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The health benefits of pineapple

What is pineapple?

Pineapple (Ananas comosus) is a tropical fruit known for its iconic shape – a sphere of sweet and juicy flesh surrounded by a tough, segmented skin, with a tuft of spiky green leaves on top. The fruit is actually a collection of flowers, each with its own eye which is fused around the central core, which takes a staggering three years to mature.

Nutritional benefits of pineapple

An 80g serving of fresh pineapple provides: 

  • 33Kcal / 141KJ
  • 0.3g Protein
  • 0.2g Fat
  • 8.1g Carbohydrate
  • 1.3g Fibre
  • 128mg Potassium
  • 10mg Vitamin C

Whether you choose fresh or canned pineapple, an 80g serving counts towards your five-a-day, but if you do opt for the canned variety, choose a product with no added sugar. A single glass (150ml) of unsweetened pineapple juice also counts, but be aware that this is high in sugars and can be damaging to teeth.

Pineapple and pink grapefruit salad slices on a plate with cutlery

Top 5 health benefits of pineapple

1. May aid digestion

Being a rich source of fibre, fruit like pineapple may help support a healthy digestive system. Furthermore, the enzymes in pineapple, known as bromelain breaks down proteins into their smaller building blocks of amino acids and peptides, and is active in both the acid environment of the stomach and the alkaline conditions of the small intestine. This makes it an extremely useful digestive aid for those who don’t digest their food properly, especially for those with pancreatic insufficiency, a condition in which the pancreas fails to produce enough digestive enzymes. 

Although research into the anti-inflammatory effect of bromelain on alleviating the symptoms of inflammatory bowel conditions, such as ulcerative colitis looks promising, more evidence is needed before this benefit can be proven in humans. 

2. May promote healing after injury

A number of studies suggest that bromelain helps reduce inflammation, swelling and bruising after injury or surgery. It can even be useful if taken before dental surgery, when it appears to help reduce pain and provide as much relief as anti-inflammatory medication. 

In vitro research (conducted in a test tube) has also demonstrated bromelain’s value in wound healing. 

3. May help relieve the symptoms of arthritis

Numerous studies, dating back as far as the 1960s have demonstrated how useful bromelain can be in the relief of the inflammatory pain associated with arthritis. It appears to have this analgesic action through a direct influence on the chemical mediators that are involved in our perception of pain. 

4. May support immunity

A nine-week study of school children who ate either a moderate amount of canned pineapple (140g) or a large amount (280g) every day, had a significantly lower risk of catching a viral or bacterial infection than those who ate none. In addition to this, those who ate the higher amount had four times the number of infection-fighting white immune cells. 

The anti-inflammatory properties of bromelain also appear to be valuable in helping modulate the immune system, and may be especially valid for those with auto-immune conditions. 

5. May support the cardiovascular system

Once again, it is bromelain that appears to have value to the heart and circulatory system through its action on preventing or minimising the severity of attacks of angina and transient ischaemic attack (TIA). It’s also thought that bromelain may break down the cholesterol plaques, responsible for hardening of the arteries which may lead to a condition called atherosclerosis. 

Animal studies suggest bromelain also influences blood clotting by inhibiting the production of a protein called fibrin which is involved in blood coagulation. 

Is pineapple safe for everyone?

Unless you experience an allergy to pineapple it is generally recognised as safe for most people when included as part of a healthy, balanced diet. However, eating or drinking large quantities may cause digestive upset. Avoid the unripe fruit as this can cause diarrhoea and throat irritation.

Speak to your GP or healthcare provider if you’re concerned about allergies or you have a relevant health condition. 

Reference: BBC Good Food

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