Pineapple, also known as Ananas comosus by botanists, thrives in the tropical regions of South America, Hawaii and Asia. There are at least six varieties that are commonly cultivated and they vary in size, shape, color and sweetness. Pineapples are a tasty source of certain nutrients and an enzyme capable of digesting protein. On the other hand, they are relatively high in calories and they contain natural acids that can cause mouth sores.
Delicious and Versatile
Most people eat food for the taste and texture and don’t think too much in terms of advantages or disadvantages. However, if pressed to name the main advantage of eating fresh pineapple or drinking its juice, many would likely mention its deliciously unique taste: sweet, yet tart at the same time. Pineapple is relatively high in fructose -- or fruit sugar -- compared to other fruits, but it also contains sour compounds such as malic acid and citric acid. Some varieties of pineapple, particularly Kona Sugarloaf from Hawaii, are cultivated to have more fructose and less acid. Pineapple’s sweet and sour taste makes it a versatile fruit that complements most meats, salads, dairy products and desserts.
Another benefit of eating pineapple is that it’s a good source of certain vitamins and minerals. Fresh pineapple is an excellent source of vitamin C with almost 80 milligrams of it per cup, and a good source of magnesium, potassium and some B vitamins such as folate. Vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of collagen, which is an elastic-like material in skin and other connective tissues, whereas magnesium is needed for strong bones and relaxed muscle tone. Folate is especially important for pregnant women because it prevents certain spinal defects in newborns.
Fresh pineapple is a rich source of bromelain, an enzyme that reduces protein into smaller building blocks called amino acids. Consuming pineapple just prior to or during a protein-rich meal can help with its digestion in your stomach and small intestine. Bromelain also makes pineapple juice a good tenderizer and marinade for beef, chicken and fish. Pineapple is not a great source of dietary fiber, but it contains about 2.3 grams of it per cup, which is less than 10 percent of the daily recommended amount. Dietary fiber promotes cardiovascular health by keeping blood cholesterol and sugar levels in check, and it stimulates regular bowel movements.
The high fructose content of pineapple may not be beneficial for diabetics or people trying to lose weight. For example, 1 cup of sweet pineapple contains up to 84 calories and 17 grams of sugar. Another disadvantage of eating pineapple is that it commonly irritates the mucous membranes inside the mouth. The high acidity combined with bromelain can cause little ulcerations or canker sores to form on your tongue or surrounding areas. If your mouth is especially sensitive to pineapple, consider buying the Kona Sugarloaf variety or blending the fruit in a smoothie with yogurt, which should neutralize the malic and citric acids.
Sirah Dubois is currently a PhD student in food science after having completed her master's degree in nutrition at the University of Alberta. She has worked in private practice as a dietitian in Edmonton, Canada and her nutrition-related articles have appeared in The Edmonton Journal newspaper.