Who can resist the juicy, vibrant flavor of a sweet and tangy pineapple? Apparently, not many of us—this prickly plant often ranks as one of America’s most in-demand tropical fruits. But beneath its rough exterior, the pineapple is hiding more than just flavor. There are many health benefits to eating pineapple you might not have realized.
Pineapple, or Ananas comosus, contains two important enzymes—pancreatin and bromelain—that help break up protein molecules for easier digestion and absorption. These anti-inflammatory enzymes help reduce the level of circulating immune complexes (CICs), which occur in a number of autoimmune diseases. Rich in Vitamin C, pineapple also provides antioxidant protection and support for the immune system. So the next time your immune system needs a boost, consider upgrading from OJ to something a little more exotic!
Unlike other common fruits, you can’t exactly give a pineapple a quick squeeze to assess its ripeness (unless you want a prickly palm!). When it comes to figuring out which pineapple is the best in the bunch, look for one that has a sweet aroma at the stem end and is free of soft spots, bruises, or darkened “eyes.”
Size is no matter—there’s no difference in quality between a small or large pineapple, though of course the quantity of edible flesh it yields will be different. But I would recommend choosing one that feels heavy for its size; you often get more flavor from the heftier pineapples.
FYI: Pineapple season runs from March to June—although some markets may have them available throughout the year—so now’s the perfect time to enjoy the health benefits of a delicious pineapple. Cut the fruit within two days of purchasing; once cut, chilled pineapple will retain its nutrients for up to a week.
Raw pineapple is ideal to use in dishes such as relish, fruit salads, dressings, smoothies, and yogurt. You can also freeze pineapple chunks to toss into smoothies, fruit water, and ice pops to keep the taste of summer going a little while longer.
Heads up: Since cooking pineapple can destroy the enzyme action so important for the body, it’s best to eat fresh, raw pineapple; dehydrated pineapple (without added sugar or sulfites); or frozen pineapple. If you do choose to cook with pineapple, I’d recommend adding small chunks or medium-size slices toward the end of the cooking process. Even better, top warm food with chilled pineapple and enjoy the delicious contrast!
Be sure to check out the recipe below for the perfect side dish, a delectable pineapple relish.
When you want to add sweetness to an entree, put this pineapple relish at the top of your list. It’s perfect with fish tacos or to accompany any meat or vegan protein dish that’s got a lot of mojo for your tastebuds. Best of all, it’s incredibly easy to make—ideal for those hot summer days when cooking feels like a chore.
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh serrano chile, including seeds
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 tsp distilled white vinegar
Combine all ingredients and serve immediately. Store leftovers for up to three days.