Boost Your Cooking and Your Immune System With Pineapple—the Refreshing Powerhouse Fruit Packed With Vitamin C

RDs explain why your palate, immune system, and digestive system will thank you for adding more pineapple to the menu.

From fruit salad to smoothies or even pizza, chances are you've consumed pineapple in some shape or form. This sweet fruit really is so versatile when it comes to preparation options, and as it turns out, there are several health benefits of eating pineapple too. Indigenous to South America, pineapple is a sweet and juicy tropical fruit that can add unique flavor to a variety of snacks, drinks, and dishes. Whole pineapples somewhat resemble giant pine cones topped with a crown of stiff, green leaves. And at first glance, it might look like quite the task to cut into to get to the tender, yellow fruit within. While it's actually not all that complicated to peel and cut a pineapple (watch this video to get the hang of it), you can also find pre-sliced pineapple at most supermarkets—so it couldn't be easier to punch up your dishes with pineapple while sneakily offering your body a boost of vitamin C and other good-for-you benefits.

The Top Health Benefits of Pineapple

Pineapple is packed with many important nutrients, particularly vitamin C, as well as antioxidants and other compounds that can aid in fighting inflammation and boosting the immune system, digestion, and even surgery recovery.

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It's High in Vitamin C

"In one cup of pineapple, you get 79 milligrams of vitamin C, which is 88 percent of the daily value, and that also helps boost immunity," says Amy Gorin, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian and owner of Plant-Based Eats in Stamford, Conn. One study even showed that children who consumed pineapple every day had a lower risk of viral or bacterial infections.

"Vitamin C is used by your body to build collagen, which helps to keep your skin fresh and plump," adds Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, founder of BZ Nutrition in New York City. "It also helps to strengthen your immune system and aids in your absorption of iron. Pairing a source of vitamin C with a source of iron (like spinach, dried apricots, and fortified cereals) is especially important for women, who often experience low iron levels."

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It Contains the Enzyme Bromelain

"You also get satiating fiber and even a gram of protein, as well as bromelain, which is beneficial for helping to lower inflammation," Gorin says. Bromelain is a digestive enzyme present in the fruit, core, and leaves of pineapple with several purported therapeutic benefits—so many in fact, that pineapple has been utilized as a healing agent in traditional folk medicine for thousands of years. It's known for its "anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic and fibrinolytic effects, anticancer activity and immunomodulatory effects, in addition to being a wound-healing and circulatory-improvement agent," according to a 2016 biomedical report in the journal Spandidos Publications.

Test-tube studies have shown that bromelain can help to reduce the risk of certain cancers because of its inflammation-fighting properties. Another study found that bromelain may be helpful in treating arthritis symptoms—however, further human research is needed to prove these claims. Finally, bromelain has also been shown to help with recovery from muscle damage caused by exercise.

RELATED: 4 Delicious Foods You Didn't Know Were Anti-Inflammatory

Sweet and Savory Ways to Prepare Pineapple

Pineapple is a fruit that most people are familiar with and can be eaten and prepared in a variety of ways. While it's delicious, sweet-tart, and refreshing all on its own, Gorin recommends adding it to a fruit salad or a breakfast yogurt parfait for even more flavor, vitamins, and protein.

Zeitlin recommends adding a cup of pineapple to breakfast smoothies, along with 2 cups of spinach for an energizing morning boost; pairing it with some cheese for an afternoon snack; or having a cup of pineapple after dinner for a naturally sweet, palate-cleansing treat.

We've also got plenty of recipe options right here at Real Simple. Try making this creamy, dreamy, tropical soft-serve that's only three ingredients and reminiscent of Disney World's famous Dole Whip; or this cinnamon-roasted pineapple that would make the perfect dessert. Finally, in this day and age, it's not uncommon to see pineapple available as a topping option for pizza; served alongside chicken, burgers, or fish; charred on the grill for natural caramelization and added complexity; or combined into an otherwise savory lunchtime salad. It's slightly tart sweetness brings an irresistible wow-factor to savory dishes and umami-rich meat and seafood.

With so many ways to enjoy pineapple, a fruit packed with key vitamins and nutrients, there's no way you'll want to leave it out of your rotation.

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