The pineapple is one of the most popular tropical fruits because of its sweetness and its extraordinary aroma. With us, you will learn why pineapple is so healthy and what you should consider when shopping.
Why the pineapple is called pineapple
The very name of the pineapple indicates its exotic origin. The indigenous people of Paraguay referred to the pineapple as naná, which means nothing other than “delicious fruit”. The Portuguese added the article a and the plural character -s, and this is how the term pineapple evolved.
The Spaniards called the tropical fruit piña (pine or pine cone) because of its cone-shaped appearance, and the British made it a pine-cone apple: pineapple.
According to a Filipino legend, the fruit was named after a girl who was very lazy and never wanted to help her mother: one day the mother asked her daughter Pina if she could cook the rice for her. But the child said, as so often, that it could not see the pot. Then the mother exclaimed angrily: I wish you had a thousand eyes so that you could see everything around you!
The next day Pina was gone and never came back. Then the mother discovered a fruit with a thousand eyes in the garden. She was sure that it must be her daughter and therefore gave the fruit the name Pina.
The origin of the pineapple
The pineapple (Ananas comosus or Ananas sativus) is the most popular representative of the bromeliad family or bromeliads, which are therefore also defined as the pineapple family. Almost all bromeliads are perennial and herbaceous plants with an evergreen rosette of leaves. The rosette of leaves is a section of shoots from which the leaves grow densely packed.
Little is known about her career before Columbus. Scientists assume that pineapples have been cultivated in the tropics and subtropics of South and Central America for around 4,000 years. The indigenous peoples used pineapples for food and to make wine. In addition, the fruit was a popular medicinal product, while the leaves of the bromeliad family produced fibers that were used to make e.g. clothing and bowstrings.
The pineapple is a berry
The pineapple is a berry, more precisely a berry fruit association. This means that the fruit consists of many small individual fruits that have grown together. Cultivated pineapple varieties do not contain seeds. These were bred out to make them easier to eat. In contrast, the fruit of a wild pineapple variety contains up to 3,000 hard seeds.
How the pineapple came to Europe
The pineapple came to Europe through Christopher Columbus in the 15th century. When he arrived in the Caribbean archipelago of Guadeloupe, the indigenous people gave him a pineapple as a welcome gift. The Europeans were so enthusiastic about the sweet taste of the tropical fruit that their greed for it was boundless.
However, the pineapple had two disadvantages: the bromeliad family could not be grown in Europe and the fruit rotted rather quickly during transport. For this reason, the plant was introduced everywhere, for example in India and Africa, where it is cultivated and from there it could be brought to the European continent at least a little faster. In the course of fewer than 100 years, the pineapple plant was finally cultivated in almost all tropical regions of the world.
The pineapple as a status symbol
For a long time, however, trade in pineapples was limited due to its perishability and rudimentary means of transport. It could be years before an edible fruit made its way back to a given area of Europe. This also explains why pineapples were reserved exclusively for the rich and powerful until the 19th century.
And these competed with each other as to which of them could afford to eat the most pineapples. Out of this competition was born the extremely expensive trend in the aristocratic world to grow pineapple plants in greenhouses. A single fruit was worth as much as a carriage in terms of the cost of growing it.
The French King Louis XV. had a greenhouse built in the 18th century, with space for 800 pineapple plants. The Duke of Bouillon took this game to the extreme: he owned 4,000 plants and had several fruits served every day. So it happened that the pineapple no longer only stood for extravagance and luxury, but became a symbol of decadence and extravagance.
The canned pineapple is moving into poorer households
It was a long way before every supermarket had pineapples in their range all year round. In the 19th century, not only the nobility but also wealthy citizens could afford the once aristocratic fruit. For most people, however, it remained an impossible dream. You have to remember that pineapple in Germany cost as much as 25 kilograms of rye bread.
