There’s a reason why you should add pineapple juice to your morning smoothie, and it’s not necessarily because of its sweet tang. Pineapple is super high in bromelain, an enzyme that helps break down proteins and aid in digestion.
While the effects of bromelain haven’t been studied extensively, it’s also said to have a number of other health benefits, ranging from reducing pain and soreness after a workout to alleviating the symptoms of allergies.
While you can take bromelain as a supplement, the only natural food source of bromelain is pineapple, which is found in the stem/core and the juice. Here are a few of the biggest benefits of bromelain and why you should incorporate it into your diet.
1) BROMELAIN IS SAID TO HAVE ANTI-INFLAMMATORY PROPERTIES.
Bromelain has been shown to relieve swelling and expedite recovery, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. “One study that evaluated bromelain’s ability to treat patients found that it supported wound healing and helped decrease pain and swelling following operations,” says Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of the website Ancient Nutrition.
“Of the 80 people who participated in the study, those who were prescribed bromelain [as a supplement] reported ‘significantly lower’ post-operation pain, swelling, and even redness, compared to the control group who received a generic painkiller,” he says. That said, because this is a pretty small sample size, more research still needs to be conducted to confirm this.
What’s more, bromelain is said to reduce soreness and pain after a tough workout. “It’s being studied for arthritis-related pain relief, but we don’t have enough evidence to back up this claim yet,” says Maggie Moon, MS, RD and author of the MIND Diet.. Still, it couldn’t hurt to eat some pineapple or add pineapple core to a post-workout smoothie or juice if your muscles are aching.
(As an added benefit, yup, that urban legend about pineapple making your semen taste better is 100% true.)
2) IT MAKES YOU POOP LIKE A ROCK STAR.
Constipated? Moon says to reach for some pineapple. “Bromelain breaks down protein, such as collagen, down into its amino acids,” says Moon. “It helps digest protein before it enters the mouth, giving the body a head-start in digesting protein foods.”
Because bromelain makes the breakdown faster, it can help get things moving around down there if you’re having trouble staying regular. That’s why people on high-protein diets, like Paleo or Keto, can benefit from bromelain if they’re having trouble pooping.
3) IT CAN HELP TENDERIZE MEAT
While this isn’t really a health benefit, bromelain is said to make your cooking easier and meats tastier. “Bromelain is an enzyme that breaks down protein, which is why a little pineapple juice is a great meat tenderizer (but don’t marinate it for too long or you end up with mush — there is such a thing as meat that is too tender!),” Moon says.
HOW TO GET BROMELAIN?
While there is some bromelain in pineapple flesh, most of the high bromelain content is found in the core. So save that core for your morning juice when you can. (Need a quick fruit hack? This is the easiest way to cut up a whole pineapple.)
If you’re not a pineapple fan, you can still take a bromelain supplement, but you should speak to your physician first to decide which amount is right for you. (Also, this should go without saying, but if you’re allergic to pineapple, it’s probably not a good idea to take it.)