Try this Superfood: The Mighty Pomegranate

Humankind has long seen the pomegranate as special.

The Ancient Greeks, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians all held the fruit sacred at various times throughout history. Perhaps its association with holiness (and sometimes fertility) led to its association with health. This is particularly the case in England, where the fruit appears on the crests of the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Physicians. It even served as the emblem of 2000’s ‘Millennium Festival of Medicine’ conference held in London—where it beat out images of DNA, the human body, and a heartbeat!

The association of pomegranate with vibrant health is not purely based in mysticism, however. As we will soon see, the fruit contains tremendous medicinal properties and can be used to fight a wide variety of ailments.

Antioxidant Effect:

A natural byproduct of your cells, free radicals may build up in one’s body over time, where, through a process known as oxidative stress, they then can cause cellular damage. Free radicals are believed to contribute to the development of cancer, as well as in less serious illnesses like cataracts and arthritis. Antioxidants can neutralize free radicals, and the pomegranate is a natural and concentrated source of these.

The antioxidants in pomegranate, known as polyphenols, are what give the fruit its bright red color, inside and out. Polyphenols responsible for coloration in pomegranate include tannins and anthocyanins, the latter of which causes the bright redness of the juice. Both of these link to pomegranates’ medicinal effects, as do other polyphenols, along with some other substances like ascorbic and ellagic acids.

Cholesterol Reduction:

Because of the especially wide variety of antioxidants present in the pomegranate, it is a useful eliminator of LDL (the dreaded ‘bad cholesterol’) with minimized impact on HDL (the ‘good cholesterol’). What this means is that HDL then fulfills its natural function, keeping your arteries clear from cholesterol blockages. So, not only do we see the body cleansed of potentially damaging free radicals, we also actually see a broader set of cardiovascular benefits, including lowered cholesterol and reduced risk of serious circulatory problems.

Blood Pressure Reduction:

The juice of the pomegranate reduces systolic blood pressure. Although more research is needed into these effects before the pomegranate could replace existing therapies, it seems that it contains chemicals inhibiting the production of angiotensin converting enzyme. This is the same enzyme limited by prescription medications for the treatment of hypertension (chronic high blood pressure). This is just another example of this fruit’s wonderful capacity to improve and maintain cardiovascular health.

Anti-Inflammatory Effect:

In addition to their antioxidant effects, anthocyanins and certain tannins also affect the body’s inflammation response. This is probably done by inhibiting synthesis of proteins called cytokines, which are involved in cell signaling. This property is potentially good news for people suffering from both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Improvements in both experimentally link to regular consumption of the mighty pomegranate!

The supposed cancer-fighting effects of this fruit are controversial.  Nonetheless, there have been several indications in medical research that some benefit exists. If you have cancer, you should follow the advice of your physician before relying on natural remedies. However, there may be exciting medical discoveries around the corner concerning the links between pomegranates and tumor growth. For hypertension, chronic inflammation, high cholesterol, and oxidation of cells, a diet that includes this healthy and flavorful fruit may provide a meaningful supplement to other treatments prescribed by a professional.

If you’re curious about the buzz surrounding pomegranate, schedule an appointment today with one of Santa Cruz CORE’s expert nutritionists!

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Sources:

Aviram, Michael, and Rosenblat, Mira. ‘Pomegranate for your Cardiovascular Health.’ National Center for Biotechnology Information, Apr. 30, 2013. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3678830/

Langley, Patricia. ‘Why a pomegranate?’ National Center for Biotechnology Information, Nov. 4, 2000. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1118911/

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. ‘Pomegranate.’ MSKCC website, Dec. 19, 2017. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/pomegranate

Pham-Huy, Lien Ai, et al. ‘Free Radicals, Antioxidants in Disease and Health.’ National Center for Biotechnology Information, Jun. 2008. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614697/

Stowe, C.B. ‘The effects of pomegranate juice consumption on blood pressure and cardiovascular health.’ National Center for Biotechnology Information, May 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21457902

Zerfeshany, Aida, et al. ‘Potent health effects of pomegranate.’ National Center for Biotechnology Information, Mar. 3 2014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4007340/


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