Pomegranates…Tasty, a bit Odd & Amazingly Healthful!

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Pomegranate_ImageAsk anyone who enjoys Middle eastern foods, they’ll let you know pomegranate is found throughout nearly every dish they enjoy.  The fruit itself has both a sweet and tart character and it is this special flavor and unique texture, in conjunction with it obtaining super food status, that has increased its popularity remarkably in the United States in years of late.  The interior of the pomegranate is loaded with seed pods known as arils…clear, ruby-colored fruit that surrounds the crisp seed itself…all of which are edible!  Surprising to many people, the pomegranate fruit actually is one of the earliest fruits to ever be cultivated.  This richly red shelled fruit is even found throughout time in religion, art and culture…having mention in the Bible, Romeo & Juliet and the Greek mythological story of the seasons.

There is a very powerful anti-oxidant known as punicalagan which is the primary anti-oxidant of the fruit’s juice and is the source of over half of the anti-oxidant activity the fruit provides.  This anti-oxidant is both powerful and unique, helping to give pomegranate juice higher anti-oxidant activity than red wine, green tea, cranberry or grape juices or even acai juice.  Drinking the juice of the pomegranate has been shown in research to appreciably reduce oxidative stress (free radical damage) in healthy people.  There is a significant amount of research demonstrating that the potent antioxidant potential of pomegranate juice provides protection against heart disease, cancer and cognitive impairment.

Anti-inflammatory effects of pomegranate may render protection from cancer and other chronic illnesses and pomegranate has something called “anti-angiogenic properties”, which means prevention of new blood vessels to tumors thereby stopping their growth and development.  Since we’re using medical terms, let’s throw in another…”aromatase inhibitor”.  This simply means that like very few other foods (mushrooms being another) pomegranates contain this natural substance that slows or inhibits the production of estrogen which, in turn, can reduce the risk of breast cancer!  Men who have used pomegranate supplements or juice after prostate cancer have been shown to slow the increase in PSA after treatment.  As noted, brain function and memory have been evidenced to be positively effected by both pomegranate juice and supplements.  Supplements taken before and after heart valve surgery or coronary artery bypass prevented the associated post-operative memory dysfunction. People suffering with mild memory complaints performed better on memory task tests and displayed increased brain activation as measured by functional MRI after drinking pomegranate juice for a period of time.  Lastly, enjoying this tart fruit and its juice provides cardioprotective benefits.  The phytochemicals (plant chemicals) in pomegranates reduces damage/oxidation of LDL…which contributes significantly to plaques development in arteries.  Studies have also indicated blood pressure reducing qualities to this exotic fruit’s juice and even a reduction in plugged arteries!  In one study, patients with profound carotid artery blockage (the large artery leading to the brain), after drinking one ounce of pomegranate juice every day for a year, there was a 30% reduction in the plaque that caused the plugging!!  And of nearly equal significance, the study participants who did not take the juice actually had and INCREASE of plaquing of 9%!!

So while many people eat pomegranates because they’re unique and so very flavorful, there are tremendous benefits to regular consumption.  One precaution:  when you purchase pomegranate juice, be sure to buy 100% juice only which is not from concentrate to avoid added sugars.  So eat up…but wash your hands…or you’ll have stained fingers for a while!

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