I remember the first time I ate fresh pineapple. Before that, I’d only eaten canned. It was wonderful and I had a whole new appreciation for it. I gained a similar experience after eating fresh grilled tuna for the first time. It was spectacular.
When I was a kid, fresh pineapple was expensive. It was not unusual to see them for five dollars each in Maine grocery stores. Consequently, we never bought any. I recently found some for well under a dollar each, and they were of good quality.
Pineapple is a very nutritious fruit. It’s loaded with large amounts of vitamin C and a ton of fiber. Yes, it is sweet and contains large amounts of sugar, but this bromeliad can help you lose weight. A cup of pineapple contains only about 80 calories.
The secret to success is a chemical called bromelain. It’s an enzyme used as a meat tenderizer among other things. Bromelain partially breaks down proteins before cooking, making the meat easier to chew. It also has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Anti-inflammatory substances are critical for good health.
Bromelain is found in pineapple stems in greater quantities than the edible parts. Supplements are usually extracted from the stems. Some researchers claim that when bromelain helps break down proteins in the stomach, it aids in reducing unwanted fat. I think this may be embellishing the chemical a little bit, but numerous claims are out there.
However, while bromelain probably doesn’t directly cause weight loss, it does reduce inflammation. Reducing inflammation means less pain. This helps people become more active and lose weight. It’s difficult to exercise when you’re in pain.
Bromelain has also been shown to improve intestinal health. Eating pineapple provides fiber, and that’s helpful. Moreover, bromelain limits cytokine production. This may promote less inflammation of the intestinal tract and less bloating and diarrhea.
Another bromelain benefit is that the chemical helps keep platelets from sticking together. This could be a good thing for reducing heart attacks. Too much could possibly prolong bleeding from wounds or excessive menstrual bleeding.
Eating too much pineapple at a time can cause mouth soreness in some people. That’s likely because the bromelain is breaking down some of the protein in the cells inside your mouth. Your stomach has an environment where this won’t happen. I suggest rinsing your mouth with a few swallows of water after a large intake of pineapple. Hot coffee would likely work, too. Heat inactivates bromelain.
Pineapples also make cool houseplants, provided you have a well-lit place for them. Pineapple tops are easy to root. Let the top callus over for a day or two. Then set them on moist but not wet soil. Don’t plant them too deep. Sometimes propping them up with a couple toothpicks can help.
Within a few weeks they will begin to root, and in about a year and a half, you might be rewarded with a ripe fruit. Setting them outside for the warm summer months will increase the likelihood for success. Fruit or no fruit, they make an interesting and attractive houseplant.
Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.
After dissecting a pineapple in a botany class, and learning what it really is, I did not want to eat it again. Figs and strawberries were even weirder. I got over it of course.