I was sitting in my friend’s lush, tropical-style garden recently, admiring her beautiful collection of flowering bromeliads. These are very exotic looking plants with spiky leaves and red, pink or golden elongated flowers reaching out from the middle. They are native to the tropics of Central and South America and West Africa. In a colorfully glazed pot there was a miniature ornamental pineapple. I remembered that pineapples are also bromeliads and this got me thinking about how much I enjoy pineapple and the wonderful things pineapples do for your health.
Pineapples are second only to bananas as Americans’ favorite tropical fruit and for good reason. They have a wonderfully sweet-tart flavor and though in peak season from March through June, they are available in supermarkets year-round. An interesting fact about pineapple is that they are actually clusters of ‘fruitlets’ all attached to a fibrous core. Each fruitlet is marked by a spiny ‘eye’ on the skin of the pineapple. Also, if you have a sweet tooth, eat your piece of pineapple sliced from the base—that is where the sugars concentrate.
Pineapples are also a favorite age-defying FoodTrient. Here’s why:
- They are low in calories – A cup of diced fresh pineapple has about 80 calories and lots of important nutrients.
- They are rich in fiber – Containing 9% of the RDA of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber like pectin. Fiber helps with elimination and prevents the build-up of LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol in the body.
- They contain bromelain – This is an enzyme that helps to break down protein into simpler substances such as amino acids and peptides that aid digestion. Marinating meat in pineapple juice is an excellent tenderizer as well as adding delicious taste. The highest concentration of bromelain is in the stems of the pineapple, but it is present in the fruit as well. Concentrated bromelain is available in supplement form. Bromelain has anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting and cancer fighting properties as well. Some studies have indicated that eating pineapple regularly can help fight arthritis.
- They are loaded with vitamin C – A cup of fresh pineapple contains almost 70% of the RDA of vitamin C, which supports collagen synthesis in the body. Collagen is a protein the body uses for repairing and maintaining blood vessels, skin, organs, and bones. Vitamin C is great at fighting infections by boosting immunity. It also helps eliminate, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body. Nutritionally, there is not much difference between fresh pineapple and canned pineapple in juice except that canned loses about half its vitamin C.
- They provide vitamin A – The small but significant amount of vitamin A in pineapple provides nearly 8% of the daily allowance. It also provides a modest amount of beta carotene, which is known to have antioxidant properties. The body uses vitamin A to maintain healthy skin and it is essential for vision.
- They have B Vitamins and minerals – Pineapple contains 11% of the RDA for vitamins B1 and B6; 7% for folates; thiamin, pyridoxine and riboflavin. Pineapples are an excellent source for manganese (77% of RDA), which is a free radical scavenger; copper for red blood cell synthesis; and potassium, important for controlling heart rhythm and blood pressure.
Pineapple is so versatile! With summer on the horizon, I love to put it on the grill. It’s delicious with chicken, shrimp or fish. Try mint and lime juice sprinkled on fresh pineapple—it’s a light, wonderful dessert or snack. In my cookbook, FOODTRIENTS – Age-Defying Recipes for a Sustainable Life, there is a recipe for Papaya Salsa, but it’s just as delicious with fresh, juicy pineapple.
This refreshing relish will help boost your immune system and keep your skin young and elastic. Pineapple is rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A. It’s also high in potassium. Certain enzymes in pineapple aid digestion. Use this salsa on grilled meats and fish, such as Grilled Swordfish in Secret Marinade, and it’s also delicious as an appetizer with whole-grain chips.
YIELDS about 4 cups
2 cups cubed fresh pineapple
¼ cup seeded and chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup chopped red onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ tsp. seeded and chopped jalapeno pepper (optional)
2 Tbs. lime juice (about 1 lime)
2 Tbs. lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
Sea salt and ground pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon.