One of America's well-loved tropical fruits, the pineapple is unique for its fresh, tangy-sweet flavor and unusual appearance. The drought-tolerant plant grows 2 1/2 to 5 feet tall, and bears fruit with a tough, spiky exterior around 12 inches long. A pineapple fruit can weigh up to 1 to 2 kilograms (2 to 4 pounds).1 Both sweet and tart, the pineapple has a satisfying chewy texture.
Native to Paraguay and southern Brazil,2 pineapples were named after the Spanish word "piña," meaning "pinecone."3 Technically, it's not a whole fruit, but rather 100 to 200 fruitlets (also called "eyes") fused together. Cultivation found its way northward to still-warm regions via roaming Indians.4 The fruit became a favorite on ships as a hearty food source and as protection from scurvy.5 Today, the bulk of the world's pineapples come from Costa Rica, Brazil and the Philippines.6
Pineapple is great both on its own and for use in shish kebabs, fruit salads, stir fries and salsa, to name just a few recipes. Prepare it by chopping off the top and bottom, and then placing on a flat surface to slice off the rind, top to bottom, all around. Then, just slice the fruit into rings.
When choosing a pineapple, look for one with a yellowish exterior and a fragrant smell, as it's a better guarantee of the fruits' ripeness. Avoid fruits that smell musty or fermented.7 While some people think they need to eat their pineapple almost immediately for optimal benefit, a study showed that cut and refrigerated pineapples can keep for as long as nine days with only minor losses of phenolic phytonutrients.8
Health Benefits of Pineapple
Of all the vitamins and minerals in pineapple, vitamin C beats them all with 47.8 milligrams.9 Vitamin C has a reputation for helping to suppress coughs, colds and flu symptoms for good reason.10 As a natural antioxidant, vitamin C is also needed for synthesizing collagen,11 which is the main structural protein in the body for healthy blood vessels,12 skin13 and bone mineral density.14 If you want to get your vitamin C's worth from pineapples though, choose fresh ones over the canned variety, which is reduced to 9.4 milligrams.15
Pineapples also provide manganese, letting loose powerful free radical scavenging16 through the enzyme superoxide dismutase.17 What's more, they also contain folate, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and minerals like copper and potassium,18 the latter of which offers assistance for healthy heart rate regulation and helping keep blood pressure levels within the normal range.19 Vitamin A and beta-carotene provide additional antioxidants for immune system support20 and eyesight protection.21
An enzyme called bromelain is able to break protein down into simpler substances to provide phytonutrients such as amino acids and peptides needed for digestion.22 Research indicated that because of the bromelain, when eating pineapples, it discourages arthritis inflammation,23 indigestion,24 clotting, bruising and even cancer.25
However, remember to consume pineapples in moderation, as they contain fructose, which may be harmful to your health in excessive amounts.
Pineapple Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
|Calories from Fat
|Calcium 13 mg
Studies on Pineapple
Bromelain obtained from pineapple possesses powerful anticancer compounds. Numerous studies have been conducted, but one in particular showed that cancer cells exposed to bromelain exhibited delayed growth, began breaking down, and then died.26 In a breast cancer study, bromelain given to subjects in ever-increasing concentrations over a 24-hour period demonstrated ever-increasing cancer-minimizing effects.27
Another study explored the anti-inflammatory capabilities of bromelain found in pineapple extracts. Research showed significant anti-inflammatory activity in allergic airway disease. Scientists concluded that it might also be an effective treatment for asthma, whether brought on by genetic, allergic, infectious, environmental or dietary causes.28
How to Properly Cut Up a Pineapple
Slicing a whole pineapple can be an intimidating experience; Where do you begin, and how do you cut a pineapple easily (and safely)? Here's a simple technique from Good Housekeeping you can try:29
- Trim off the top using a sharp serrated knife or chef's knife. Watch out for the stiff, pointy leaves.
- Carefully trim the pineapple straight across the bottom — this will make it stand up straight.
- Holding the pineapple upright, its bottom resting on the chopping board, slice down the sides, cutting off not just the tough outer skin but also the inner spikes. Keep doing this all around the pineapple, making sure you're following the fruit's natural contour.
- Once all the skin has been removed, you can now slice the pineapple.
To make pineapple rings: cut the pineapple widthwise into slices. Afterward, use a cookie cutter to stamp out the inner core.
To make pineapple chunks: Slice the pineapple lengthwise around the core, according to the thickness you want. Cut each piece lengthwise one more time, and then finally dice crosswise (following the thickness you prefer) to create chunks.
While the above techniques work for people with little experience in the kitchen or who are unfamiliar with pineapples, there's one major drawback — you'll be trimming huge chunks of the flesh along with the skin, making them go to waste.
If you've got time to spare and you have pretty good knife skills, then you can use this method from Serious Eats instead:30
- Follow steps 1 and 2 of the previous technique, slicing the top and bottom off of the pineapple.
- Hold the pineapple upright, letting it stand on the chopping board, and then work your way around, taking off just enough of the outer layer so that not dark green or pale brown skin remains. Don't worry if the "eyes" are still there — they'll be removed later.
- You will see that the eyes make a distinct array of straight parallel lines that run diagonally. Carefully cut the eyes out through these lines. Start by placing the knife in the pineapple, along one of the lines at an angle that allows the knife to slide underneath. Avoid cutting too deep and removing too many of the eyes at a time.
- Slice diagonally along the opposite of the first cut, removing the eyes in one wedge. Repeat this, going along the whole pineapple and removing wedge-shaped rows.
- Once all the eyes have been removed, slice the pineapple as you wish and serve.
Pineapple Healthy Recipes:
Pineapple and Orange Salad With Toasted Coconut
✓ 2 cups orange sections (about 4 oranges)
✓ 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
✓ 4 sliced peeled kiwifruit
✓ 1 (4-pound) pineapple, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
✓ 1 teaspoon grated lime rind
✓ 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
✓ 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
✓ 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
✓ 1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut, toasted and divided
- Combine oranges, pomegranate, kiwifruit and pineapple in a medium bowl.
- In a separate bowl, mix the grated lime rind, lime juice, orange juice and red pepper in.
- Gently stir the lime mixture into the fruit mixture. Cover and chill.
- Just before serving, stir 1/4 cup coconut into pineapple mixture. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup coconut.
This recipe makes 8 servings.
(Recipe adapted from My Recipes31)
Pineapple Fun Facts
You can grow your own pineapple plant at home by twisting the crown off a store-bought pineapple, drying it for up to a week and then planting it.32 However, remember that they are slow-growing plants, and it can take up to two years for it to yield one fruit.33
Pineapples are good for you, no matter your age. Adults gain bone support, and children get what they need for bone development, which are just a few great benefits of this tropical fruit.
A series of fruitlets housed in a tough, scaly rind with a spray of green spikes at the top, pineapples contain well over a daily serving of vitamin C, which is a great infection fighter and collagen synthesizer. They also house manganese, containing the enzyme superoxide dismutase. The bromelain in pineapples is a unique enzyme with cancer-fighting capabilities that breaks down food so their nutrients can be used by the body.