Pineapples can have a sweet, prickly, and sometimes pungent flavor. This comes from a substance in fresh pineapple that erodes the mucous membranes in the mouth.
All people focus on the reason why the sweet and refreshing pineapple full of vitamin C, vitamin B, manganese and other beneficial compounds burns their mouths while trying to enjoy the fruit. The basic chemistry behind why this fruit causes so much pain in the mouth. This substance is called bromelain. Proteases are a specific type of enzyme that facilitate chemical reactions in the body by breaking down particular proteins.
bromelain in pineapple
Bromelain, found in certain fruits like papaya, figs, and pineapple, breaks down proteins known as cysteine amino acids.
The fruit itself, the stems, the leaves and the skin are found in each part of the pineapple. Although concentrated in the fruit compared to other parts such as the stem, bromelain is still powerful enough to act on amino acids in the mouth. Bromelain begins to break down protein in the mucosal linings of the mouth and on the surface of the tongue.
Essentially, this mucosal lining is made of proteins that are acted upon by proteases. When proteases break down proteins, those layers of tissue break down.
On top of that, pineapple is “acidic”. Not only does the bromelain break down the mucous linings, but the underlying tissues are now also exposed to the acid from the pineapples. Bromelain has its benefits in food science, primarily as a meat tenderizer . In fact, factories that can produce pineapple can use the leftover skins, leaves, and stems to tenderize the meat.
Bromelain breaks down the toughening cysteine proteins found in meat. Marinating the meat with fresh pineapple juice does the same thing. Only fresh pineapples bite people. However, canned pineapples are not spicy . Additionally, canned pineapple, like canned foods, is thermally processed to prevent microorganisms from developing and growing during storage.
Salt helps eliminate itching
According to food scientists, there is a study showing that soaking pineapple in a saltwater solution with salt concentrations up to 1.5%, about a teaspoon of salt per cup of water for 20 to 30 minutes, reduced the bromelain activity by 25% maximum.
They added that any higher concentration could affect the flavor of the fruit. Also, salt can cause the structure of bromelain to shrink. The salt lowers the pH at which the critical acid in the pineapple dissociates. Salt does, so the citric acid breaks down into simpler components.
Fortunately, the pain of eating pineapple isn’t too strong, and its fresh sweetness outweighs the spiciness.