After all, it was business people in the USA who let the pineapples move into poorer households. Because they made the canned pineapple socially acceptable. Even before that, tropical fruits were canned in the Bahamas, Malaysia, and China to increase their shelf life. However, canning was only perfected by various companies in Maryland.
Where Toast Hawaii got its name from
In the USA, pineapples often arrived with defects due to the transport routes. As a result, at the beginning of the 20th century, the idea arose of cultivating and processing tropical fruits as close as possible, namely in Hawaii. It was there that James Dole founded the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, today’s Dole Food Company.
Plantations were set up, cultivation and harvesting were mechanized and the fruits were industrially processed on-site. This is how Hawaii became the world leader in pineapples up until the 1950s. This now explains why pineapple dishes such as Toast Hawaii are still associated with Hawaii throughout the German-speaking world.
Why fresh pineapple is better than canned pineapple
If you want to prepare a toast Hawaii or another pineapple dish, it is best to use fresh fruit. Because canned pineapple is usually sweetened and contains around 20 g of sugar per 100 g. This corresponds to around 13 g of natural fructose and 7 g of added industrial sugar. If you don’t want to do without canned pineapple, you should use products without added sugar. You should also keep this in mind when you buy pineapple juice.
But the canned pineapple also loses nutrients during production. While 100 g of fresh pineapple contains 19 mg of vitamin C, the same amount of canned pineapple only contains around 5.9 mg.
The nutritional content of the pineapple
Like almost every other fruit, the pineapple is rich in water and contains hardly any fat. Compared to other fruits, however, pineapples are relatively low in dietary fiber and rich in fructose. Below are the nutritional values of 100g of raw pineapple
Vitamins in the pineapple
On many websites, the pineapple is described as a vitamin miracle, but this is not the case. Many other fruits are superior to pineapple in terms of vitamin content. But of course, the pineapple also contributes to the vitamin supply. For example, with 100 g of pineapple, you consume almost half of the biotin requirement and already a fifth of the officially specified vitamin C requirement.
The glycemic load of pineapples
The glycemic load values indicate the influence of food on the blood sugar level. Foods with a glycemic load (GL) of less than 10 are considered unproblematic. Scores between 11 and 19 are considered medium-high. Scores over 20 are considered high.
The pineapple has a low GL value of 5.9. There is no fruit whose GL is higher than 20 and whose consumption should therefore be restricted. Of course, dried fruit has a much higher GL than fresh fruit. The GL of dried pineapple is 30 and is suitable as a small snack after strenuous mental work or after training.
If you are overweight or have diabetes, pineapple is allowed
Foods with a low glycemic load, such as pineapple, have the advantage of causing blood sugar levels to rise more slowly. For this reason, pineapples are suitable for both diabetics and overweight people, provided they are consumed in moderation.
In addition, pineapple contains a secondary plant substance called myricetin. According to Chinese researchers, it is effective in treating many symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes. More than 24,000 subjects took part in a corresponding study, including 1,357 diabetics. It turned out that the more Myricetin a person consumed, the lower their risk of diabetes. However, not only the pineapple that contains myricetin. Apples, peaches, oranges, and sweet potatoes are also good sources of myricetin.
Pineapple is taboo for fructose intolerance
100 g of fresh pineapple contains around 13 g of sugar, of which 2 g is glucose and 2.5 g fructose. For this reason, this fruit is not the yolk of the egg if you have fructose intolerance, and should be avoided. But there are some types of fruit that are usually well tolerated, at least after a period of abstinence. These include e.g. B. Avocados, lemons, and papayas. You can learn more about fructose intolerance in our detailed article on fructose intolerance.
Avoid pineapple if you have histamine intolerance
Although pineapple does not contain a lot of histamines, it can still be problematic if you have histamine intolerance. Because like e.g. B. tomatoes, aubergines, or strawberries, the pineapple is also one of the so-called histamine liberators. The pineapple, therefore, ensures that histamine is released from the storage cells in the body. For this reason, people suffering from histamine intolerance should avoid histamine liberators.
