A well-known tropical fruit, the pineapple looks like a big green pine cone, which is where this fruit got its name. Pineapples have a tough and somewhat waxy rind that can range in colors from green to yellow, orange-yellow, and even a little bit of a red when the fruit is ripe. The fruit portion of the pineapple is a white or yellow color that is sweet and delicious!
Pineapples are originally from South America. Columbus and other explorers brought pineapples back to Europe where they attempted to cultivate them, but they weren't successful because pineapples require a warm tropical climate in order to grow well. Near the sixteenth century, Spanish explorers brought pineapples to African, Asian, and South Pacific areas where they began to gain more wide-spread popularity. Later, near the eighteenth century, pineapples were brought to what is now Hawaii where they grew and became a very successful crop. Today, the United States is one of the leading suppliers of pineapples, though they are only grown in Hawaii. Other big producers of commercial pineapples include Thailand, the Philippines, China, Brazil, and Mexico.
When eaten fresh, pineapple is very high in the enzyme bromelain which plays many important functions in our body. Bromelain is made from a group of sulfur-containing proteolytic (protein-digesting) enzymes that aid digestion of food, especially heavy protein foods such as meat. Bromelain is such a powerful digestive enzyme that there are Bromelain enzyme supplements, or a blend of enzymes including Bromealin, available at many stores.
These strong enzymes are also very effective at decreasing inflammation and swelling, which makes it a great food for those suffering with inflammatory conditions such as gout and arthritis, or those recovering from surgery or an injury. In fact, many studies show Bromelain has significant anti-inflammatory effects that directly improve conditions including sore throat and acute sinusitis, and significantly speed up the recovery of injuries and surgeries. Furthermore Bromelain helps to break down heavy mucus in respiratory conditions such as the common cold, bronchitis, and pneumonia. It has even been researched as an anti-cancer agent to help decrease the inflammation that leads to and is associated with cancer. To get the most out of Bromelain's anti-inflammatory capabilities, pineapple should be eaten alone between meals; otherwise its enzymes will be used to digest food.
Pineapple is also high in the trace mineral manganese, an essential cofactor in many enzymes that are important for producing energy and antioxidant activity to protect against free radicals. To demonstrate, one of the most important antioxidant enzymes in our bodies is superoxide dismutase, and it requires manganese. Manganese is also an important mineral for bone health. While most people know that calcium is essential for strong bones, many don't know how important manganese is also. The body uses manganese to make collagen, which is a tough, fibrous protein that helps to build connective tissues such as bone, skin, and cartilage in our bodies and helps to hold everything together. Studies have shown that people who are deficient in manganese often develop bone problems like osteoporosis. The good news is that getting enough manganese can be easy to do; consuming one cup of fresh pineapple provides 73 percent of the daily value for manganese!
Vitamin C is also found in high amounts in pineapple, and is another important vitamin for bone health. The body uses vitamin C to make collagen, which, as was discussed above, is the glue that holds our tissues and bone together. Vitamin C is also great for fighting free radicals (it is a strong antioxidant) and for boosting the immune system.
Pineapple is a great source of vitamin C, B1, and B6, manganese, copper, magnesium, and fiber. When purchasing pineapple, it should have a fruity, sweet smell when it is ripe. It should be more yellow than green in color and it should also be heavy for its size. Do not get pineapple with obvious signs of decay or mold, or that have soft spots, especially at the bottom stem. Pineapple can be left ripe at room temperature for one to two days before serving, which doesn't make it more ripe, but does help it to be more juicy and soft. Because pineapple does spoil easily, if it is not going to be eaten within two days (when fully ripe), it's best to keep the fruit stored in the fridge where it will last for approximately three to five days.
There are many ways to enjoy fresh pineapple beyond just eating it on its own. Cut up pineapple makes a great addition to fruit or green salads; it can be juiced or its juice may be added to other fresh juices; it can be used fresh in a salsa; and it also makes a wonderful addition to yogurt or as a topping to desserts.
Raw Pineapple Upside Down Cake
- 1/2 pineapple
- 1 batch raw caramel sauce (I added a pinch of cinnamon)
- 1 cup almonds
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup raw oats
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp coconut oil + more to grease cake pan
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Pinch of salt
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