Pineapple is one of my absolute favorite fruits, and I know I'm not the only one who loves the tropical treat. There's no question it's refreshing and delicious. But pineapple also packs some pretty powerful health benefits. Here are three healthy excuses to add more of the nutritious fruit to your diet, along with a few of my favorite ways to enjoy it.
It's loaded with vitamin C
One cup of pineapple provides more than 100% of your recommended daily amount of vitamin C. And while you're probably well aware that this nutrient helps support immunity, it does so much more. Vitamin C is involved in the growth and repair of tissues throughout the body. Plus it acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells against premature aging and illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. The vitamin may also have an effect on your waistline: One study found that exercisers who weren't getting enough vitamin C burned about 25% fewer calories during their workouts. And too little vitamin C in the bloodstream has been linked to higher body fat and waist size.
It supports healthy skin
Pineapple is rich in manganese. (Just one cup contains more than 75% of the amount recommended for one day). This mineral, along with vitamin C, is required for building collagen—a structural component of skin that prevents sagging and wrinkles.
Manganese also functions as an antioxidant that protects skin cells from damage against UV light, making pineapple especially crucial in the summertime.
It promotes healthy digestion
If you’ve ever tried to add fresh pineapple to a gelatin dessert you know that it just won’t work. That’s because pineapples contain an enzyme called bromelain, which breaks down the gelatin into its amino acid building blocks, preventing it from becoming or staying solid. For the same reason, pineapple is often used in marinades, to help tenderize meat. And the enzyme doesn't just affect cooking—if you eat pineapple along with a meal, bromelain may help you digest proteins, potentially reducing bloating, indigestion, and sluggishness. The dietary fiber in pineapple also helps maintain bowel regularity, and prevent constipation.
Easy ways to eat more pineapple
While fresh pineapple is amazing as is, you can also try incorporating it into recipes. Here are a few of my favorite ways to add the fruit to smoothies, cookouts, cocktails, and more.
- Whip pineapple into a smoothie with coconut milk, coconut butter, pea protein powder, half of a yellow bell pepper, and a bit of fresh ginger root.
- Add fresh pineapple to slaw. Whisk together a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar, a tablespoon of juice from fresh pineapple, a teaspoon of honey, half a teaspoon each of fresh grated ginger and minced garlic, and a dash of black pepper and sea salt. Toss with a half cup each of shredded cabbage and pineapple chunks. Chill and serve as a side dish or topping for fish or black beans.
- Grill up slices of fresh pineapple at your next cookout.
- For a healthier version of a frozen umbrella drink, whip together a cup of fresh pineapple, a handful of ice, and a quarter cup each of unsweetened coconut milk and frozen banana slices, and then stir in an ounce of rum.
Not sure how to cut up a fresh pineapple? Check out my Instagram slideshow below.
This story originally appeared on Health.com.