On a visit to the Southern States of the USA I couldn’t help but notice that there were pineapples everywhere – not the sweet juicy edible kind, but ornamental ones, carved into doorways, gates, pillars, furniture and the like.
We were told that the Pineapple is a symbol of hospitality, hence its popularity on doors and gateposts. This is certainly compatible with the extremely welcoming and hospitable population we met whilst travelling through the South.
In colonial days, visiting was the primary means of entertainment and cultural exchange, so the concept of hospitality was of prime importance. It is said that the ladies of the house would make sure a pineapple featured in a prominent position on the dining table when visitors were present. The pineapple came to symbolize the warmest welcome a hostess could extend to her guests.
When I got home I decided to investigate a bit further. From what I can find out it would appear that it is a bit of a myth that Pineapples were used to denote hospitality, it was just that they were used as a decorative symbol. However despite all of that, Pineapples are a pretty awesome food which offer many benefits to our health and so back in the day they were obviously onto something.
The health benefits of Pineapple
The core of a pineapple contains Bromelain. Normally if you eat the fresh fruit the core is discarded; but if you juice or blend the pineapple then the core can be included. Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme that helps the body digest proteins more efficiently. Bromelain has anti-inflammatory properties that benefit any inflammation of the internal organs. It also speeds up recovery after external injuries and reduces swelling. It is more usually found in supplement form where it is used as an anti-inflammatory agent. Studies have shown that regular consumption of pineapple helps fight against arthritis, indigestion and worm infestation. Bromelain is also said to protect against blood clots and to clean blood by removing debris and toxins from the blood stream. This makes it a valuable dietary addition for frequent fliersand others who may be at risk for blood clots. Eating pineapple fruit has also been known to reduce ‘ulcerative colitis’.
Pineapple is a great source of Vitamin C. The fruit provides the same benefits as orange juice in treating a cold or cough, but due to the effects of Bromelain also helps to suppress coughs and loosen mucus. Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant which helps to protect the body against damage from free radicals. it is needed for building up the immune system and for protecting against serious disease such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis and other degenerative disorders, as well as the common cold. Vitamin C is also vital for the formation of collagen. Collagen is the main structural protein in the body required for maintaining the integrity of blood vessels, skin, organs, and bones.
Pineapple is high in manganese, a trace mineral that is critical to development of strong bones and connective tissue. Manganese is responsible for bone formation, healing wounds, and keeping skin healthy. It regulates blood sugar levels, and helps with the immune system to fight off disease. Pineapple consumption can boost the growth and development of bones in young people and strengthen bones among the elderly.
Pineapple fruit also contains a good amount of beta-carotene (the pre-cursor to Vitamin A), another compound with strong antioxidant properties. Vitamin A is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes, skin and is essential for vision. Pineapple has been found to assist with good eye-health and helps to protect against age related eye problems such as Macular degeneration
Just keep an eye out for those pineapples!