The Flesh-Eating Pineapple Fruit: Myth or Reality?

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Did you ever hear the one about the flesh-eating pineapple? It sounds a little bit like the title of a horror movie. So if you want to know the origins of that scary statement, read on and we’ll explain. 

I just heard about this pineapple and flesh-eating strange word association and I decided to investigate. It’s mostly because I’ve been in love with pineapple my whole life and I’m that kind of weird person – or at least that’s what people frequently tell me – who likes to have pineapple in their pizza, of the Hawaii variety. If I could, I would wear pineapple rings and add a dash of juice to all my cocktails during happy hour. So I had pretty high stakes in this.

Why the flesh-eating pineapple myth?

It all comes from this really cool enzyme found in pineapple and only in pineapple. It’s called bromelain and it actually digests proteins. So, in a way – but not a violent one – when you eat it, it also eats you. Did you ever have a weird taste or sensation in your mouth after trying out some delicious pineapple? Did your tongue feel like it just touched some sandpaper?

The Flesh-Eating Pineapple Fruit: Myth or Reality
When you eat pineapple, you usually feel a prickling sensation on your tongue.

Some people complain on the internet about other problems after consuming pineapple. Like bleeding tongues, gums, and lips. If you have those symptoms, then you might be very sensitive to it and you should try eating less pineapple. Or chewing faster. The wounds aren’t too serious though.

But you don’t have to worry too much about it: this enzyme is destroyed by the acids in your stomach after you eat the fruit.

What can we use this for in the kitchen?

Thanks to bromelain, pineapple can be used as a meat tenderizer. But be careful about using it, because if you leave it on the meat too long, it will make it way too tender. Flesh-eating pineapple is a superhero whose powers you should use with caution.

So how do you tenderize meat with the help of this fruit? You can extract the juice or cut the pineapple into pieces. Add the meat you want to soften in a pan and cover with the juice or pieces of fruit. Do not let it marinate for more than 12 hours because the enzyme will have its way with your future steak.

The Flesh-Eating Pineapple Fruit: Myth or Reality
You can also pair pineapple with meat in a lot of dishes, like pork ribs cooked in pineapple.

What else is bromelain good for?

It’s actually a pretty useful enzyme, this bromelain! It can be used to treat inflammation and swelling, especially after undergoing surgery. But there’s more! Multiple ongoing studies are researching the other possible health benefits of pineapple and bromelain. Like other inflammation-based disorders – osteoarthritis, autoimmune diseases and viral infections. It’s also useful for burn wounds because it helps doctors remove damaged and infected tissues.

The most interesting aspect is the research of bromelain as an anti-cancer agent. Because, as opposed to chemotherapy, which kills actual healthy cells in the body of the patient, bromelain has the potential to only affect the cancerous cells.

So I guess the bottom line is that my pineapple obsession is a pretty healthy thing under these circumstances and you don’t even have to go that far. Just fit a little more pineapple into your diet, because it really is good for you!

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