IS IT REALLY AN APPLE FROM THE PINE? Pineapples have exceptional juiciness and a vibrant tropical flavor that balances the tastes of sweet and tart. They are second only to bananas as America's favorite tropical fruit. Although the season for pineapple runs from March through June, they are available year-round in local markets. Pineapples are 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. Pineapples have a wide cylindrical shape, a scaly green, brown or yellow skin and a regal crown of spiny, blue-green leaves and fibrous yellow flesh. The area closer to the base of the fruit has more sugar content and therefore a sweeter taste and more tender texture.
Health Benefits Potential Anti-Inflammatory and Digestive 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. Bromelain extracts can be obtained from both the fruit core and stems of pineapple. Potentially important chemical differences appear to exist between extracts obtained from the stem versus the core fruit. However, the practical relevance of these differences is not presently understood. Most of the laboratory research on bromelain has been conducted using stem-based extracts, however. Although healthcare practitioners have reported improved digestion in their patients with an increase in pineapple as their "fruit of choice" within a meal plan, we haven't seen published studies that document specific changes in digestion following consumption of the fruit (versus supplementation with the purified extract. However, we suspect that the core fruit will eventually turn out to show some unique health-supportive properties, including possible digestion-related and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Antioxidant Protection and Immune Support Vitamin C is the body's primary water-soluble antioxidant, defending all aqueous areas of the body against free radicals that attack and damage normal cells. Free radicals have been shown to promote the artery plaque build-up of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease, cause the airway spasm that leads to asthma attacks, damage the cells of the colon so they become colon cancer cells, and contribute to the joint pain and disability seen in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. This would explain why diets rich in vitamin C have been shown to be useful for preventing or reducing the severity of all of these conditions. In addition, vitamin C is vital for the proper function of the immune system, making it a nutrient to turn to for the prevention of recurrent ear infections, colds, and flu.
Manganese and Thiamin (Vitamin B1) for Energy Production and Antioxidant Defenses 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. 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.
Protection against Macular Degeneration Your mother may have told you carrots would keep your eyes bright as a child, but as an adult, it looks like fruit is even more important for keeping your sight. Data reported in a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmologyindicates that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, by 36%, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily.
In this study, which involved over 110,000 women and men, researchers evaluated the effect of study participants' consumption of fruits; vegetables; the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E; and carotenoids on the development of early ARMD or neovascular ARMD, a more severe form of the illness associated with vision loss. While, surprisingly, intakes of vegetables, antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids were not strongly related to incidence of either form of ARMD, fruit intake was definitely protective against the severe form of this vision-destroying disease. Three servings of fruit may sound like a lot to eat each day, but pineapple can help you reach this goal. Add fresh pineapple to your morning smoothie, lunch time yogurt, any fruit and most vegetable salads. For example, try adding chunks of pineapple to your next coleslaw or carrot salad.
Description 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. Pineapples have a wide cylindrical shape, a scaly green, brown or yellow skin and a regal crown of spiny, blue-green leaves. The fibrous flesh of pineapple is yellow in color and has a vibrant tropical flavor that balances the tastes of sweet and tart. The area closer to the base of the fruit has more sugar content and therefore a sweeter taste and more tender texture.
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
Since pineapples are very perishable, and modes of transportation to bring them stateside from the Caribbean Islands were relatively slow centuries ago, fresh pineapples were a rarity that became coveted by the early American colonists. While glazed, sugar-coated pineapples were a luxurious treat, it was the fresh pineapple itself that became the sought after true symbol of prestige and social class. In fact, the pineapple, because of its rarity and expense, was such a status item in those times that all a party hostess had to do was to display the fruit as part of a decorative centerpiece, and she would be awarded more than just a modicum of social awe and recognition. In the 18th century, pineapples began to be cultivated in Hawaii, the only state in the U.S. in which they are still grown. In addition to Hawaii, other countries that commercially grow pineapples include Thailand, the Philippines, China, Brazil and Mexico.