However, since intolerances can always be very individual, always carefully test what you personally get and in what quantity. So it could e.g. B. that small amounts are tolerated and symptoms only appear from an individual amount.
The pineapple is basic
The pineapple is a fruit that can ideally support our metabolism in deacidification. Like all fruits, it is one of the alkaline foods and can therefore also be consumed with an alkaline diet. Anyone who is overly acidic is also mentally “sour” and often reacts aggressively or irritably. Pineapple helps us to react more calmly in stressful situations.
Pineapple is considered a mood enhancer
Serotonin is a tissue hormone that is formed in the body and e.g. regulates mood, appetite, and sleep. When serotonin levels are too low, it can contribute to a number of conditions such as depression and anxiety disorders.
The serotonin found in plants such as pineapples and bananas is called phytoserotonin. Researchers have long agreed that phytoserotonin cannot cross the blood-brain barrier and therefore has no effect. You have to take in L-tryptophan (an amino acid), which z. B. is contained in soybeans and cashew nuts and is converted to serotonin in the body. However, various studies have shown that phytoserotonin can also increase serotonin levels.
According to a 2019 study by Chonnam National University in South Korea, for example, other substances can also develop from phytoserotonin (derivatives such as caffeoylserotonin). It is these derivatives that are the ones that have an apeutic effect and u. stimulate the formation of serotonin.
However, if you are suffering from a serious mood drop and suspect low serotonin levels to be a contributing factor, then eating pineapple is unlikely to be enough to bring about a noticeable improvement.
The phytochemicals of the pineapple
The pineapple contains a whole range of secondary plant substances that also have a positive effect on health. These primarily include phenolic compounds and carotenoids. The phytochemicals in pineapple determine the color, taste, and scent and – together with vitamin C – make a significant contribution to the antioxidant power of the fruit.
On average, the phenolic compounds are responsible for around 40 percent of the antioxidant effect of pineapple. The most important representatives include:
- Gallic acid: Works against inflammation and oxidative stress. According to a study at the University of Pavia, protects the nerve cells and counteracts the destruction of nerve cells in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
- Catechins: A study at Maastricht University with over 120,000 subjects showed that this phytochemical reduces the risk of colon cancer.
- According to a 2018 review, epicatechin lowers blood pressure, protects against cardiovascular disease, and contributes to mental health and longevity.
Why the pineapple is yellow
Pineapples owe their bright yellow flesh to carotenoids. First of all, every pineapple is green. During the ripening process, however, the green chlorophylls are broken down and carotenoids are formed, which act as yellow and orange pigments. The carotenoids include about 800 substances, e.g. B. beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein, violaxanthin, and zeaxanthin. All of these substances have a positive impact on health.
Some of them – including cryptoxanthin, alpha- and beta-carotene – serve as provitamin A. This means that they are converted to vitamin A in the body. Among other things, vitamin A is important for the eyes and the health of the skin and mucous membranes. Apart from their function as provitamin A, carotenoids protect cells and tissues from free radical damage, strengthen the immune system and inhibit the development of certain types of tumors.
Pineapple enzymes: bromelain
In addition to the nutrients and secondary plant substances, the pineapple also contains special substances that are not found in any other fruit or vegetable. These are two proteolytic (protein-splitting) enzymes, so-called peptidases, which are summarized under the term bromelain (also called bromelin).
Bromelain is found throughout the pineapple plant. For example in the trunk as well as in the green crown, in the skin, and in the flesh of the fruit. Nowadays, however, bromelain is mainly obtained from the stems, as they contain most of it and because – unlike the fruits – they cannot be marketed in any other way anyway. A distinction is made between stem and fruit bromelain.
How bromelain is obtained
In 2016, Pakistani researchers examined the different production processes of bromelain in detail. First, the respective plant parts are washed and crushed. Pressed juice is then made from it. The bromelain is then isolated from this using a wide variety of methods, mostly centrifugation, and filtration.
