Pineapples (Ananas comosus) are one of the most popular tropical fruits in the world.
They are a good source of many nutrients, such as vitamin C, manganese, copper and folate. Pineapples are also the only source of the plant compound bromelain.
Bromelain is associated with many health benefits, such as enhanced immune function, cancer prevention, improved wound healing and better gut health (1).
Pineapples are delicious when consumed fresh, but they can also be enjoyed as juice, dried, canned, or as an ingredient in various recipes.
This is what a pineapple looks like:
Pineapples have a rough and scaly skin, and develop from a cluster of berries that fuse together around a central, fibrous core.
The flesh of ripe pineapples ranges in color from white to yellow, has a characteristic aroma and a sweet, juicy and tangy flavor.
Fresh pineapples contain 50 calories per 100 grams, which amounts to only 83 calories per cup (165 grams).
They consist of water (86%) and carbs (13%), with almost no protein or fat.
The table below contains information on all the nutrients found in pineapples (3):
|Vitamin A||3 µg||0%|
|Vitamin C||47.8 mg||53%|
|Vitamin D||0 µg||~|
|Vitamin E||0.02 mg||0%|
|Vitamin K||0.7 µg||1%|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)||0.08 mg||7%|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||0.03 mg||2%|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||0.5 mg||3%|
|Vitamin B5 (Panthothenic acid)||0.21 mg||4%|
|Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)||0.11 mg||9%|
|Vitamin B12||0 µg||~|
|Aspartic acid||121 mg|
|Glutamic acid||79 mg|
|Saturated fatty acids||0.009 g|
|Monounsaturated fatty acids||0.013 g|
|Polyunsaturated fatty acids||0.04 g|
|20:5 n-3 (EPA)||0 mg|
|22:5 n-3 (DPA)||0 mg|
|22:6 n-3 (DHA)||0 mg|
The carbohydrates in pineapples are mostly simple sugars, such as sucrose, fructose and glucose. They also contain some fiber.
A cup (165 grams) of pineapples contains 21.7 grams of carbs, and 2.3 grams of fiber, so there are 19.4 grams of digestible (net) carbs in each cup.
The glycemic index value of pineapples can range from 45-66, which is in the medium range (4).
This means that pineapples should not have any major effects on blood sugar levels, at least not in healthy people.
One cup of pineapples contains 2 grams of fiber, almost all of which is insoluble (99%).
These are mainly in the form of cellulose, hemicellulose and pectin (5).
Bottom line: Pineapples consist mostly of water and carbohydrates. They are low in calories, contain mostly insoluble fibers and should not have major effects on blood sugar levels in most people.
Vitamins and Minerals
Pineapples are a great source of several vitamins and minerals.
One cup provides 132% of the recommended intake for vitamin C and 76% for manganese.
These are the most abundant vitamins and minerals in pineapples.
- Vitamin C: An antioxidant vitamin that is required for healthy skin and immune function (10, 11).
- Manganese: An essential trace mineral that is usually found in high amounts in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
- Copper: A trace mineral with many important functions in the body, such as being a co-factor in the making of red blood cells (12).
- Folate (B9): A member of the vitamin B family, important for tissue growth and normal cell function, and especially important for pregnant women (13).
Bottom line: Pineapples are a good source of vitamin C and manganese, and also contain fair amounts of copper and folate.
Other Plant Compounds
- Bromelain: A unique protein-digesting enzyme, only found in pineapples. It may have a number of health benefits, such as reducing the risk of cancer, improving gut health and facilitating wound healing (15).
- Anthocyanins: Pineapples contain low amounts of anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that are linked to reduced risk of many diseases, including heart disease (15, 16).
Because of its bromelain content, pineapple juice may be used to tenderize meat. Bromelain breaks down the meat proteins.
Bottom line: Pineapples are the only dietary source of a unique plant compound called bromelain, which is associated with many health benefits.
Health Benefits of Pineapples
Most of the health benefits of pineapples are attributed to their content of the plant compound bromelain.
However, it should be noted that some of the research is based on bromelain that is obtained from pineapple stems, which contain higher levels of it.
Because the stems are usually not consumed, bromelain supplements (also called “pineapple extract”) may be needed to achieve some of the health benefits.
Improved Immune Function and Reduced Inflammation
The immune system protects our bodies against diseases, fights off harmful microorganisms, and repairs damage.
Animal studies have also shown that bromelain may reduce the severity of inflammation, stimulate immune responses, and have beneficial effects in asthma and allergic airway diseases (21, 22, 23, 24, 25).
Human studies have shown that intake of pineapple, or a bromelain supplement, may shorten the duration of sinus infections, stimulate immune responses, prevent the formation of blood clots and reduce inflammation (26, 27, 15, 28).
Bottom line: Pineapples, and bromelain from pineapples, have been shown to decrease inflammation and stimulate immune responses. They may reduce the duration of infections and help with airway diseases, such as asthma.
Lowered Risk of Cancer
Cancer is characterized by an uncontrollable cell growth that may invade and destroy the surrounding tissues. It is one of the main causes of death and disability worldwide.
Diets rich in deep-yellow fruit and vegetables have been linked with reduced risk of colon cancer (29).
More human studies are needed to assess these effects.
Bottom line: Studies demonstrate that pineapples and bromelain may have cancer-fighting properties, such as inhibiting the growth of cancer cells and driving them to cell death.
Improved Wound Healing
Test tube studies indicate that the bromelain in pineapples may be used to enhance the healing of wounds (38).
A bromelain-based lotion has been shown to facilitate the healing of skin burns in humans (43).
Bottom line: Bromelain has been shown to have strong healing properties for wounded skin, accelerating recovery and reducing inflammation.
Improved Gut Health
Animal studies indicate that pineapples and bromelain may help in the treatment of digestive diseases, such as inflammatory bowel diseases, by reducing gut inflammation and preventing diarrhea (46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52).
Bromelain also helps digest proteins, so it may be useful for those who are prone to indigestion following a protein-rich meal, like steak.
Bottom line: Pineapples are usually well digested and cause minimal bloating and gas. They may be beneficial in the treatment of digestive diseases by reducing gut inflammation and preventing diarrhea.
Adverse Effects and Individual Concerns
Most people tolerate pineapples well, but they may cause mouth irritation in some individuals.
Pineapples may also interfere with the function of some medications, and there are some people who are allergic to them.
Some people experience mouth discomfort after consuming pineapples, a harmless condition that should resolve in a couple of hours.
This is caused by bromelain, the protein-digesting enzyme found in pineapple fruit and stem.
Pineapple Allergy and Cross-Reactivity
The cross-reactivity is a result of the body mistaking the proteins found in pineapples for similar allergy-causing proteins found in pollen or latex, causing allergic reactions to the fruit.
Individuals taking medication, such as blood thinners, should consult with their doctor before incorporating pineapples or bromelain supplements into their daily routine.
Bottom line: Pineapples are usually well tolerated, but they may cause allergic reactions in some people. They may also affect some medications, due to their blood thinning effects.
For the majority of people, pineapples are a great addition to the diet.
They are a good source of many vitamins and minerals, with an abundance of vitamin C and manganese.
They are also the only source of a powerful plant compound called bromelain, which is responsible for many of their health benefits.
These include accelerated wound healing, improved digestion, cancer prevention, reduced inflammation and enhanced immune function.
With their sweet taste, pineapples are a perfect ingredient to freshen up your meals.