Tropical Queen of the Caribbean: 5 Pineapple Health Benefits & so much more!
Updated: Oct 23, 2019
On Tuesdays we explore the body, experimenting with our taste buds, flirting with the satisfaction these meals have on our minds and bodies, enjoying life's simple exotic pleasures.
Living on a tropical island enticingly calls out for #TastyTuesdays! Picture this: a sunny Saturday afternoon in Puerto Rico. You hit the road driving west, away from the bustle of the capital city of San Juan. You poke your head out through the sunroof, breeze strokes your face caressing your hair. To your right you see the glistening turquoise beach under the sun, contrasting against shiny green palm trees; a view amidst faded bright-coloured houses desolate since September 2017 when hurricane Maria struck the island. Open & close, you arrive in Arecibo! Lunch is fresh red snapper or chillo, as locally called, enjoyed oceanside, fulfilling both apetite and sight, body and soul. After a late lunch, you find yourself walking the town and a bright yellow sign that reads, "Fresh piña coladas" flirts with you.
Scene closes as you lick your lips to the taste of sweet fruit nectar, while sipping the colada straight from a whole pineapple itself. See for yourself below!
Not only did this fruit concoction taste delicious and make for colourful photography, the pineapples also bore an endearing little note that said, "I survived hurricane Maria!" If you are in the area, I recommend this day-trip escapade to Arecibo and surroundings; it is a real treat! It has everything from great seafood (restaurant recommendation below,) to beaches, caves, and more explorer attractions.
Thanks to the uplifting nature of piña in my tropical adventure, this Tasty Tuesday edition goes dedicated to the Caribbean Queen!
Pineapples are part of the bromeliad tropical plant family and the only of its family that is edible. The fruit takes between 12-24 months to mature and actually does not grow on trees, but on a flowering plant.
If you cut off the green leafy crown and plant it in the soil, roots form, the plant begins to grow until it flowers red, pink, and even lavender toned flowerets coupled together around the core to form the fruit, turning yellow once its ripe enough to eat. Technically, the pineapple is hundreds of individual fruitlets joint together.
The Pineapple Journey
Ananas comosus, pineapple's botanical name, is native to South America and named as so due to its resemblance to a pine cone. Pineapple then made its way to the Caribbean and up Latin America, where it was cultivated by the Mayans and Aztecs. Explorers such as Christopher Colombus and Ferdinand Magellan are credited for discovering and introducing the crop to the Spaniards and the English, respectively, giving way to the worldwide journey of the "piña de Indes" (pine of the indians,) as Columbus called it.
During the 17th and 18th centuries in England, pineapples became a symbol of status, luxury, and hospitality, due to the fruit's rarity and cost. Affluent colonists would display a pineapple as the centerpiece at their lush dinner parties. If you weren't rich enough to have a fruit of your own, you could rent one for the evening, for an equivalent of $8,000 per night!
FUN FACT: Pineapple was such a highly sought-after commodity in England, and expensive as it was imported, that to be presented with one was a grand honour. As so the prestigious Wimbledon tennis trophy presented to the winner has a pineapple sitting on the top, reflecting its historic value.
Today, this luscious fruit is consumed across the world, enjoyed in exotic recipes and continues to decorate our POP culture.
✔ It is made up of 86% water and 13% carbohydrates (in the form of naturally-occuring sugar: fructose and fiber.)
✔ Naturally rich in nutrients, enzymes, and antioxidants.
• Nutrients are required by the body to function and grow; however, they are not synthesized by the body and must thus be obtained from our diets. Nutrients falls under six classes: carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, water, vitamins, and minerals.
• Enzymes are biological molecules (typically proteins) that significantly speed up the rate chemical reactions in the body.
• Antioxidants are active compounds in plants, phytochemicals, that may help fight inflammation and free radicals in the body, which are linked to the development of cancer.
What vitamins and minerals does pineapple contain?
• Vitamin C (strong antioxidant)
• Manganese: Required for the normal functioning of your brain, nervous system and many of your body's enzyme systems.
The following three minerals aid in nerve transmission & muscle contraction, as well as their individual contributions:
• Magnesium: Protein production
• Potassium: Fluid balance
• Calcium: Bone and teeth health maintenance, blood clotting
What health benefits does pineapple offer?
✔ 1. Boosts immune system
• Containing more than one day's worth in a one cup serving, its richness in Vitamin C supports the immune system and fights cell damage.
✔ 2. Improves bone health
• Rich in manganese, this mineral is important for developing strong bones and connective tissue.
• Pineapple is also the only known source of the enzyme bromelain, which reduces inflammation and relaxes the muscles, thus it may help with pain from bone diseases such as arthritis and osteoporosis. This enzyme, as an anti-inflammatory, also aids in nasal and sinus congestion, reducing mucus in throat and nose.
✔ 3. Aids in digestion
• Its fiber and water content helps promote a healthy digestive tract.
• The bromelain enzyme also breaks down protein helping in digestion.
• The beneficial mix of fiber, enzymes and antioxidants help detox your body of heavy metals and toxins.
✔ 4. Improves eye health
• As a source of beta-carotene, the fruit aids in reducing risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD,) macular being the area of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision.
✔ 5. Regulates blood pressure
• The potassium in pineapple helps maintains the proper balance of electrolytes (preventing cramps or other injuries) and has the ability to counteract the debilitating effects of excessive sodium consumption.
A fun little overview of pineapple benefits in the form of reggae rap by British-born Jamaican reggae artist, Macka-B!
Cooking ideas with pineapple:
✔ Cocktails such as the Piña colada!
✔ Tropical smoothies or fruit salads
✔ Grilled with meat (Pork chops with pineapple!)
• You can harness the bromelain enzyme in pineapplies to tenderize meat!
✔ Snacks: Charred pineapple rings, prociutto-wrapped grilled brie with pineapple, or on its own!
Despite their sweetness, pineapples are low in calories, making them delicious snacks to satiate your sweet tooth! *One cup of pineapple has approx. 70 to 85 calories.*
Tip: Fresh pineapples are always the best option! Careful with canned fruits as they naturally contain sugar in the form of fructose and added syrup will just UP your daily intake of sugar.
Arecibo, Puerto Rico
This is my go-to restaurant in Arecibo. Highly recommended for fresh seafood beachside! Explore your palate & ENJOY! Check out their menu here.