Tasty, Healthy Papaya and Pineapple
Nothing says “tropical” like papayas and pineapples. These fabulous fruits conjure up images of sand, surf, palm trees and warm breezes. But that’s not all they do: They both contain enzymes that have great health benefits.
Papaya and Papain
Papaya contains vitamins A and C, plus papain — an enzyme that may help with digestive problems. Papain digests proteins, which is why it’s a key ingredient in meat tenderizers. As a medicine, papain is used to help heal burns.
In addition to its mild-flavored flesh, papaya’s peppery seeds are edible and make a great salad dressing.
Papaya is easy to prepare: Wash the fruit in cool water, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds, then peel and slice it into sections. You can also use a melon baller to scoop out the fruit. Try papaya in these ways:
- Eat it alone or stew, bake, sauté or barbecue it
- Use it as a garnish
- Combine it with bananas, pineapple, strawberries, oranges, limes or coconuts in a fruit salad
- Cut it into different shapes and serve as a breakfast food, in salads or as a refreshing side dish with spicy foods
- Use green (unripe) papaya in salsa, or add it to stews and soups
- Combine cubed papaya, mango and pineapple for a fruity salsa to serve with fish and poultry
- Add it to a smoothie
- Purée it for dressings and marinades
Pineapple and Bromelain
Besides being a good source of vitamin C, pineapples contain bromelain — an enzyme that has been shown to calm inflammation linked to asthma, and to relieve indigestion, stomach upset and heartburn. As a medication, bromelain can reduce swelling, bruising, redness and tenderness. Bromelain also helps our digestive tracts break down food so that its nutrients are released into the bloodstream.
This delicious, nutritious fruit is available fresh or canned. Here’s how to prepare fresh pineapple:
- Remove the plume of leaves at the top by cutting it at the crown with a sharp knife
- Begin slicing at the end where the plume was removed
- Cut the pineapple into 1/2-inch thick slices all the way to the end
- With the pineapple slices on a flat surface, use a small knife to cut around the outside of each ring to remove the rind
- Use the knife to remove any “eyes” that remain when the rind is trimmed
- Next, use the knife to cut around the hard, center core in each slice
Pineapple is versatile and delicious when paired with sweet or savory dishes. Try these serving suggestions:
- Eat fresh pineapple as a snack
- Add it to salads, pies, cakes, yogurt and punches
- Sauté, broil or grill fresh slices and serve with ice cream
- Use it to make sweet-and-sour sauces for Chinese dishes
- Serve it in glazes with ham, pork, chicken and seafood
TIP: Because the bromelain in fresh pineapple breaks down protein, the fresh fruit makes a great marinade. But don’t use fresh pineapple in salads containing sour cream or cottage cheese, or they’ll become watery. Fresh or frozen pineapple also cannot be used for gelatin salads because the bromelain prevents the gelatin from setting. Use canned or cooked pineapple instead because it’s heated, and heating destroys the enzyme.
Add more papaya and pineapple to your meals, and you’ll be getting the health benefits of papain and bromelain along with the great tropical flavors.
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