After extraction, the raw mixture is freeze-dried and subjected to numerous purification stages to remove impurities. Bromelain extracts are used for a variety of ailments, which we will discuss in a moment.
The pineapple in traditional medicine
Pineapple and the extracts made from it are an ancient remedy in South and Central America, which was used, for example, to treat indigestion, inflammation, and pain. But pineapple also plays an important role in modern folk medicine.
Thus, fresh pineapple juice is considered a traditional remedy for treating intestinal parasites. Unripe pineapples, on the other hand, are used externally on wounds and for cosmetic purposes, such as loosening old cells and revitalizing the skin. For dry skin and wrinkles, a face mask made from pineapple pulp, which is left on for twenty minutes and rinsed off with cold water, can have a very supportive effect.
Bromelain extracts are a component of many traditional medicines that include e.g. used for coughs, bronchitis, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), and pulmonary congestion (precursor to pulmonary edema).
In addition, the extracts are used in inflammatory diseases. B. in sprains, tonsillitis, connective tissue diseases (e.g. inflammatory muscle diseases), menstrual problems, digestive problems, cramps, infectious diarrhea, neuralgia (nerve pain), hemorrhoids, and autoimmune diseases such as e.g. B. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and multiple sclerosis.
Bromelain in Science
Traditional remedies have been preserved in the body of thought as they have stood the test of time. Until the 19th century, no one knew which ingredients were in plants and which substance was responsible for which effect.
The active substance bromelain was discovered in 1891 by the Venezuelan chemist Vicente Marcano. Since then, the mode of action has been scientifically examined.
A 2012 review at Mangalayatan University in India found that bromelain counteracts inflammation and edema, as well as preventing and even dissolving blood clots.
In addition, a number of studies have shown that bromelain has an antioxidant and wound-healing effect, counteracts swelling (e.g. after surgery), strengthens the immune system, and tackles cancer cells. Bromelain even has the potential to be used as an antiviral against Covid-19, according to 2020 in vitro study conducted at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
The uses of bromelain
According to scientists from the Freiburg University Hospital, bromelain products are only listed as antiphlogistics (anti-inflammatory drugs) in Germany in the Red List (directory of medicinal products). The same applies to Switzerland and Austria.
The indication is therefore limited to use in inflammatory processes with edema. A gel is also approved in the EU to support wound-healing therapy. However, there are a number of clinical studies that have shown that the area of application should be much broader due to the different mechanisms of action.
The following is an overview of further therapeutic indications:
- Angina pectoris (chest tightness)
- sinus infection
- indigestion (diarrhea)
- acute thrombosis and superficial phlebitis
- sports injuries
- pancreatic insufficiency
Pineapple Diet: The Hollywood Lie
About 100 years ago, the myth arose in Hollywood that pineapples make you lose weight. To this day, pineapple or bromelain regimens are made to speed up the breakdown of fat in the body. But bromelain does not work against fats at all, it splits proteins.
Bromelain does not reach fat deposits or places in the body where it could interfere with fat metabolism. Even in scientific studies, no weight loss effect could be determined.
According to researchers from the University of Murcia, the pineapple diet is still one of the most popular miracle foods that are said to melt fat. This is a so-called fruit mono diet, in which (almost) exclusively pineapple is consumed for 3 to 7 days.
Why the pineapple burns the tongue
After eating fresh pineapple, some people feel that their tongue, gums, and lips start to burn, tingle, and feel like sandpaper. Many consider this to be an allergy or intolerance. But that’s not the case.
The unripe and more acidic the fruit is, the more severe the symptoms described appear. If the pineapple was heated, however, there were no complaints. This already indicates who the culprit is, namely bromelain.
Because if the enzyme comes into contact with the oral mucosa, it splits proteins there, which is noticeable by a tingling sensation. This is a first-hand demonstration of why bromelain is used to tenderize meat. It has not yet been clarified why some people have no symptoms at all and others have severe symptoms. Women are affected 7 times more often than men.
