Why you should be eating more pomegranates

pomegranateThe wide selection of nutrients in pomegranate make it one of the healthiest foods you can include in your diet.

While many fruits and vegetables are rich in beneficial plant compounds, pomegranate has more than most, and may even lower your risk of developing chronic diseases. (1)

Pomegranate is actually in the berry family, the fruit of a shrub called punica granatum. Inside the tough, outer skin are red seeds referred to as “arils.” These can either be eaten like you would a small berry, or pressed into juice.

A cup of arils is rich in fiber at 7 grams, contains 3 grams of protein, and delivers about a third of the RDA for vitamins C and K. They also contain significant amounts of potassium and folate, and the sweet nature of the fruit means you’ll get 144 calories in a full cup. (2)

The powerful medicinal qualities of punicaligins in pomegranate are part of what makes it such a smart nutritional choice. These plant compounds pack a punch, and are even more concentrated when you drink the juice rather than eating the arils.

Studies show pomegranate juice bumps up antioxidant activity in the body three times as much as either green tea or red wine. (3)

Pomegranate extract or powder used for supplements usually comes from the peel; this inedible part of the fruit is loaded with the same punicaligins, and would otherwise go to waste. Pomegranate seed oil is rich in punicic acid, a type of conjugated lineolic acid.

Protects Against the Development of Chronic Diseases

The antioxidant properties of punicaligins in pomegranate act as anti-inflammatory agents, which can work in your favor by taming inflammation.

Excessive inflammation is the common denominator of many modern chronic diseases, including obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s. (4)

When diabetics took 250 ml of pomegranate juice daily for three months, two separate inflammatory markers dropped by nearly a third. (5)

Lab experiments using test tubes indicated pomegranate juice reduced inflammatory activity in breast and colon cancer cells, as well as digestive tract cells. (6, 7, 8)

Joint inflammation often leads to arthritis, so the anti-inflammatory activity may also help prevent this modern disease; it’s been beneficial in mice, but more studies are needed to determine the effect on humans. (9)

Lab studies show pomegranate extract can block enzymes known to cause joint damage in osteoarthritis patients. (10, 11)

As little as 5 ounces of pomegranate juice daily can help drop blood pressure, which is strongly linked with the risk of developing heart disease. (12) It appears to exert significantly more influence on lowering systolic blood pressure, which is the larger number on blood pressure measurements. (13)

The fatty acid in pomegranate juice, punicic acid, has beneficial effects on several other markers associated with heart disease.

One small trial monitored 51 patients with high triglycerides and cholesterol readings. The participants used 800 mg of pomegranate seed oil for a month, with encouraging results: triglycerides dropped, and the ratio between HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and triglycerides improved. (14)

In another study of diabetics with high cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) levels were reduced, and other positive effects were also noted. (15)

Human and animal studies indicate pomegranate juice can protect against oxidation of LDL cholesterol particles, which could play a role in preventing heart disease. (16, 17)

Drop Your Chances of Developing Cancer

Women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than any other type of cancer.

Laboratory studies show pomegranate juice introduced into test tubes with breast cancer cells inhibit reproduction cycles; in some cases, cell death is induced. (18, 19)

Since laboratory tests aren’t always indicative of effects in the human body, further research may establish potential benefits in treating breast cancer.

Similar results in the same setting have been noted in relation to prostate cancer, the most common type of cancer men develop. (20, 21)

The blood marker for predicting the incidence of prostate cancer is called prostate specific antigen, and when this number doubles quickly, patients’ mortality rates increase.

A human study showed an 8-ounce dose of pomegranate juice daily had excellent effects on men’s PSA doubling time, extending it from 15 months to 54 months. (22)

Other Potential Benefits

  1. Plant compounds found in pomegranate can reduce the amount of harmful microorganisms in the body. (23)
  • These can fight bacteria, and may also assist in balancing the amount of a yeast called candida albicans, which can lead to problematic imbalances when overgrowth occurs. (24)
  • Anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties can help reduce the incidence of oral health issues stemming from inflammation and infection, such as denture stomatitis, gingivitis, and periodontitis. (25)
  1. The stimulation of increased blood flow to all parts of the body has the potential for positively affecting erectile dysfunction.
  • Animal studies showed beneficial circulatory effects in rabbits, including increased erectile response. (26)
  • When 53 men with erectile dysfunction supplemented with pomegranate juice, improvements were noted, but these were not statistically significant. (27)
  1. Dietary nitrates like those found in pomegranate juice have been proven to enhance performance in exercise.
  • A single gram of pomegranate extract taken half an hour before exercise increased blood flow for 19 athletes tested on treadmills. (28)
  • Adequate blood flow is a key factor in endurance during strenuous exercise, positively impacting the onset of fatigue.
  1. Pomegranate may improve memory function and assist in preventing memory loss.
  • When surgical patients ingested 2 grams of pomegranate extract before procedures, they reported fewer problems with memory loss in post-operative time frames. (29)
  • In a study with more than 200 elderly patients complaining of memory problems, researchers found that 8 ounces of pomegranate juice daily decreased test subjects’ symptoms in both visual and verbal memory loss. (30)
  • The effects of pomegranate juice for improving memory in mice with Alzheimer’s disease are noteworthy: human research has yet to be done. (31)

Good Overall Benefit Package

If you enjoy the taste of pomegranate, it’s hard to go wrong including it in your diet, whether you eat the fruit or drink the juice.

If you’re not crazy about eating it or don’t care for the flavor, consider adding pomegranate extract to your supplements.

Summary: Pomegranate is another “berry” rich in antioxidants and loaded with nutrients your body can use to create vital health and decrease your chances of developing chronic diseases.

References:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4007340/
  2. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2404
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11052704
  4. http://nutritionandmetabolism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1743-7075-9-32
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24949028
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23573120
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24962397
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16448212
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19504467
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16140882
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20955562
  12. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.4977/abstract
  13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21457902
  14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20334708
  15. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17048194
  16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23528829
  17. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11481398
  18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23359482
  19. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21861726
  20. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23320197
  21. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23359482
  22. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16818701
  23. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18590349
  24. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19635137
  25. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3184731/
  26. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15947695
  27. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17568759
  28. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4146683/
  29. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3789410/
  30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23970941
  31. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17010630/
1 comment… add one
  • Jay

    I’m looking faworrd to the new plant based diet. There are many plant based foods that actually taste better than processed foods, and I’m one that was skeptical in the beginning, but evidence shows this is true. Many processed food companies could care less about you and more about their profits and obligations they have their shareholders. It’s a fine line between profitability and ethics and it’s clear these companies want to produce foods that make you sick and or give you the ingredients that lead to things like heart disease and cancer. I’m not saying all of these companies are wrong, but I would say most of them are. Just read the label of your food and Google the ingredients and their side effects and you will see. That’s my 2 cents.

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