We often associate pineapples with the island of Hawaii, but they only arrived there in the 1700s. It was the Spanish who actually had the good idea of carrying pineapples on long sea voyages to avoid scurvy, a disease caused by deficiency of vitamin C. It is also believed that they were only introduced to the Caribbean when washed ashore from the wrecks of Spanish ships. When Christopher Columbus made his second trip to the Caribbean in 1493, he called the pineapple the “pine of the Indies”, as it resembled a pine cone. The “apple” part was added to the name when it was introduced to England, to make the association with that particularly popular fruit.
Pineapple has been eaten for therapeutic reasons for centuries, in particular for digestive problems. An important active ingredient found mainly in the pineapple stem, is bromelain, a potent protein digesting enzyme which helps clean out waste in the digestive tract. Think of the traditional gammon steak and pineapple – the latter is not just there for taste, but to help digest the pork that it so difficult for humans to break down. Bromelain is often seen in commercial meat tenderisers. This property also helps to break down mucus in the body and bromelain in supplement form can be helpful in relieving symptoms of ear, nose and throat conditions, asthma and inflammatory conditions, such as joint problems.
The high vitamin C and manganese content of pineapples make them highly supportive of immune system function, especially alongside bromelain, as effective anti-inflammatory foods. These nutrients also promote healthy collagen production and so help to heal all the tissues in your body; not bad as fresh pineapple tastes really fresh and juicy too. Dried pineapple is a convenient way to eat it and a great alternative to sweets.