Caroline Burgum, student dietitian, Queen Margaret University.

Whether it’s the swanky cocktails in the sun or the lady selling it on the beach, pineapples always seem to remind us of that summer holiday. Known for their refreshing juicy, sweet, tart flavour and unique rough, spiky appearance, it’s no surprise pineapples are one of the most well-liked fruits in the world. The pineapple, also known as the Ananus Comosus, is part of the Bromeliad family and is native to South America 1. Most commonly grown in Brazil, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Mexico and India, this well loved fruit is available in all major supermarkets all year round. Not only is it a luxury to our taste buds, but also highly nutritious. Experts have concluded 80g, which is roughly one large slice of pineapple without the skin, is one of your five a day 2. The nutritional composition of one portion of pineapple and the reference nutrient intake (RNI) can be found in Table 1 3 4 5 6.

Table 1: The nutritional composition of 1 portion (80g) of pineapple without the skin and reference nutrient intake (RNI)

Nutrient Amount RNI
    0-12 months 1-3 years 4-6 years 7-10 years 11-14 years 15-18 years 19+

years

Energy (kcal) 32.8
Carbohydrates (g) 8
Fibre (NSP) (g) 0.96 15 15 20 25 25-30 30
Protein (g) 0.3
Fat (g) 0.16
Vitamin A (µg) 14.4 350 400 500 500 600 600-700 600-700
Vitamin C (mg) 9.6 25 30 30 30 35 40 40
Folate (µg) 4 50 70 100 150 200 200 200
Potassium (mg) 128 700-800 800 1100 2000 3100 3500 3500
Calcium (mg) 14.4 525 350 450 550 800-1000 800-1000 700
Magnesium (mg) 12.8 55-80 85 120 200 280 300 270-300

Macronutrients

It is clear from the table above that pineapple is an incredible low calorie food that can be an ideal snack option for those who are trying to manage their weight, with only 33 calories per portion. Most of the calories from pineapple come from natural sugars, therefore has very minimal amounts of fat and cholesterol. The estimated average requirements (EAR) for energy, for children up to the age of 18, vary greatly, with adult recommendations of 2000 calories a day for women and 2500 calories a day for men. The EAR for children is shown in Table 2 7.

Table 2: The estimated nutritional requirements of energy (calories) for children aged 0 to 18 years

0-12 months 1-3 years 4-6 years 7-10 years 11-14 years 15-18 years
Girls (kcal/day) 515-865 1165 1545 1740 1845 2110
Boys (kcal/day) 545-920 1230 1715 1970 2220 2755

 

Although only a small amount per portion, pineapple contains fibre, which is beneficial for health for various reasons. There are two types of fibre, soluble and insoluble fibre, and a mixture of both is required to provide the body with its health benefits. Dietary fibre is not digestible and cannot be absorbable by the gut, however soluble fibre forms a gel when dissolved in water, which can help prevent constipation, making stools softer and easier to pass, as well as reducing blood glucose levels, cholesterol levels and the transit time of food passing through the gut 6 8. Insoluble fibre however passes through the gut untouched, with evidence to show it can aid towards the prevention of diseases of the colon and provides bulk to stools 8. Even though the recommendation is 30g of fibre daily for adults, evidence has highlighted the UK population are struggling to even achieve 18g per day 9. This is surprising as consuming this recommended intake of fibre has been linked to a reduced risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases and cardiovascular disease 10.

Micronutrients

Vitamins

Onto the vitamins! Pineapples contain 14.4µg of vitamin A, which is a fat soluble vitamin, stored in the liver. It is required by the body for healthy vision, the maintenance of mucosal membranes, cellular differentiation and the normal growth of tissues, bones and skin 11. It is also required for the maintenance of the immune system and also has an antioxidant role, protecting our cells from free radicals that can cause damage 11. However, a high consumption of Vitamin A is toxic, and it is particularly important pregnant women do not exceed the RNI shown in Table 1, as this may harm their unborn baby. Watching the level of vitamin A consumed can be done by simply avoiding liver and liver products, along with staying clear of vitamin A supplementation.

