Pomegranate Benefits For Your Health

Like so many other foods from the Middle East, India and Southern Asia, pomegranate benefits also have their place in food myth history. The health benefits of pomegranates have been in practice for centuries by the cultures of Israel and India especially. People of the Mediterranean have been enjoying pomegranate benefits for centuries. This culture is one of the healthiest on earth and for years, the rest of the world has been trying to pinpoint what exactly makes the people so resistant to heart disease. Maybe the answer lies in the unassuming pomegranate or perhaps it’s just good genetics. No one knows for sure, but whatever it is, it’s working.

What Is A Pomegranate?

A pomegranate is a fruit-bearing shrub native to the Middle East, ranging from Iran to the Himalayas in India. Pomegranates are also cultivated throughout the Mediterranean and in California since 1769, when the Spanish first introduced the fruit to North America. The fruit is round and about the size of a very large apple. Breaking open the thick skin reveals a multitude of tiny, ruby red seeds. The riper the fruit, the sweeter the edible seeds are, although some people might like the tangy, sour taste of a fruit less ripened. Pomegranate juice is another product of this fruit quickly gaining popularity for its alleged health benefits.

What Are The Health Benefits of Pomegranates?

Michael Aviramof of the Lipid Research Laboratory in Israel accredits pomegranate juice to be rich in antioxidants, quite possibly more antioxidant properties than red wine or green tea. Other benefits of pomegranates list the fruit as a source of folic acid (beneficial to pregnant women), potassium, niacin, vitamin C, iron, calcium, and are a rich source of fiber.

What Makes the Pomegranate So Special?

It’s true that other fruits contain many different types of antioxidants, but the pomegranate is the only one to contain the three major antioxidants: tannins, anthocyanins and ellagic acid. Antioxidants are what help to boost the body’s immune system. These high concentrations of antioxidants help to protect the body from the damaging effects of pollution, cancer diabetes and many other debilitating diseases. In some cases, increasing the body’s level of antioxidants is rumored to slow the aging process.

With such a high concentration of antioxidants, it’s no wonder that researchers believe that the major pomegranate benefits would help reduce heart disease, clogged arteries and hypertension. The Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study conducted by Israeli researchers that proved pomegranates to be effective in fighting the leading cause of heart disease, atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is a build-up of plaque in the arteries, causing the arteries to harden as a person ages. Plaque can reduce the flow of blood through the arteries, placing more stress on the heart and raising blood pressure. When pieces of plaque break off, they can often clog major vessels leading to the heart or brain, resulting in a heart attack or stroke.

Cancer Treatment

No single food on its own can cure cancer. However, if the benefits of pomegranate juice are used in conjunction with other types of treatments, it could prove useful. Since antioxidants are reputed for preventing damage to cells, pomegranate benefits might be a part of the cure for lung, breast or skin cancer.

One study conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed pomegranate juice as capable of genetically altering the cancer cells and causing them to die.

Other studies done around the world with pomegranate seed oil indicated the pomegranate was a way to treat skin cancer and tumors in the body, particularly the colon. Pomegranates contain “ellagic acid”, which has previously been said to contain antioxidants that specifically target cancer cells.

The Feminine Fruit

Throughout history, pomegranates have had strong ties to women. Persephone was given pomegranate seeds to eat while in the Underworld, and some people believe that the true forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden was a pomegranate and not an apple. Pomegranates are among the types of plants, like black cohosh, that contain estrone. Estrone is a naturally occurring form of estrogen, which is widely used today as an alternative to artificial hormone replacement treatment during menopause. Many women seeking to avoid the side effects of the artificial hormones are turning to natural remedies to get them through the change of life. Menopause is difficult enough without having to deal with nasty side effects and pomegranate benefits look like a pleasant alternative.

…And Don’t Forget the Men

Pomegranate benefits might also include relief from impotency and protection against prostate cancer. When men suffer from atherosclerosis, thickening of the blood vessels occurs throughout the body. The decreased blood flow can result in impotency. Antioxidants, especially the ones found in pomegranate juice, help to increase the blood flow and decrease the chances of hardening arteries.

Pomegranates also contain a compound that lowers the levels of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA). Some researchers report that when taken daily and used in conjunction with conventional treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery and other forms of prostate cancer treatment, pomegranate juice helped to dramatically decrease the levels of PSA. The prostate cancer cells also decreased in growth.

Pomegranate juice is beneficial to men without prostate cancer as well, simply for the chances of keeping the PSA levels low to begin with.

Stocking Up

Pomegranates have a very short season in which they are available. While they are in season, usually in the late fall and winter, it is best to buy them and freeze them. Before freezing, cut the pomegranate in half, soak it in a bowl of water, and pull the seeds apart from the fruit. The seeds will sink and the pulp and other parts of the pomegranate will float to the top. After the seeds have been separated, they can be dried and put in a plastic bag for freezing. To use later on, defrost the seeds and put them into a juicer or you can extract the juice first and store the juice frozen.

Health food stores also offer alternatives. Pomegranate juice is available already packaged in bottles year round. As with any food source, the fresher the better, as many of the beneficial properties are often lost during processing.

As with any “miracle food”, it is important to remember that nothing certain as far as claims go. What might work for one person may not work for another. More research will have to be done to determine if these claims of pomegranate benefits are true. Maybe, if combined with conventional medicine and treatment, the health benefits of pomegranates might help to cure cancer or heart disease but shouldn’t be relied on alone. After all, every little bit helps.

So far, there have been no reports of adverse effects of drinking too much pomegranate juice, and if it tastes good and makes you feel like you’re doing something healthy for yourself, then why not enjoy it? Maybe one day, science will prove that these claims are true, and who knows how many other pomegranate benefits will emerge? In the meantime, get plenty of exercise, eat right and follow your doctor’s advice. Nothing will ever replace these basics of healthy living.

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