However, the phenomenon usually only occurs after a certain amount of pineapple has been consumed. So it may be that you can eat 100 g of pineapple without any problems, but that furry feeling sets in at 120 g. If you notice the first signs, it is best to stop eating immediately and put the leftover pineapple in the fridge for later use.
Pineapple allergy occurs rarely
Very few people are affected by a pineapple allergy. Symptoms include B. swelling of the face and mouth, breathing difficulties, persistent dizziness, and hives. The symptoms can appear immediately, but also 1 to 2 hours after contact. The allergen is not bromelain, but various proteins, especially profilin.
Cross-allergies associated with pineapple are somewhat more common. Usually with an existing allergy to natural latex or the birch fig (Ficus Benjamina). Cross-allergy can occur when substances to which one is allergic resemble substances found in other plants, fruits, or vegetables. The complaints that you z. B. in contact with latex, can therefore also occur when eating pineapple because some latex proteins are similar to pineapple proteins.
Where the pineapple is grown
In terms of production statistics, pineapple ranks 9th in the list of all types of fruit. Pineapples are cultivated all over the world in the tropics, sometimes also in the subtropics. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 28 million tons of pineapples were harvested worldwide in 2018. However, a full 70 percent of the world harvest in the growing countries is consumed as fresh fruit and only around 670,000 tons are exported.
The top pineapple producers include Costa Rica (3.4 million tons), the Philippines (2.7 million tons), and Brazil (2.6 million tons). The USA, which was once at the top of the world with its main growing region Hawaii, is now only in 28th place with around 150,000 tons. The very small and aromatic fruits, the so-called baby pineapples, were originally cultivated in the Caribbean, but are now being cultivated mostly imported from South Africa.
Comparison of pineapple varieties
Pineapple varieties differ not only in their appearance and taste. The aforementioned Brazilian research team has investigated how different strains differ in terms of ingredients. It was found that both the dominance of individual active ingredients and their content can vary greatly depending on the variety.
While the total carotenoid content of the Imperial variety was 266 µg per 100 g of fruit, Victoria contained only 0.3 µg. The Gomo-de Mel was characterized by a very high content of carotenoids, with alpha-carotene, cryptoxanthin, and lutein setting the tone. The IAC Fantástico, on the other hand, contained a lot of beta-carotene, while some varieties were completely free of it.
The vitamin C content varied between 35 and 62 mg per 100 g of pineapple depending on the variety. In terms of phenolic compounds, the total content ranged from 71 mg (Smooth Cayenne) to 127 mg (Imperial). Phenolic compounds such as B. flavonoids belong to secondary plant substances and have u. an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect.
In the competition for the ingredients in this study, the Imperial pineapple variety was the clear winner, while Victoria was at the bottom. The name of the variety only has to be declared for pineapples of the highest and good quality (Class Extra and Class I).
What to consider when buying pineapples
When shopping, you should make sure that the pineapple yields a little under slight pressure, but then does not show any pressure points. Tapping the pineapple should make a dull, but not hollow, sound. The bottom of the fruit should smell sweet and fruity and the crown should be nice and green (not yellowed). If individual leaves can be easily plucked out of the crown, this indicates good maturity.
Pineapples do not ripen
Unfortunately, it still often happens that unripe pineapples end up on the market. Producers benefit from this because the unripe fruits can be stored longer and are easier to transport from distant countries. The problem with the pineapple, however, is that it is not one of the menopausal fruits such as e.g. B. the apple or the banana. This means that the pineapple will not ripen after harvest.
An unripe pineapple tastes anything but good and can even lead to severe side effects such as diarrhea. In the EU, the fruit must be sold sufficiently ripe. For this reason, you do not have to put up with it if you are sold an unripe pineapple. So it is best to go to the shop with the receipt and the unripe fruit and complain about them.