Pining for pineapple


GONG Xi Fa Cai to all our Chinese readers. Pineapple in Hokkien is ong lai which signifies prosperity. Pineapple tarts have become a popular cookie served during Chinese New Year to symbolise prosperity. 

Pineapples can be grown easily. The fruit is formed from a composite head of numerous flowers. Besides its healing and cleansing qualities, it possesses many health-giving properties. However, some people are allergic to pineapple. In any circumstances, too much pineapple is also not good for you. 

Besides its healing and cleansing qualities, the pineapple possesses many health-giving properties.

Heals wounds 

The pineapple is rich in the enzyme bromelain. It soothes sore throat and helps in digestion. Bromelain digests protein in food and makes it available for absorption. It tenderises meat too. Besides these properties, the citric and malic acids that add the appetising tartness in the fruit, make pineapples an excellent ingredient in sweet and sour fish or meat dishes.  

Bromelain speeds up wound healing and reduces inflammation. The pineapple is a good choice of fruit for patients before and after surgery and bromelain is available in capsules for medical purposes. 

A cleanser 

The pineapple is a cleanser. Bromelain aids in cleansing and counterbalances fluids that are too alkaline or acidic. It raises the alkalinity of blood and helps in acidosis and oedema by eliminating excess water in the body.  

The pineapple is one of the few fruits that have high aspartic acid. It makes the pineapple a good choice for those who suffer from gout. Aspartic acid functions as an amino acid in our body metabolic process. More significantly, it aids in the removal of ammonia from the body. Ammonia is a toxic substance harmful to the central nervous system. 

Other nourishing nutrients 

Similar to bananas, pineapples contain dietary fibre. It aids in the lowering of blood cholesterol, reducing risk of heart attack and diabetes. Dietary fibre in a slice of fresh pineapple (150g) is comparable to that in half an orange. 

Zanariah Jiman, a senior research officer at the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi), reported that the pineapple contains both essential and non-essential amino acids with prevalence in aspartic, alanine, glycine, valine, serine, proline, and glutamic acids. 

Alanine and glycine are amino acids which strengthen the immune system. Aspartic acid relieves fatigue and increases your endurance level. Valine, leucine and isoleucine in pineapples are amino acids required by our body for growth and repair of muscle tissue. These are also essential nutrients in energy regulation and for calming emotions. The non-essential amino acid, proline, is important for proper functioning of joints and tendons. It helps to maintain and strengthen heart muscles. 

Pineapples contain cystine that is relatively low in other local fruits. Our hair and skin are made up of 10-14% cystine. Cystine is a non-essential amino acid needed in collagen synthesis, and is necessary for the formation of skin and wound healing. Cystine slows the ageing process. The amino acid serine found in pineapples is an ingredient in moisturisers.  

Pineapples contain fibre and minerals. It is suitable for juice making and is rich in vitamin C. 

Safety concern 

To some people, eating too much fresh pineapple may cause headaches. 

Pineapples contain 5-hydroxyptamine which causes blood vessels, especially those in the brain, to shrink and gives rise to headaches and raises blood pressure. 

Some people’s skin may turn red and itch after eating a small slice of pineapple. To avoid this, cut pineapples into small pieces and soak them in salt water before eating them. 

In serious cases of allergy, a person’s limb, mouth and lip may become numb. Others may feel nauseous or develop severe stomach-aches and diarrhoea. There are also people who suffer difficulty in breathing and the onset of shock may occur after consuming too much pineapple. 

Pineapples may cause heavy menstrual flow in some women. Thus, pregnant women are traditionally advised against eating pineapples to avoid miscarriages. 

The enzyme bromelain can be damaging to the skin. When handling large amounts of raw pineapple, wear gloves to protect your skin. 

Buying tips 

The fruit may be green or yellow-gold in colour, depending on the variety. When choosing a pineapple, look for a heavy fruit which is an indicator of juiciness. The nose is best used to determine ripeness. Ripe pineapples have a strong, sweet and pleasant fragrance. 

An unripe pineapple is very sour. Once the pineapple is cut from the plant, it will not ripen any further. Upon storage, the unripe fruit will begin to rot, since the fruit is without any starch reserves to be converted to sugar. 

The pineapple nourishes us with its cleansing properties. Its aroma and taste make it a fruit commonly served as an appetiser. It is also used for cooking delicious mouth-watering cuisines yearned by many for its stimulating and appetising taste.  

  • Chia Joo Suan is formerly a senior research officer at Mardi, Food Technology Centre. 

    If you have questions on food safety, send them to Food Safety, StarTwo, Star Publications (M) Bhd, Menara Star, 15 Jalan 16/11, 46350 Petaling Jaya (03-7967 1388 / fax: 03-7955 4366 / e-mail: ). 

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