Originating in South America, it was named by early European colonizers for its resemblance to a pine cone.
Pineapple and its compounds are linked to several health benefits, including improvements in digestion, immunity, and recovery from surgery.
Here are 8 impressive health benefits of pineapple.
1. Loaded with nutrients
Pineapples are low in calories but boast an impressive nutrient profile. Just 1 cup (165 grams) of pineapple chunks contains the following nutrients:
Pineapples also contain trace amounts of phosphorus, zinc, calcium, and vitamins A and K.
As you can see, this fruit is particularly rich in vitamin C and manganese. Vitamin C is essential for immune health, iron absorption, and growth and development, while manganese offers antioxidant properties and aids in growth and metabolism.
Antioxidants help prevent oxidation in your body, which may help ward off inflammation that can lead to cancer and other chronic diseases.
Pineapples also contain other micronutrients, such as copper, thiamine, and vitamin B6, which are essential for healthy metabolism.
2. Contains disease-fighting antioxidants
Pineapples are not only rich in nutrients but also loaded with antioxidants — molecules that help your body ward off oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is caused by an abundance of free radicals, unstable molecules that cause cell damage often linked to chronic inflammation, weakened immune health, heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.
Pineapples are especially rich in antioxidants called flavonoids and phenolic compounds. Two rat studies show that pineapple’s antioxidants may have heart-protective effects, though human research is lacking.
What’s more, many of the antioxidants in pineapple are considered bound antioxidants, meaning that they produce longer-lasting effects.
3. May aid digestion
You’ll often find pineapple served alongside meats and poultry in countries such as Brazil.
Interestingly, this fruit contains a group of digestive enzymes called bromelain that may ease the digestion of meat.
Bromelain functions as a protease, which breaks down protein molecules into their building blocks, such as amino acids and small peptides.
Once protein molecules are broken down, your small intestine can more easily absorb them. This is especially helpful for people with pancreatic insufficiency, a condition in which the pancreas cannot make enough digestive enzymes.
Bromelain is also widely used as a commercial meat tenderizer due to its ability to break down tough meat proteins.
One test-tube study found that bromelain reduced inflammatory markers in digestive tissue, though further research is needed.
What’s more, pineapples are a good source of fiber, which aids digestive health.
4. May reduce your risk of cancer
Cancer is a chronic disease characterized by uncontrolled cell growth. Its progression is commonly linked to oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.
Several studies note that pineapple and its compounds, including bromelain, may reduce cancer risk by minimizing oxidative stress and reducing inflammation.
Some studies show that bromelain may also help treat cancer that has already developed.
For instance, one test-tube study found that bromelain suppressed the growth of breast cancer cells and stimulated cell death, while a mouse study found that bromelain enhanced the effects of anticancer therapy.
Other test-tube studies have produced similar results for skin, colorectal, or bile duct cancers.
Furthermore, older test-tube and animal studies have found that bromelain may stimulate the immune system to produce molecules that make white blood cells more effective at suppressing cancer cell growth and eliminating cancer cells.
That said, pineapple contains much less bromelain than supplements do.
One review of human studies found there was no benefit to using oral enzymes such as bromelain alongside cancer therapy, although research is mixed.
Overall, more human research is necessary.
5. May boost immunity and suppress inflammation
Pineapples have been used in traditional medicine for centuries.
They contain a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes such as bromelain that may collectively improve immunity and reduce inflammation.
In an older 9-day study, 98 healthy children ate either no pineapple, roughly 1 cup (140 grams) of pineapple, or roughly 2 cups (280 grams) of pineapple daily.
Those who ate pineapple had a significantly lower risk of both viral and bacterial infections. Plus, the children who ate the most of this fruit had almost four times more disease-fighting white blood cells than the other groups.
A 30-day study in 40 adults with chronic sinusitis found that those taking a 500-mg bromelain supplement recovered significantly faster than those in the control group.
What’s more, studies have shown that bromelain can reduce markers of inflammation, thereby aiding immune health.
Moreover, preliminary test-tube studies have even found that bromelain supplements, alone and in combination with other compounds, may help reduce symptoms of COVID-19 and slow its progression.
Still, further research in humans is needed. Bear in mind that neither pineapple nor its compounds can cure or prevent COVID-19.
6. May ease symptoms of arthritis
Arthritis affects more than 54 million adults in the United States alone. Many types of arthritis exist, but most involve joint inflammation.
Bromelain’s anti-inflammatory properties may provide pain relief for those with inflammatory arthritis. One study found bromelain supplements to be as effective in easing osteoarthritis in the lower back as regular pain treatment.
In another study in people with osteoarthritis, a digestive enzyme supplement containing bromelain helped relieve pain as effectively as common arthritis medicines.
Furthermore, a test-tube study found that this compound helped protect against the degradation of cartilage tissue and the inflammation associated with osteoarthritis.
All the same, more human research — on pineapples, not just bromelain — is needed.
7. May speed recovery after surgery or strenuous exercise
Eating pineapple may reduce the time it takes to recover from surgery or exercise.
While this fruit helps replenish carb stores after exercise, some of its benefits are also due to the anti-inflammatory properties of bromelain.
Several studies have shown that bromelain may reduce the inflammation, swelling, bruising, and pain that often occur after surgery, including dental and skin procedures. It may likewise reduce markers of inflammation.
Two reviews suggest that bromelain may reduce discomfort, pain, or swelling after dental surgery.
What’s more, one review found that in 5 of 7 randomized controlled studies, bromelain improved recovery after surgical skin procedures. However, its use remains contested.
Moreover, proteases such as bromelain may speed muscle recovery after strenuous exercise by reducing inflammation around the damaged muscle tissue.
Nonetheless, more research is needed before this compound can be recommended for post-training recovery.
8. Easy to add to your diet
Pineapples are sweet, convenient, and easy to add to your diet.
The fresh fruit is easy to find in many grocery stores and markets, even out of season. You can buy it canned, dehydrated, or frozen year-round.
You can enjoy pineapple on its own, in smoothies, on salads, or on homemade pizzas. Here are a few fun recipe ideas that feature pineapple: