Pineapple: 8 Impressive Health Benefits
By Lisa Wartenberg, MFA, RD, LD and Ryan Raman, MS, RD — Medically reviewed by Jerlyn Jones, MS MPA RDN LD CLT, Nutrition — Updated on Mar 16, 2022
Pineapple (Ananas comosus) is an incredibly delicious, healthy tropical fruit. It’s packed with nutrients, antioxidants, and other helpful compounds, such as enzymes that can protect against inflammation and disease. It’s commonly eaten baked, grilled, or freshly cut.
Originating in South America, it was named by early European colonizers for its resemblance to a pine cone (1).
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.
- 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 (2Trusted Source):
Fat: 1.7 grams
Protein: 1 gram
Carbs: 21.6 grams
Fiber: 2.3 grams
Vitamin C: 88% of the Daily Value (DV)
Manganese: 109% of the DV
Vitamin B6: 11% of the DV
Copper: 20% of the DV
Thiamine: 11% of the DV
Folate: 7% of the DV
Potassium: 4% of the DV
Magnesium: 5% of the DV
Niacin: 5% of the DV
Pantothenic acid: 7% of the DV
Riboflavin: 4% of the DV
Iron: 3% of the DV
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 (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).
Antioxidants help prevent oxidation in your body, which may help ward off inflammation that can lead to cancer and other chronic diseases (5Trusted Source).
Pineapples also contain other micronutrients, such as copper, thiamine, and vitamin B6, which are essential for healthy metabolism (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
Pineapples are especially rich in vitamin C and manganese, as well as numerous other vitamins and minerals.
- 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 (5Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).
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 (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).
What’s more, many of the antioxidants in pineapple are considered bound antioxidants, meaning that they produce longer-lasting effects (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
Pineapples are a rich source of antioxidants that may reduce your risk of ailments such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.
- 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 (12Trusted Source).
Bromelain functions as a protease, which breaks down protein molecules into their building blocks, such as amino acids and small peptides (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).
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 (15Trusted Source).
Bromelain is also widely used as a commercial meat tenderizer due to its ability to break down tough meat proteins (15Trusted Source).
One test-tube study found that bromelain reduced inflammatory markers in digestive tissue, though further research is needed (16Trusted Source).
What’s more, pineapples are a good source of fiber, which aids digestive health (2Trusted Source).
Pineapples contain bromelain, a group of digestive enzymes that may help break down protein and aid digestion.
- 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 (17Trusted Source).
Several studies note that pineapple and its compounds, including bromelain, may reduce cancer risk by minimizing oxidative stress and reducing inflammation (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
Some studies show that bromelain may also help treat cancer that has already developed (18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).
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 (19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).
Other test-tube studies have produced similar results for skin, colorectal, or bile duct cancers (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source).
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 (25Trusted Source).
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 (26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source).
Overall, more human research is necessary (28Trusted Source).
Pineapple contains compounds such as bromelain that may have anticancer effects, although far more human studies are needed.
- May boost immunity and suppress inflammation
Pineapples have been used in traditional medicine for centuries (1, 15Trusted Source).
They contain a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes such as bromelain that may collectively improve immunity and reduce inflammation (12Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source).
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 (29Trusted Source).
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 (29Trusted Source).
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 (30Trusted Source).
What’s more, studies have shown that bromelain can reduce markers of inflammation, thereby aiding immune health (12Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source).
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 (12Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source).
Still, further research in humans is needed. Bear in mind that neither pineapple nor its compounds can cure or prevent COVID-19 (12Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source).
Pineapples have anti-inflammatory properties that may help enhance your immune function.
- 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 (35Trusted Source).
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 (28Trusted Source, 36Trusted Source, 37Trusted Source).
In another study in people with osteoarthritis, a digestive enzyme supplement containing bromelain helped relieve pain as effectively as common arthritis medicines (38Trusted Source).
Furthermore, a test-tube study found that this compound helped protect against the degradation of cartilage tissue and the inflammation associated with osteoarthritis (39Trusted Source).
All the same, more human research — on pineapples, not just bromelain — is needed.
The anti-inflammatory properties of pineapple may relieve symptoms of arthritis, though more human studies are necessary.
- May speed recovery after surgery or strenuous exercise
Eating pineapple may reduce the time it takes to recover from surgery or exercise (40Trusted Source).
While this fruit helps replenish carb stores after exercise, some of its benefits are also due to the anti-inflammatory properties of bromelain (2Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source).
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 (40Trusted Source).
Two reviews suggest that bromelain may reduce discomfort, pain, or swelling after dental surgery (41Trusted Source, 42Trusted Source).
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 (43Trusted Source, 44Trusted Source).
Moreover, proteases such as bromelain may speed muscle recovery after strenuous exercise by reducing inflammation around the damaged muscle tissue (45Trusted Source, 46Trusted Source).
Nonetheless, more research is needed before this compound can be recommended for post-training recovery (46Trusted Source, 47Trusted Source, 48Trusted Source).
Bromelain in pineapples may reduce the inflammation, swelling, and discomfort that occurs after surgery. Its anti-inflammatory properties may also aid recovery after strenuous exercise.
- 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:
Breakfast: smoothie with pineapple, blueberry, and Greek yogurt
Salad: tropical roast chicken, almonds, blueberries, and pineapple atop lettuce or other greens
Lunch: homemade Hawaiian burgers (beef burgers with a pineapple ring)
Dinner: pineapple fried rice and seitan
Dessert: homemade pineapple whip (frozen pineapple chunks blended with a splash of coconut milk and a dash of lemon juice)
Fresh, stir-fried, blended, or roasted, pineapple works well in numerous dishes. You can find it canned, fresh, dehydrated, or frozen in most stores year-round.
Are there any health risks to eating pineapple?
Pineapples are not a common allergen. Eating them is considered very low risk unless you have a known pineapple allergy. In that case, you should avoid pineapple and its extracts.
People with diabetes should be mindful of serving sizes to keep their blood sugar stable (49Trusted Source).
However, even in people without an allergy or diabetes, eating too much pineapple — more than a few servings per day — may have unintended side effects.
For instance, bromelain may affect blood clotting. Therefore, people who take blood thinners should eat pineapple in modest amounts (50Trusted Source, 51Trusted Source, 52Trusted Source).
Those sensitive to bromelain may also experience tongue burning or itching and even nausea or diarrhea — though these downsides are anecdotal and haven’t been studied scientifically.
Some people claim that eating a lot of unripe pineapple causes stomach upset, nausea, and diarrhea. Again, this hasn’t been studied, but it’s always best to select ripe pineapple. The flesh should be a light to medium yellow.
Pineapple is widely considered safe, though a small percentage of people may have an allergy to it. People who have diabetes or take blood thinners should be mindful of portion sizes when eating pineapple.
The bottom line
Pineapples are delicious, versatile, and loaded with nutrients and antioxidants.
Their nutrients and compounds have been linked to impressive health benefits, including improved digestion, a lower risk of cancer, and osteoarthritis relief. Nonetheless, more human studies are needed.
You can eat this fruit blended, roasted, sauteed, or fresh — either on its own or in any number of dishes.
Just one thing
Try this today: Craving pineapple but yours isn’t yet ripe? To ripen your too-green pineapple, place it in a paper bag. Placing a banana in the bag as well may speed up the process. The bag traps ethylene gas emitted by the fruit and accelerates ripening.
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