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11 health benefits of pineapple

Medically reviewed by Dr Roger Henderson, words by Annie Hayes
·5-min read
Photo credit: eclipse_images
Photo credit: eclipse_images

From Netdoctor

With their spiky green leaves and tough outer skin, pineapple might not be the easiest fruit to prepare, but the health benefits of the juicy tropical fruit make it worth it.

Pineapple stands out on the fresh produce aisle for a couple of reasons. For one, it isn’t actually one fruit – it’s made up of individual diamond-shaped fruitlets that are fused around a central core. Pineapples also contain a potent enzyme called bromelain, thought to be responsible for many of their health benefits. Since it’s a type of digestive enzyme, it also makes your mouth tingle when you eat the fruit.

Clearly, there’s more to this tropical fruit than meets the eye, so we asked nutritionist Rob Hobson, head of nutrition at Healthspan, to talk us through the impressive heath benefits of pineapple:

11 health benefits of pineapple

One of the most significant phytonutrients found in pineapple is bromelain – a group of protein digesting enzymes found in the fruit, juice and particularly the stem, says Hobson.

However, there’s an upper limit to the health benefits found in your fruit bowl – as least as far as bromelain potency is concerned. ‘Unfortunately, in order to get the doses equal to those used in studies, a supplement is required,’ Hobson continues.

Still, an 80g serving of this tropical fruit counts towards one of your five-a-day – including both fresh and tinned – and contains a variety of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants, making it a healthful addition to any diet. Here, we run through 11 benefits of pineapple:

1. A source of vitamins and minerals

One of the biggest benefits of pineapple is that it’s filled to the brim with healthful nutrients. You’ll find 1.3g of fibre – around four per cent of your recommended daily amount (RDA) of fibre – and 36 calories in every 80g serving of pineapple, along with:

  • 20% of your manganese RDA – 0.4mg

  • 12% of your vitamin C RDA – 10mg

  • 9% of your copper RDA – 0.09mg

  • 6% RDA for potassium – 128mg

  • 6% RDA for thiamine (B1) – 0.06mg

  • 5% RDA for B6 – 0.07mg

  • 2% RDA for calcium – 14mg

  • 3% RDA for magnesium – 13mg

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

2. Rich in antioxidants

The fruit also contains plant pigments called carotenoids, including beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, which – like vitamin C – act as antioxidants in the body. Antioxidants help your body combat the oxidative stress caused by an excess of free radicals. The damage these molecules cause is linked to chronic inflammation, premature ageing, and diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes, so filling up on pineapple can help to counter those risks.

3. Ease digestion

The bromelain in pineapple functions in the body as proteases, which break proteins down into amino acids, Hobson explains. ‘Bromelain can be used to help with digestion in this way, although the majority of bromelain is found in the stalk of pineapple, so a supplement is more likely to achieve the required dose,’ he says. Bromelain may be particularly useful for people with pancreatic insufficiency, which occurs when the body fails to produce a specific digestive enzyme.

4. Protect eye health

The carotenoids in pineapple – including beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin – are known to safeguard eye health. ‘High levels of lutein are found in the eyes,’ says Hobson. ‘Research has suggested this carotenoid may help to improve or even prevent age related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in older people.’

5. Support immunity

This benefit mostly boils down to bromelain, says Hobson – research has suggested this phytonutrient can reduce markers of inflammation in the body, contributing to your immune defence. ‘Antioxidants such as beta carotene also help to reduce inflammation, and may help to maintain good immunity,’ he adds. Plus, pineapple is rich in vitamin C, which stimulates production of infection-fighting lymphocytes and phagocytes in the body.

6. Ease arthritis

Research suggests that the bromelain in pineapple may be effective in reducing the pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. In fact, one study published in the journal Clinical Rheumatology found that an enzyme combination of bromelain, trypsin and rutin resulted in significant reduction and pain relief as effectively as common arthritis medicines, says Hobson. ‘However, more research is required to back this up,’ he says.

7. Enhance workout recovery

Strenuous exercise damages muscle tissue, which can cause soreness and discomfort during the recovery process. ‘Research has suggested that enzymes that break down protein – such as bromelain – may help to speed up the recovery process by reducing inflammation around damaged tissue,’ says Hobson. ‘Again, much of this research involves a supplement over fresh pineapple.’

8. Promote healthy bones

Eating a few chunks of pineapple every day could help keep your bones and connective tissues strong. This is due to its manganese content – an 80g serving provides around one fifth of your daily intake. ‘This mineral plays an essential role in bone growth and the maintenance of bone density, as it acts as a cofactor for several enzymes involved in bone formation,’ says Hobson.

9. Contains cancer-fighting compounds

As well as containing antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress and inflammation – both of which are linked to cancer – test-tube studies have shown that the bromelain in pineapple may help fight the disease by suppressing the growth of cancer cells and stimulating cell death. Far more research is required, but the early results are certainly promising.

Photo credit: Westend61 - Getty Images
Photo credit: Westend61 - Getty Images

10. Promotes oral health

Vitamin C strengthens gums and soft tissue and protects against gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease. Pineapple is jam-packed with this protective vitamin, providing 12 per cent of your daily intake in every 80g serving. Pair the fruit with calcium-rich Greek yogurt, which helps to build your tooth enamel.

11. Easy to add to your diet

This sweet, crunchy tropical fruit is as versatile as it is healthy. You can grill slices to serve with savoury meals, blitz frozen pieces into a smoothie, or chop up bite-sized chunks to enjoy as a snack at any time of day. Whether you choose to add it to pizza, however... Well, we’ll leave that down to you.

Last updated: 22-10-2020

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