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Pineapple: Health Benefits, Risks & Nutrition Facts

pineapple
Pineapples grow on the central stalk of a large plant with swordlike leaves.
Credit: 9comeback / Shutterstock.com

Spiny on the outside, sweet on the inside, pineapples are one fantastic fruit. These tropical treats are a great way to get important dietary fiber, bromelain (an enzyme), manganese, copper and vitamin C. For all its sweetness, one cup of pineapple chunks contains only 82 calories. Pineapples are also fat- and cholesterol-free, and low in sodium. Not surprisingly, they do contain sugar, with 16 grams per cup.

Pineapples are members of the bromeliad family, and one of the few bromeliads to produce edible fruit. The fruit is actually made of many individual flowers whose fruitlets fuse together around a central core. Each pineapple scale is an individual fruitlet.

Pineapples’ nutritional benefits are as fascinating as their anatomy. The fruit’s wide-ranging benefits include immune system support, protein digestion and bone strength. It can even help relieve symptoms of the common cold. In addition to the vitamins and minerals listed above, pineapples also contain smaller amounts of B vitamins, calcium, zinc, vitamin A and beta-carotene.

The nutritional profile for canned pineapple is different from raw pineapple. Canned pineapple is much higher in calories (198 per cup) and sugars due to its syrup. It also contains fewer vitamins and minerals. If you do opt for canned pineapple, try to get it with no added sugar or look for a variety that is canned in fruit juice instead of syrup.

Here are the nutrition facts for pineapple, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates food labeling through the National Labeling and Education Act:

Nutrition Facts

Serving size:
2 slices, 3" diameter,
3/4" thick
(4 oz / 112 g)

Calories 50
  Calories from Fat 0

*Percent Daily Values (%DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Amt per Serving %DV*   Amt per Serving %DV*  
Total Fat 0g 0%   Total Carbohydrate 13g 4%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%     Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Sodium 10mg 0%      Sugars 10g  
Potassium 120mg 3%   Protein 1g  
Vitamin A 2%   Calcium 2%
Vitamin C 50%   Iron 2%

 

Health benefits

Immune system support

Nothing is more associated with immunity than vitamin C, and pineapple contains over 100 percent of the daily recommended value for women and 88 percent of it for men. Plus, vitamin C also functions as the body’s primary water-soluble antioxidant that fights against free radicals. This makes vitamin C a helpful fighter against problems like heart disease, atherosclerosis, and even joint pain.

Bone strength

Pineapple can help you keep standing tall and strong. The fruit contains nearly 75 percent of the daily recommended value of the mineral manganese, which is essential in developing strong bones and connective tissue. This makes pineapple an especially good option for older adults whose bones are becoming brittle with age.

Digestion

Like many other fruits and vegetables, pineapple contains dietary fiber, which is essential in keeping you regular. But unlike many other fruits and veggies, pineapple contains significant amounts of bromelain, an enzyme that breaks down protein, helping digestion.

Anti-Inflammatory benefits

Bromelain has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help with joint pain and swelling. Excessive inflammation is linked to a variety of ailments including cancer, and some nutritionists suggest that bromelain supplements may be helpful in prevention. Studies have not been done to determine if bromelain in pineapple form results in these same benefits.

Blood clot reduction

Bromelain can help prevent blood clots from forming, making pineapple a good snack for frequent fliers and others at risk for blood clots.

Common cold

In addition to having lots of vitamin C, pineapple’s bromelain can help reduce mucus in the throat. So if your cold has you coughing, try some pineapple chunks. Those with allergies may want to consider incorporating pineapple into their diets more regularly to reduce sinus mucus long term.

Health risks

Excessive consumption of pineapple may cause swelling or tenderness on your lips, tongue or inner cheeks. This is because bromelain also has meat-tenderizing properties. The condition should cease within a few hours, but if it does not, or if you experience a rash, hives or breathing difficulties, you should seek a medical help immediately. You could have a pineapple allergy.

Extremely high amounts of vitamin C can lead to problems like diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, heartburn, vomiting, headaches and insomnia. Additionally, extremely high amounts of bromelain can cause skin rashes, vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive menstrual bleeding. Bromelain can also interact with some medications. Those taking antibiotics, anticoagulants, blood thinners, anticonvulsants, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, insomnia drugs and tricyclic antidepressants should be careful not to eat too much pineapple.

Eating unripe pineapple or drinking unripe pineapple juice is dangerous. In this state, it is toxic to humans and can lead to severe diarrhea and vomiting. Eating a great deal of pineapple cores can also cause fiber balls to form in the digestive tract.

Pineapple facts

  • The word "pineapple," derived from the Spanish word piña, was first used in 1398 to refer to a pinecone. This changed about 300 years later, with the word "pinecone" being introduced so pineapple could be used exclusively for the fruit.
  • Pineapples were discovered by Europeans in 1493 on the Caribbean island of Guadalupe.
  • Early attempts by Europeans to cultivate the fruit failed until they realized that the fruit needs a tropical climate to flourish. By the end of the 16th century, Portuguese and Spanish explorers introduced pineapples into their Asian, African and South Pacific colonies.
  • Because pineapples are very perishable, fresh pineapples were a rarity for early American colonists. Glazed, sugar-coated pineapples were a luxurious treat, and fresh pineapple itself became a symbol of prestige and social class.
  • Pineapples were first cultivated in Hawaii in the 18th century. Hawaii is the only U.S. state in which they are still grown.
  • Other countries that commercially grow pineapples include Thailand, the Philippines, China, Brazil and Mexico.
  • It takes almost three years for a pineapple to mature.
  • Pineapple canneries use every bit of the pineapple. The skins, core and end portions are used to make a variety of products, including vinegar, alcohol and animal food.

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