(NaturalHealth365) The name ‘pomegranate’ is derived from the Middle French ‘pomme garnete’, which means seeded apple. This fruit is revered as “nature’s power fruit” – due to its nutritional and therapeutic properties and is referenced in ancient texts including the Bible.
A pomegranate may not be very appealing compared to an apple due to its tough outer layer but contrary to its looks this fruit has more to offer in terms of nutrients and health benefits.
How nutritious are the red seeds of a pomegranate?
The juice and the seeds inside of the fruit are edible and dense in nutrients. Pomegranate is a good source of dietary fiber, folate and potassium. It is also a very good source of vitamins, C and K.
According to Michael Aviram, the lead researcher of the Technion Faculty of Medicine Israel, the sugars in pomegranate are protective against heart disease because they are bound to unique antioxidants.
More than 100 phytonutrients in one pomegranate
Researchers credit pomegranate with containing 124 different phytochemicals, and some of these plant compounds work in synergy to demonstrate antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The juice of pomegranate contains the highest concentration of three different polyphenolic compounds – tannins, anthocyanins and ellagic acid.
Although these antioxidants are normally present in many fruits – fresh pomegranate juice contains significantly high amounts of all three which qualifies it as a ‘superfood’.
How do pomegranates boost heart health?
Pomegranates naturally contain the right nutrients that support heart health. The key factors that decrease the risk of heart disease are decreasing inflammatory damage and reducing oxidative stress, the nutrients in pomegranate address both. The phytonutrient compound punicalagin in pomegranates exhibit anti-inflammatory and powerful antioxidant effects which are cardio-protective in nature.
Why eating pomegranates could be better than conventional blood pressure medication
A study that examined the effect of pomegranate juice consumption for 3 years by patients with carotid artery blocks showed positive effects. The participants of the study lowered their blood pressure and experienced a 30% decrease in atherosclerotic plaques. Researchers concluded that the heart and blood vessel protecting effects of pomegranate juice is due to its rich antioxidant (polyphenol) profile and the ability to inhibit LDL oxidation.
A study published in the 2001 issue of Atherosclerosis concluded that pomegranate juice consumption inhibited serum angiotensin converting enzyme activity and reduced systolic blood pressure. The study found that the rich arsenal of phytochemical compounds in pomegranates – flavonoids, polyphenols and anthocyanins – decreased platelet aggregation, reduced high blood pressure thereby lowering the risk of stroke and hypertension among patients.
Besides heart protection, pomegranates offer many other health benefits. In some cultures, pomegranates are used to treat ulcers of the mouth, bladder and stomach. It is also used as a folk remedy to expel tape worms in young children and even adults. Studies have also confirmed that pomegranates can be beneficial in decreasing the risk of prostate cancer in men and minimizing the effect of menopausal symptoms as well as lowering the risk of breast cancer among women.
The best way to choose and store pomegranates
While choosing pomegranates look for plump, heavy fruits with no visible bruises. Pomegranates are one among the fresh fruits that can be purchased inorganic – but organic is best. They can be de-seeded and refrigerated for up to 3 months when sealed in an air-tight container.
How do I eat this ‘funny looking’ fruit?
These nutritious red gems can be simply consumed as a raw snack, added to salads or juiced to enjoy its benefits. Toss a handful of pomegranate seeds onto a dish to transform it into a nutritious treat.
According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a glass of pomegranate juice contains more antioxidants than red wine, cranberries, blueberries and green tea. The fruit has a low glycemic index hence it’s suitable for those that watch their blood glucose levels.
Plus, did you know that pomegranate is commonly used in alternative medicine – especially in Ayurveda to treat a number of health issues? Accumulating evidence on the heart-protective activity of the phytonurients in pomegranate has propelled the popularity of this fruit as a functional food in the nutraceutical market.
Pomegranate is available in capsule form; juice or fruit punch; pomegranate-based, snack bars and tea. Although the processed version seem more convenient – we recommend that you enjoy the fruit in its natural form since commercial products may only use parts of the fruit or ‘reconstituted’ juice extracts. Plus, mnay of these products have questionable oversight and integrity. When in doubt, always eat the whole food.
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1. Kim ND, Mehta R, Yu W, et al. Chemopreventive and adjuvant therapeutic potential of pomegranate (Punica granatum) for human breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res Treat 2002;71(3):203-17.
2. Kohno H, Suzuki R, Yasui Y, et al. Pomegranate seed oil rich in conjugated linolenic acid suppresses chemically induced colon carcinogenesis in rats.Cancer Sci 2004;95(6):481-6.
3. Heber D. Pomegranate Ellagitannins. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press; 2011. Chapter 10.Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92772/
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