By Dr. Nirmala M. Pieris Did you know that the delicious healthy pineapple is a composite of many individual fruitlets fused together around a central core? Each fruitlet is identified by an “eye,” on the rough spiny marking on the surface of the fruit. The fruits have scaly green, brown or yellow skin and a [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Check out all that’s fine with pine


By Dr. Nirmala M. Pieris
Did you know that the delicious healthy pineapple is a composite of many individual fruitlets fused together around a central core? Each fruitlet is identified by an “eye,” on the rough spiny marking on the surface of the fruit.

The fruits have scaly green, brown or yellow skin and a crown of spiny, blue-green leaves. Pineapple, Ananas comosus in the family Bromeliaceae from which one of its most important health-promoting compounds, the enzyme bromelain, was named, ranks only behind bananas in the world production of tropical fruits. The edible yellowy flesh of the fruit has a vibrant tropical aroma and flavour that balances the tastes of sweet and tart. The core that is the original flower stalk which runs through the centre of the fruit can be tender and can be eaten or can be tough and then needs to be removed.

Pineapples are always eaten when ripe and are more flavourful if ripened on the trees. When buying the fruit look for those free of spots, bruises and darkened “eyes,” all of which indicate that the pineapple is past its prime. Avoid those that smell musty, sour or fermented. Whole ripened pineapples will keep well at room temperature for 1 to 2 days, but can be kept for 3 to 5 days with refrigeration. To maximize the freshness of a cut pineapple, put in an air tight container and refrigerate.

In Sri Lanka, pineapple (annasi in Sinhala, annaci in Tamil) is popularly intercropped with coconut with the majority of fruits being produced in the Kurunegala and Gampaha districts. The two main varieties are the ‘mauritius’ popularly known as ‘murisi’ and the ‘kew’ known as gal annasi. Murisi is usually oblong or conical and is sweeter than the kew that is cylindrical, larger and juicier when ripe.
Pineapple can be eaten directly off the fruit or cooked, grilled, baked, poached, pan-fried or used in numerous other ways such as in juices smoothies, desserts, salads, pickles, chutneys, jams, wine, confectionery, ice cream, sauces, preserves and in baked goods. The pineapple upside down cake has been known over generations. The sweet juice is used as a popular flavour in alcoholic drinks, the most famous being the pina colada. Commercially the fruit is canned and dehydrated. Use cubed pineapple in your favourite kebab, or grill slices and use with pork chops, or chicken. Baked pineapple with a dusting of sugar is delicious. A pineapple punch on a hot sunny day is so refreshing.

Nutritional benefits
Pineapple is an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese. It is also an important source of copper and potassium. The fruit contains anthocyanins that are powerful antioxidants as well as vitamins B6 (pyridoxine), B1 (thiamin) B5 (pantothenic acid) and folate. Fresh pineapple is the only known source of the proteolytic enzyme, bromelain which is primarily associated with breaking down complex proteins and thus used to tenderize meat. Pineapples are low in calories, contain mostly insoluble fibres and should not have major effects on blood sugar levels in most people.

Manages arthritis  
Bromelain in the fruit has very good anti-inflammatory effects, and has been positively correlated with reducing inflammation of joints and muscles, particularly those associated with arthritis. This is one of the most notable uses of pineapple in terms of health.

Boosts immune system and energy production
Pineapple is a rich source of vitamin C which is associated with healing wounds and injuries quickly and defending against infections and illness. Thiamin in the fruit acts as a cofactor in enzymatic reactions central to energy production.

Improves tissue and cellular health
The vitamin C in the fruit plays an essential role in creating collagen that keeps your skin looking good. Collagen is also the essential protein base of blood vessel walls, organs and bones. The fruit also contains folate, important for tissue growth and cell function, especially essential during pregnancy.

Anti-cancer ability
In addition to the antioxidant potential of vitamin C the bromelain together with the high level of manganese plays a major role in the battle against cancer. Manganese is an important co-factor of superoxide dismutase, an extremely potent free radical scavenger. So it works well as part of a cancer prevention regime.

Enhances gut health
Pineapple is a rich source of fibre, containing both soluble and insoluble fibre that eases digestive ailments and causes minimal bloating and gas. Insoluble fibre also helps eliminate toxins and promote intestinal health. Bromelain helps digest proteins, so it is useful for those who are prone to indigestion following a protein-rich meal.

Eases coughs and colds
Together with the power of vitamin C, the bromelain in the fruit reduces phlegm and mucus build up in the respiratory tracts and sinus cavities. If you have already contracted an infection it loosens up these substances and helps elimination from the body.

Good for bone health
Although pineapple does not contain much calcium which is usually associated with bone health the fruit contains impressive amounts of manganese which is an essential mineral for strengthening bones as well as helping in growth and repair.

Good fix for oral health
Pineapple has powerful astringent properties and as such is a natural remedy for strengthening gums and thus a good fix for loosening teeth and retraction of gums.

A way to a healthy heart
The fruit provides potassium and copper. Potassium eases tension and stress of blood vessels and promotes blood circulation by preventing clots. Copper is a co-factor in making healthy red blood cells that increases oxygenation to the organ systems and makes them function at optimum levels.

Word of caution
Pineapples may cause allergic reactions in some.Due to the presence of bromelain, your lips, gums and tongue may experience some tenderness by eating too much pineapple. Also bromelain stimulates menstruation so if you are pregnant avoid excessive pineapple.
Other than these health concerns grab one of these delightful fruits, you will not only enjoy it, but your body will thank you for the healthy boost.

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