How to Select and Store Look for pineapples that are heavy for their size. While larger pineapples will have a greater proportion of edible flesh, there is usually no difference in quality between a small and large size pineapple. Pineapples should be free of soft spots, bruises and darkened "eyes," all of which may indicate that the pineapple is past its prime. Pineapple stops ripening as soon as it is picked, so choose fruit with a fragrant sweet smell at the stem end. Avoid pineapple that smells musty, sour or fermented. Pineapple can be left at room temperature for one or two days before serving. While this process will not make the fruit any sweeter, it will help it to become softer and more juicy. Yet, as they are very perishable, you should still watch them closely during this period to ensure that they do not spoil. After two days, if you are still not ready to consume the pineapple, you should wrap it in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator where it will keep for a maximum of three to five days. Pineapple that has been cut up should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. It will stay fresher and retain more taste and juiciness if you also place some liquid, preferably some juice from the pineapple, in the container. Although pineapple can be frozen, this process greatly affects its flavor.
Tips for Preparing and Cooking Tips for Preparing Pineapple Pineapple can be cut and peeled in a variety of ways. Regardless of how you proceed, the first step is always to remove the crown and the base of the fruit with a knife. To peel the pineapple, place it base side down and carefully slice off the skin, carving out any remaining "eyes" with the tip of your knife. Or cut the pineapple into quarters, remove the core if desired, make slices into the quarters cutting from the flesh towards the rind, and then use your knife to separate the fruit from the rind. Once the rind is removed, cut the pineapple into the desired shape and size. You can also use pineapple corers that are available in kitchen supply stores. While they provide a quick and convenient method for peeling and coring pineapples, they often result in a good amount of wasted fruit since they often cannot be adjusted for different fruit size. Similarly, some markets offer devices that will peel and core the pineapple you purchase, but once again, this process may waste a lot of fruit.
Cut Fruit, if Chilled, Retains Many of its Nutrients for at Least 6 Days Everyone loves colorful, delicious fresh fruit salad, plus it's a perfect addition to any meal and makes a great snack or dessert. So why don't we enjoy fresh fruit salad more? Simply because it's been thought that cut fruit rapidly degrades, so fruit salad, which can take 15 minutes to prepare, would have to be freshly prepared to be good. Now, a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has found that minimal processing of fruit—cutting, packaging and chilling—does not significantly affect its nutritional content even after 6, and up to 9, days. In practical terms, this means that you can prepare a large bowl of fruit salad on the weekend, store it in the refrigerator, and enjoy it all week, receiving almost all the nutritional benefits of just prepared fruit salad. If you're really pressed for time, packaged cut up fresh fruit, although more expensive, is a nutritionally sound option.
In this study, researchers cut up pineapples, mangoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, strawberries and kiwi fruit. The freshly cut fruits were then rinsed in water, dried, packaged in clamshells (not gastight) and stored at 41°F (5°C). After 6 days, losses in vitamin C were less than 5% in mango, strawberry, and watermelon pieces, 10% in pineapple pieces, 12% in kiwifruit slices, and 25% in cantaloupe cubes. No losses in carotenoids were found in kiwifruit slices and watermelon cubes. Cantaloupe, mango, and strawberry pieces lost 10-15%; pineapples lost 25%, although this is not of much concern since they are not usually consumed for their carotenoid content since this is not one of the nutrients in which they are most concentrated. No significant losses in phenolic phytonutrients were found in any of the fresh-cut fruit products. "Contrary to expectations, it was clear that minimal processing had almost no effect on the main antioxidant constituents. The changes in nutrient antioxidants observed during nine days at five degrees Celsius would not significantly affect the nutrient quality of fresh cut fruit. In general, fresh-cut fruits visually spoil before any significant nutrient loss occurs," wrote lead researcher Maria Gil.
How to Enjoy A Few Quick Serving Ideas
Combine diced pineapple with chopped shrimp, grated ginger and a little olive oil. Season to taste and serve this fragrant shrimp salad on a bed of romaine lettuce.
Mix diced pineapple and chili peppers for an easy to prepare salsa that's an exceptional complement to fish such as halibut, tuna and salmon.
Drizzle maple syrup on pineapple slices and broil until brown. Serve plain or with yogurt.
Chopped pineapple, grated fennel and cashews go well together and are especially delicious as a side dish to chicken.
Pineapple is a wonderful addition to fruit salads, especially those containing other tropical fruits such as papaya, kiwi and mango.