Skip the treats full of refined sugar and artificial colors this spring. It’s time to celebrate the season with naturally sweetened and colorful fresh pineapple! While they’re available all year, they taste best between March and June. They are truly Mother Nature’s candy: a sweet, juicy, bright yellow treat jammed-packed with nutrition to boost your health while replacing added refined sugar in your diet. To find out how to pick the best tasting pineapple and why you turn them upside down, see my pineapple tips below.
Fresh pineapple is the only known source of an enzyme called bromelain. This enzyme, unique to pineapple, helps the body to break down ingested proteins into amino acids, possibly helping with digestion. Bromelain also has natural anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting, and detoxification properties.
Just one cup of fresh pineapple chunks provides more than 100% of the daily recommended intake (DRI) of vitamin C, important for the immune system and for building the collagen needed for healthy bones, skin, organs, and blood vessels. A cup of pineapple also provides 77% DRI of the mineral manganese, essential in many reactions in the body, and important for fighting disease and producing energy to increase your overall energy levels. Manganese also helps in the creation of important fatty acids and in maintaining bone density.
Pineapple is also a very good source of copper (20% DRI), another important mineral that helps to keep bones strong, enhances skin and thyroid health, and increases the body’s resistance to infections. Pineapple is a good source of vitamin B1 (which also helps the body to produce energy), vitamin B6, dietary fiber, folate, and pantothenic acid.
For the best tasting fresh pineapple, here are a few tips:
1) Choose a Pineapple: Pineapples stop ripening as soon as they are picked, so it’s important to choose a ripe pineapple at the store. Start by picking one that’s heavy for its size, then pluck a center leaf from the top. If it comes out easily, it’s ripe. Avoid pineapples with a musty, sour, or fermented smell, as they will be overripe.
2) Turn Your Pineapple Upside Down: The area closer to the base of the fruit has a higher sugar content. Place your pineapple in the refrigerator upside down for about thirty minutes before cutting to redistribute the sugars more evenly through the pineapple.
3) Make Softer, Juicier Pineapples: Even though pineapples don’t sweeten after they are picked, they may need to be left at room temperature for a few days to become softer and juicier before you cut into them.
4) Cut Pineapple Keeps Nutrients: Store fresh cut pineapple in the refrigerator so you can enjoy it all week, rather than having to depend on canned pineapple. Research indicates that cut fruit, if chilled, retains almost all of its nutrients for at least 6 days.
5) Choose Fresh Over Canned: Pineapple loses some nutrients and all of the effectiveness of its unique enzyme, bromelain, when it is canned. For instance, the vitamin C content of 1 cup of fresh pineapple drops from 105% of the recommended amount per day to only 28% when it is canned.
The bold flavor of pineapple brings a delicious versatility to both savory and sweet dishes. I mix diced pineapple and chili peppers together with lime juice, red onion, and cilantro for an easy salsa that’s especially good with fish. Grilled pineapple makes almost any meal a standout and adding fresh pineapple to your kabobs just makes them even better. Fresh pineapple with cottage cheese is a tasty way to add protein to your day, and smoothies made with frozen pineapple magically sweeten added greens. Broiling pineapple with a bit of pure maple syrup caramelizes the sugars for a wonderful sweet dessert. Top it with Greek yogurt for a little extra protein.
Encourage great skin, strong bones, a healthier immune system, better digestion, and happier taste buds by indulging in this naturally sweet, juicy treat. Celebrate the season by taking my Healthy Challenge for April and eat more delicious fresh pineapple today!