It’s not only vitamin A that this scrumptious fruit contains, but also vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid. Just one portion of pineapple contains 9.6mg of vitamin C which contributes to 24% of the RNI for adults. In comparison to vitamin A, this vitamin is water soluble and is stored only in very limited supplies in the liver and body tissues, making it a nutrient of great importance in the diet 11. Vitamin C is required for the production of a protein called collagen, important for the functioning of skin, blood vessels and ligaments 4. It is also required for the repair of body tissues, a functioning immune system and is an antioxidant which helps to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals 12. Vitamin C also enhances the absorption of iron when consumed in the same meal, important for those with low levels.

Folic acid is a water soluble B vitamin necessary for the formation of red blood cells, along with vitamin B12. A portion of pineapple contains 4µg of folate which contributes to 2% of the RNI for adults. Folic acid has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke as it can reduce levels of homocysteine, an amino acid which in high levels can contribute to atherosclerosis, also known as blood vessel damage 13.

Minerals

Now onto the minerals! Minerals are inorganic substances which are needed in small amounts for healthy functioning of the body. A portion of pineapple contains 128mg of potassium, which is needed for the balance of water and electrolytes, along with the correct functioning of cells and nerves 14. Potassium has been associated with a decrease in blood pressure and therefore can aid with cardiovascular protection 14. 80g of pineapple contains 14.4mg of calcium, which is the most abundant mineral in the body, where the majority is present in bone 12. Calcium is needed for the formation of bones and teeth, with the help of vitamin D and vitamin K, and is also required in the blood clotting process, the regulation of metabolic processes and the transmission of information through the nervous system 14. Ensuring an adequate amount of calcium is included in the diet is important to maintain healthy bodily functions, but also to reduce your risk of osteoporosis in later life. A portion of pineapple also contain 12.8mg of magnesium, which is a mineral required for the activation of many enzymes and hormones needed for bone metabolism, as well as muscle and nerve function 14.

So when your sat by the pool, or simply day dreaming of being on the beach, why not enjoy the glorious tropical fruit, knowing it’s not only tasty and sweet but also low calorie and jam packed with lots of vitamins and minerals required for health.

 

References

  1. World Atlas (2016). Top Pineapple Producing Countries. [Online]. [Viewed 25 February 2017]. Available from: http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/top-pineapple-producing-countries.html
  2. Food Standards Agency (2002). Food Portion Sizes. 3rd London: TSO.
  3. Food Standards Agency and Public Health England (2014).McCance and Widdowson’s the Composition of Foods. 7th Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry.
  4. Gandy, J (2014). Manual of Dietetic Practice. 5th West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell.
  5. Department of Health (1991). Dietary Reference Values for Food and Nutrients for the United Kingdom. London: HMSO.
  6. British Nutrition Foundation (2017). Dietary Fibre. [Online]. [Viewed 28 February 2017]. Available from: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/basics/fibre.html
  7. British Nutrition Foundation (2017). Energy Intake and Expenditure. [Online]. [Viewed on 28 February 2017]. Available from: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/obesity-and-weight-management/energy-intake-and-expenditure.html?showall=1&limitstart=
  8. British Dietetic Association (2016). Food Fact Sheet: Fibre. [Online]. [Viewed on 27 February 2017]. Available from: https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/fibrefoodfactsheet.pdf
  9. SACN (2015). Carbohydrates and Health. [Online]. [Viewed on 28th February 2017]. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/445503/SACN_Carbohydrates_and_Health.pdf
  10. Anderson, J. W., Baird, P., Davis, R. H., Ferreri, S., Knudtson, M., Koraym, A., Waters, V. and Williams, C. L (2009). Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber. Nutrition Reviews. 67, no. 4, pp. 188-205.
  11. Rickus, A and Saunder, B (2009). OCR Home Economics for A2 Food, Nutrition and Health Today. 1st London: Hodder Education.
  12. Barasi, M. E (2003). Human Nutrition: A Health Perspective. 2nd London: Hodder Arnold.
  13. British Dietetic Association (2016). Food Fact Sheet: Folic Acid. [Online]. [Viewed on 27 February 2017]. Available from: https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/FolicAcid.pdf
  14. British Nutrition Foundation (2017). Minerals and Trace Elements. [Online]. [Viewed on 28th February 2017]. Available from: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/nutrients-food-and-ingredients/minerals-and-trace-elements.html?showall=1&limitstart=