Pomegranate: Ancient Superfood Rediscovered

Jewel of autumn, ruby treasure – pomegranates are hot news these days, and not just in the culinary world.  Extract of pomegranate may be the next best natural anti-inflammatory.

You may have noticed that the pomegranate has been making restaurant headlines for quite a while. More and more we see these small, shiny dark red seeds spread over a salad or middle eastern dish. But pomegranates are certainly not new.  They’ve been part of our human diet for up to 4000 years.  With their thick skin and long “shelf life”, pomegranates were an ideal food for early travellers and nomads who transported them along such routes as the Silk Road from Persia and India to become cultivated in Asia, Africa, Europe and eventually the Americas. Over time pomegranate gained mythological status in the religions of all these places, being associated variously with prosperity and abundance, fertility, eternal life, military strength, emotional and physical peace.  Legend has it that the Buddha valued the gift of a pomegranate above all others.

We now know that pomegranates are packed full of a wide variety of disease-fighting antioxidants with some research indicating they many times stronger than better known antioxidants like green tea, red wine, acai, blueberries or cranberries. Pomegranate is a great natural anti-inflammatory agent and is now available as an extract for controlled dosage.

For those who are concerned about heart health, it’s exciting to discover that pomegranates are very protective. Pomegranates have been found to increase the production of a substance called nitric oxide, which effectively relaxes the cardiovascular system, allowing blood to flow more freely and protecting against plaque buildup in the artery walls.  Researchers from the Vascular Surgery Clinic in Haifa, Israel, found that 50ml pomegranate juice per day over a 12 month trial period effectively reversed plaque buildup in a group of older subjects (65-75 years). Other studies have shown a reduction in plaque build-up of up to 44 per cent.

Pomegranate is a phyto agent that has also been extensively studied for its cancer-fighting capacity. Breast cancer research has demonstrated its ability to both inhibit the cancer-promoting enzyme, aromatase, and suppress angiogenesis, which is the process by which tumours gain new blood vessels (Toi 2003; Sturgeon 2010).  Research into pancreatic cancer suggests that pomegranates have anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects which slow the development of the disease (V. Gomez et al).

Other current or recent scientific research indicates pomegranates may also be good for:

  • Brain ageing – protecting against amyloid deposits linked to Alzheimer’s
  • Lowering LDL cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Pain reduction – small 2011 Israeli study showed significant pain reduction in rheumatoid arthritis from 10ml pomegranate extract over 12 weeks
  • Lung cancer prevention
  • Keeping PSA levels stable and slowing prostate cancer
  • Helping remove dental plaque
  • Protecting against osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

When traveling in Turkey, we recommend freshly juiced pomegranate, made everywhere by street vendors, and often mixed with fresh orange juice for a lighter, sweeter taste.

Australia is one place which is only just catching up with the pomegranate revival and pomegranate orchards are still in their infancy, so good products are generally still imported.  One of the best we’ve tried (but have no financial interest in) is JALA 100% organic  pomegranate juice which contains nothing but ripe pomegranates which have been pressed with their peel and seeds. This is important because the peel contains around twice the antioxidant power of the seeds and pulp.  See http://www.lifejuice.com.au/

Read more research findings on these and other therapeutic applications of pomegranate including  weight loss, diabetes, erectile dysfunction and bacterial infections here.

Read up on the science behind pomegranates and healthy arteries here.

Antixodant cocktail hour? Healing martinis?  Well, maybe just harm minimization. Check out this delicious Pomegranate Martini.



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