If you need something really sweet, and not just any old fruit will do, reach for fresh pineapple. It is one of the sweetest fruits around, and has much less caloric value than a sugary, flour-filled, processed dessert.
Although pineapples from Puerto Rico, Mexico, and elsewhere are cheaper, they aren't as juicy and flavorful as those from Hawaii. But all pineapples share the same desirable characteristics: exceptionally sweet taste and high fiber content.
Serve pineapple for dessert and no one will complain about missing sweets. That's just one benefit of this delicacy. Moreover, its fiber will fill you up and might help keep you regular. Pineapple is also a sweet way to get your manganese, which is one of many bone-strengthening minerals and a star player when it comes to protecting you against free radical damages via its role in the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase. One cup exceeds a day's recommended amount by 30 percent. You also get a decent amount of copper and thiamin, plus more than a third of your recommended vitamin C needs.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, but it also helps keep your immune system in tip-top shape by increasing your resistance against colds, flu, and other infectious diseases. Fresh, raw pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain that aids digestion and helps prevent inflammation and swelling. To get the most anti-inflammatory benefit, some suggest that you eat pineapple alone so the bromelain isn't used up digesting other food you've eaten with it.
Selection and Storage
When choosing pineapple, forget all the other tricks; let your nose be your guide. A ripe pineapple emits a sweet aroma from its base, except when cold. Color is not reliable; ripe pineapples vary in color by variety. Don't rely on plucking a leaf from the middle either. You can do this with all but the most unripe pineapples. And it can just as easily mean that it's rotten.
Choose a large pineapple that feels heavy for its size, indicating juiciness and a lot of pulp. The "eyes" should stand out. A ripe pineapple yields slightly when pressed.
Once a pineapple is picked, it's as sweet as it will ever get. It does no good to let it "ripen" at home. It will only rot.
Preparation and Serving Tips
Tips on tackling a pineapple: Cut off the bottom and top, then use a sharp knife to peel the outside first. Remove any remaining "eyes." Cut into quarters and remove the core from each quarter, then cut into slices. Or cut into quarters and scoop out the inside without peeling it at all. Refrigerate cut-up pieces.
Try fruit kabobs for a unique dessert: Alternate pineapple, strawberries, and other fruit on skewers. Or grill pineapple skewered with vegetables. Try pineapple on a brown rice and bean dish to give it zing; this is a great alternative to a meat-based dish.
Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain that breaks down protein and is the reason why gelatin won't set when fresh pineapple is added. Use canned pineapple instead.
Remember, pineapple is a very sweet solution for your sugar cravings, which can help you stick to your weight-loss plan and forgo dessert cart.
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