A Special Enzyme in This Unique Food Has Profound Health Benefits
Although only four feet high, the pineapple plant grows a powerful fruit. This tropical plant, native to South America but now found in warm places around the world, blooms with red or purple flowers. The many small flowers meld together as they produce fruit. So a large pineapple is really a fusion of many smaller berries around a central stalk.
Bromelain is an enzyme that distinguishes pineapples from all other fruits. This enzyme, which your body can absorb intact, has unique and powerful effects to support your health. Pineapple is a special piece of the puzzle in putting together your ideal whole foods, plant-based diet.
To reap the advantages of bromelain, be sure to eat pineapple raw. Cooking or canning destroys this enzyme. An electric knife makes cutting whole pineapple a breeze, or you can buy fresh fruit that is already cut into chunks.
For more bromelain, eat the whole pineapple (minus the skin and leaves). The tougher circle of cells at the center of these fruits (which is actually the central stalk or stem) has more concentrated bromelain than the surrounding tender fruit has.
You can cut the stalk into small pieces or put it into a smoothie where it will be ground up. If you just eat the soft part of the fruit, don’t worry though. You will still be getting bromelain and other wonderful nutrients.
Here are six top reasons to eat more fresh pineapple:
First, bromelain is well-known for its ability to prevent and speed the healing of bruises. These black and blue marks occur when small blood vessels (called capillaries) in your skin are ruptured and blood pools in the tissue under the skin’s surface. Some cosmetic surgeons even recommend this enzyme to reduce bruising after cosmetic procedures. Bromelain inhibits the formation of the blood clots that can block blood circulation.
Second, bromelain has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects that counter a range of chronic diseases and infections.
Bromelain has been used to reduce inflammation in arthritis, sinusitis, inflammatory bowel disease, sports injuries, trauma, burns, prostatitis, and swelling after surgery. This enzyme may aid in reducing the effects of toxic organisms in your intestines as well as help antibiotics to work more effectively when you need to take them.
Third, bromelain works to destroy cancer cells. In fact, bromelain is already used by some clinicians as part of the chemotherapy process. A 2011 study in the peer-reviewed journal Molecular Carcinogenesis found that bromelain was effective in suppressing the growth of two kinds of human cancer cells, including melanoma cells. A 2010 study in the journal BioFactors showed that bromelain delayed growth and eventually induced the death of human breast cancer cells.
Fourth, pineapple is brimming with nutrients in addition to bromelin. Pineapple is not just a bromelain delivery mechanism. This whole food is dense with fiber, vitamin C, and phytochemicals, beneficial nutrients found only in plants. These antioxidants fight the free radicals that can damage your cells and cause disease.
Fifth, because pineapple is a tropical fruit that grows on several continents, you can buy it year-round. If your favorite fruits are out-of-season, try eating pineapple instead.
Sixth, pineapple is a miraculously delicious fruit, juicy, tart, and sweet all at the same time. You can eat this flavorful fruit plain,
and never miss the addition of any other flavor. Pineapple is also a favorite fruit salad addition, and can even be cooked as part of a main course – for example, added to a sweet and sour dish. The only disadvantage of cooking is the destruction of bromelain. But if you eat a lot of pineapple, eating some cooked occasionally won’t hurt.
Given the health benefits of bromelain, you may be wondering if taking this enzyme as a supplement (bromelain pills are readily available) is not superior to just eating fresh pineapple. This is an example of the dangerous food myth “if a little is good, more is better.”
Whether bromelain pills might have medicinal value for serious illness, such as cancer, remains to be investigated. If you are seriously ill, ask your physician about whether bromelain supplements might be helpful. If you are taking blood thinners, be sure to consult with your physician before taking bromelain supplements, which also help prevent blood clot formation and could interact with your blood thinner.
For healthy people eating pineapple for its general beneficial effects and flavor, it’s possible that a concentrated mega-dose of bromelain in a supplement has detrimental side effects. Your body was not designed to handle unnatural concentrations of any nutrient, beyond what nature puts into whole foods. So take home that gorgeous pineapple you were admiring in the store and enjoy all its benefits and goodness.
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Blog posting by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet: How to Lose Weight and Get Healthy Now With Six Kinds of Whole Foods. This easy-to-follow eating plan is built on sustainable food choices that can prevent, and even reverse, most chronic disease.