Eating a plate of pineapple makes you think of tropical vacations in Costa Rica or Hawaii, and it also provides lots of nutritional benefits. But if you eat too much of the delicious fruit, your tongue will pay the price, often feeling as if it’s been scraped raw. There are a few ways to eat pineapple to minimize the tongue-burning feeling.
Why Pineapple Hurts When You Eat Too Much
Pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme that has multiple uses. Bromelain breaks down protein and amino acids. This makes it an effective meat tenderizer, but the same chemical reactions that tenderize a steak also tenderize your tongue.
Bromelain breaks down the mucus that coats the inside of your mouth as well as some of the cells on your tongue, on the roof of your mouth and inside your cheeks. In effect, the bromelain in pineapple digests the inside of your mouth while you’re trying to digest it in your stomach.
The amount of pineapple you can eat before it hurts your tongue depends on the individual. Some people can eat almost the whole pineapple, while others start to feel some pain after only a few pieces. Whichever you are, the effect isn’t permanent. Your body quickly starts repairing the damage caused by the bromelain.
Benefits of Pineapple
Pineapple is loaded with health-promoting minerals and nutrients, including calcium, potassium and vitamin C. This means it’s good for your blood pressure, helps protect cellular damage from free radicals, reduces inflammation and promotes good bone health.
In large quantities – meaning in concentrated pharmaceutical form – there is evidence that bromelain from pineapple has other health effects. Studies are still underway, but bromelain has been used to reduce swelling, treat ulcerative colitis and hay fever, reduce the pain associated with arthritis, slow blood clotting, and improve the absorption of some antibiotics.
The “Ugly Delicious” Way to Prevent Pineapple Burn
Viewers of Netflix’s “Ugly Delicious” may have caught a potential solution for minimizing the tongue irritation that accompanies too much pineapple. In episode two, which takes place in Mexico, the audience learns that soaking pineapple pieces in saltwater helps make eating the fruit less painful.
Scientists, though, say that adding salt to pineapple may make it taste less acidic and may lower the pH, but it doesn’t really affect pineapple’s tongue-dissolving properties. The chemical properties of bromelain aren’t affected by salt. A saltwater dip or sprinkling pineapple with salt might make the fruit taste sweeter, but it’s unlikely to have much effect on how your tongue feels.
Cooking Pineapple Is the Solution to Pineapple Burn
The best way to stop pineapple from burning your tongue is to cook it. Grilling or roasting pineapple will eliminate the tenderizing effects of the bromelain enzyme. One of the effects of heat is that it denatures the enzymes.
Dipping grilled pineapple in melted dark chocolate is delicious.
Cut Your Pineapple Correctly to Deal With Pineapple Burn
The stem and core of the pineapple contain the highest levels of bromelain. So some say that cutting out the pineapple core completely before eating it helps minimize the burning effects of bromelain, as does avoiding pieces near the stem.
Pair Your Pineapple to Minimize the Burn
Accompanying your pineapple with another protein can help neutralize the pH of the bromelain. Ice cream or yogurt pair well with pineapple.
Avoid Too Much Pineapple if You Have This Disease
When you eat acidic pineapple, you increase the acidity not only of your mouth, but also your stomach. If you have acid reflux problems or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you may experience more pain from pineapple. For some people, it’s best to avoid eating pineapple altogether.
Johanna Read is a Canadian freelance writer and photographer, as well as a management consultant specializing in workplace wellness. She writes freelance for publications like USA Today, Fodor’s, Montecristo and Canadian Traveller. Follow her on social media (Instagram @TravelEaterJohanna, Twitter @TravelEater, and Facebook at TravelEaterJohanna). Links to all her travel stories are at www.TravelEater.net.