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Overview

Pineapple, Ananas Comosus, belongs to the Bromeliaceae family, from which one of its most important health-promoting compounds, the enzyme bromelain, was named.

The Spanish name for pineapple, pina and the root of its English name, reflects the fruit’s visual similarity to the pinecone.

Pineapples are actually not just one fruit but a composite of many flowers whose individual fruitlets fuse together around a central core. Each fruitlet can be identified by an “eye”, the rough spiny marking on the pineapple’s surface.

History

Although thought to have originated in South America, pineapples were first discovered by Europeans in 1493 on the Caribbean island that came to be known as Guadalupe.

When Columbus and other discovers brought pineapples back to Europe, attempts were made to cultivate the sweet, prized fruit until it was realized that the fruit’s need for a tropical climate inhibited its ability to flourish in this region.

By the end of the 16th century, Portuguese and Spanish explorers introduced pineapples into many of their Asian, African and South Pacific colonies, countries in which the pineapple is still being grown today.

Benefits

Bromelain is a complex mixture of substances that can be extracted from the stem and core fruit of the pineapple.

Among dozens of components known to exist in this crude extract, the best studied components are a group of protein-digesting enzymes (called cysteine proteinases). Originally, researchers believed that these enzymes provided the key health benefits found in bromelain, a popular dietary supplement containing these pineapple extracts.

In addition, researchers believed that these benefits were primarily limited to help with digestion in the intestinal tract. However, further studies have shown that bromelain has a wide variety of health benefits and that many of these benefits may not be related to the different enzymes found in this extract.

Excessive inflammation, excessive coagulation of the blood and certain types of tumor growth may all be reduced by therapeutic doses of bromelain when taken as a dietary supplement.

Studies are not available, however, to show these same potential benefits in relationship to normal intake of pineapple within a normal meal plan.

Nutritional Profile

Pineapple is an excellent source the trace mineral manganese, which is an essential cofactor in a number of enzymes important in energy production and antioxidant defenses. For example, the key oxidative enzyme superoxide dismutase, which disarms free radicals produced within the mitochondria (the energy production factories within our cells), requires manganese.

Just one cup of fresh pineapple supplies 128.0% of the DV for this very important trace mineral.

In addition to manganese, pineapple is a good source of thiamin, a B vitamin that acts as a cofactor in enzymatic reactions central to energy production.

Disclaimer

Warnings: Pineapple is not a commonly allergenic food, is not known to contain measurable amounts of oxalates or purines and is also not included in the Environmental Working Group’s 2010 report “Pesticides in Produce” as one of the 12 foods most frequently containing pesticide residues.

In fact, pineapple is often used as a fruit in allergy avoidance diets partly for these reasons and for its bromelain (digestive enzyme) component.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and must not be taken or interpreted as a suggestion or as medical advise.

If you have any medical conditions, you should consult your health care professional.

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