineapple Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
The bromelain that aids in digestion is also known to reduce severe inflammation and to treat conditions such as osteoarthritis. Bromelain has also been shown to a reduce tumor growth. While there is no clinical evidence as of yet to indicate that the introduction of bromelain from pineapples can reduce tumor growth in humans, there are promising results from various animal tests that show a reduction of inflammation and, as a corresponding result, a reduction in cancer cell growth.
Pineapple is also a natural diuretic that can reduce swelling during pregnancy or other water-retaining conditions, which can, in turn, help flush the system of inflammation.
Strong Bones from Pineapple
Pineapple contains 75% of the recommended daily value of manganese, which is essential for developing the connective tissue between bones. Even better, manganese has been shown to prevent osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Manganese may be able to help you maintain your bone health for years to come, and pineapple is an entirely fresh source of the mineral.
Pineapples and Eye Health
As people age, the risk of macular degeneration, irreversible deterioration of the center of the retina (the macula), grows. Macular degeneration can be dangerous and impact vision. Often a first symptom is blurred vision, and while some evidence suggests that laser surgery or pharmaceuticals can restore vision in some patients, it’s not a sure thing. The vitamin C and the corresponding antioxidants in pineapple, once again, play a significant role in reducing the potential for this deterioration.
Pineapples and Blood Clot Risk Reduction
Pineapple is the only natural food source of bromelain. Bromelain can also control and regulate coagulation levels in the blood, making pineapples an excellent option for frequent fliers or for those who are at risk for blood clots. It’s possible, (although not recommended) that with the guidance of a medical professional, you could limit the need to take blood-clotting medicine, which can present additional undesirable side effects, through regular ingestion of pineapple into your diet.
Pineapple Juice Benefits
There are a sizeable amount of health benefits found in pineapple that you can still get by drinking pineapple juice. Here are just a few of them:
- Arthritis aid and natural reduction of swelling
- Indigestion and inflammation kicker
- Pain relief for menstrual disorders
- Macular degeneration prevention
- Clears skin when used as a toner applied topically
- As an aphrodisiac and as a natural remedy for impotence
A Warning About Pineapple
Any fruit consumed in a high quantity runs the risk of inducing diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or heartburn. Bromelain has also been shown to produce skin rashes, vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive menstrual bleeding if consumed in high quantities.
Because of the natural meat-tenderizing component of bromelain, consuming too much pineapple can present a tenderness of the mouth in the lips, tongue, and cheeks. It should resolve in a few hours, but if you are experiencing a rash or difficulty breathing, seek immediate help, as you may have a pineapple allergy.
Additionally, consuming unripe pineapple or drinking unripe pineapple juice can be toxic to humans and can lead to severe diarrhea and vomiting.
Canned pineapple has a very different nutritional profile due to the higher sugar content and process of canning. If you do opt for canned pineapple, try to find it with no added sugar or look for a variety that is canned in fruit juice instead of syrup.
Pineapple Coconut Smoothie
Pineapple is delicious chopped and eaten fresh as a dessert. It’s also relatively easy to find frozen when it is out of season (typically in the fall/winter). You can mix pineapple into smoothies, bake pies with it, add it to your breakfast oatmeal, or your veggie fried rice for dinner (and a nice sweet/savory flavor profile).
Check out this delicious and refreshing pineapple smoothie recipe. Toss in a scoop of VeggieShake to up the nutritional impact, and you’re on your way to preventing several health issues and starting your day with a natural jolt of nutrition.
Servings: 2 to 4
Ready In: 5 minutes
- 3 cups freshly chopped pineapple (or frozen chunks if you don’t have fresh)
- 1 1/4 cups coconut yogurt
- 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1/2 cup ice (not required if using frozen pineapple)
- Add all ingredients to a blender.
- Blend and serve immediately.
- Can be saved for up to 24 hours in your refrigerator.
Pineapple: boosts heart health and immunity and protects against inflammation and disease.
Coconut yogurt: a great way to feed your gut probiotics, which balance out the microflora in the gut and keep bad bacteria in check.
Orange juice: is packed with immune-boosting vitamins A and C to help shorten the duration of a cold.