Sept 28, 2012 by NATASHA LONGO
Pomegranate Season Has Arrived - Here Are 6 Reasons Why You Need Them On Your Grocery List
As a nutritional and antioxidant powerhouse, pomegranates have only recently been recognized as a fruit worthy of high praise. It's sweet, tart flavour is a favorite in many households, but when it comes to advancing health and preventing disease, pomegranates wins in all categories.
Although the fruit is available all year round, pomegranate season officially goes from September to February. Many underestimate it, making the humble pomegranate an underdog in the healthy fruits department. Today we pay tribute to this wonder fruit by bringing you the health benefits of pomegranates in all categories.
Pomegranate health benefit #1: Free radicals
We may not be aware but pomegranates are a rich source of antioxidants. Therefore, it helps to protect your body's cells from free radicals, which cause premature aging. Free radicals are formed due to exposure to the sun and harmful toxins from the environment.
In simple words, pomegranate juice pumps the level of oxygen in your blood. The antioxidants fight free radicals and prevents blood clots. This eventually helps the blood to flow freely in your body in turn improving the oxygen levels in your blood.
Pomegranates are especially high in polyphenols, a form of antioxidant purported to help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. In fact, pomegranate juice, which contains health-boosting tannins, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid, has higher antioxidant activity than green tea and red wine.
Pomegranate health benefit #2: Natural blood thinners
There are two kinds of blood clots: The first kind speeds skin recovery from topical injuries like cuts and bruises. Here it is important that the blood clots immediately to avoid loss of blood. The second kind of blood clot is internal and dangerous; examples would include blood clots in the heart and arteries, also urinary retention. Here you don't want the blood to clot as the effects are lethal.
To smoothen out the blood you need pomegranate seeds, as the antioxidant properties help it act like a 'thinner for paints'. The seeds prevent your blood platelets from coagulating and forming clots.
Pomegranate seeds could also be used as a natural stimulant to encourage the uterus to contract during labour. The main constituent, beta-sitosterol is a steroid that can inhibit the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine.
The pomegranate, with its edible seeds inside juicy sacs, is high in vitamin C and potassium, low in calories (80 per serving, which is just under one-third of a medium fruit), and a good source of fibre.
Pomegranate health benefit #3: Prevention of atherosclerosis
With age, and bad lifestyle habits, the artery walls harden with cholesterol and other substances, causing blockages. The antioxidant properties of a pomegranate prevent low-density lipoprotein cholesterol from oxidizing. This essentially means that pomegranates prevent the hardening of the artery walls with excess fat, leaving your arteries fat free and pumping with antioxidants.
"Mice that drank pomegranate juice were able to significantly reduce the progression of atherosclerosis, [by] at least 30 percent," said study co-author Dr. Claudio Napoli, a professor of medicine and clinical pathology at the University of Naples School of Medicine in Italy.
Pomegranate health benefit #4: Arthritis prevention
Pomegranate health benefits run bone deep; it can reduce the damage on the cartilage for those hit with arthritis. This fruit has the ability to lessen the inflammation and fights the enzymes that destroy the cartilage.
The secret is in the anti-inflammatory properties of the pomegranate. These pomegranate benefits have been known for some time but it was a recent study at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine that focused on the direct pomegranate health benefits for osteoarthritis specifically. It was the team of researchers here that found that the pomegranate fruit was extremely effective at attacking the protein Interleukin-1b. This protein has pro-inflammatory properties that are largely responsible for causing osteoarthritis and a degradation of the cartilage in the body. It was this study that found for the first time that not only do pomegranate benefits include anti-inflammatory properties, but that it can also slow the degradation of the cartilage.
Pomegranate health benefit #5: Fight erectile dysfunction
This could well be on Ripley's Believe it or Not! Pomegranate can also cure this embarrassing problem. But mind you, it is not a wonder drug; pomegranate juice can improve erectile dysfunction only moderately. Research is inconclusive, but this theory has found some supporters.
A study conducted in rabbits suggests that oxidative stress may be a key problem in a certain type of erectile dysfunction, and therefore antioxidant rich compounds like pomegranate juice may alleviate this issue and ultimately improve the dysfunction.
Pomegranate health benefit #6: Fights prostrate cancer and heart diseases
Again, this is inconclusive and not binding, but two separate studies claim that pomegranate juice helps fight prostrate cancer. In one lab experiment, the juices "slowed the growth of the cultured cancer cells and promoted cell death". In the second experiment, pomegranate juice improved the condition of the blood, hence improving the health of individuals down with cardiovascular diseases.
According to the American Dietetic Association, studies involving mice and humans show that eating pomegranates may help prevent clogged arteries. In addition, a recent study from Jonsson Cancer Center at UCLA found that levels of PSA (prostate specific antigen), a protein marker for prostate cancer, increased 35% more slowly in men with recurrent prostate cancer who drank 8 ounces of pomegranate juice daily after surgery or radiation. (The study also found that it took 54 months to double PSA levels, compared to 15 months in men who did not drink the juice.) Increasing the time it takes for a man's PSA levels to double may postpone cancer recurrences and reduce his need to have other cancer treatment procedures, such as surgery or radiation, in the future.
Pomegranate juice also appears to suppress the growth of cancer cells and cause prostate cancer cells to die. It is believed that the antioxidants in the juice - particularly ellagic acid - are behind this beneficial effect. There are also some very early research being conducted to find out how pomegranate juice may be used to treat breast cancer and osteoarthritis.
There are many ways to enjoy this succulent fruit. Pomegranates are delicious on their own, and their seeds can be tossed in salads and sprinkled over cooked dishes. The juice can also be used to make jellies, sorbets, sauces, and wine, and as flavouring for baked apples, cakes, and other treats. Pomegranate syrup is used to make grenadine, which adds flavour and sweetness to mixed drinks.
Science is just beginning to uncover the pomegranate's potential, but many cultures have used the fruit medicinally for centuries, especially for gastroenterological ailments. In a particularly prophetic move, the pomegranate appears in the coats-of-arms of several medical associations, including the British Medical Association and Royal College of Physicians in London.
Natasha Longo has a master's degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.