Fresh, juicy pineapple can’t be beat. I could eat it all day, every day, but unfortunately, every time I try, I end up with a sore tongue and mouth — a stinging feeling. I decided to investigate why such a delicious food has such a terrible side effect.
Most people think that it’s the acid from the fruit tearing up their mouth or that it’s the sign of an allergic reaction, but both of these explanations for the discomfort are probably incorrect.
The irritation happens because pineapples contain bromelain, and enzyme that digests protein. The enzyme essentially attacks your tongue, cheeks and lips until it is swallowed. After that, your saliva and stomach acids both overtake the enzyme and denature it.
When concentrated, bromelain is commonly used as a natural meat tenderizer, which explains a lot. Basically, your mouth = meat, and the pineapple is tenderizing (eating away at) your soft skin. This all sounds kind of scary, but don’t let this stop your love affair with this tasty tropical fruit. This feeling happens to almost everyone, and the good news is that your mouth heals quickly. Your tongue will rebuild those proteins in no time, and the feeling will go away.
If this information is all just a little too much to handle, there are other ways to avoid that burning sensation. Grilling, baking and roasting pineapple all cause a chemical reaction that eliminates these unwanted enzymes, leaving a sweeter, less aggressive-flavored fruit.
Other suggestions for minimizing the stinging sensation include eating only fully ripe pineapples, sprinkling lime juice on the pineapple slices, and cutting out the core of the pineapple before eating. It is said that the core is the part most responsible for causing the unwanted feeling.
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