Throughout history, pomegranate has represented abundance and fertility, and its image is found in many symbolic designs throughout the world, from crests of monarchs to religious artwork. But during the last decade, the fruit has gained superfood status.
The whole fruit, though delicious, is less familiar to most people than juices and supplements. But in any form, pomegranate offers a multitude of health benefits.
In fruits and vegetables, richness of color stems from a concentration of nutrients. Given their vibrant ruby red hue, pomegranates, not surprisingly, are especially high in health-promoting antioxidants.
Studies have focused on juice and extracts. Benefits include lowering "bad" LDL cholesterol, increasing blood flow to the heart among people with heart disease, protecting against prostate and breast cancers, improving erectile dysfunction, enhancing recovery from exercises, protecting against heart disease and diabetes, and increasing resistance to the flu. Newer research shows that pomegranate can help alleviate common symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes. Pomegranate is a natural source of phytoestrogens, known to help promote hormonal health. When applied topically to the skin, pomegranate reduces damage from the sun. In mouthwashes, it reduces plaque and protects against gum disease. And for overall health, antioxidants protect against environmental damage and the ravages of aging.
In studies, a therapeutic amount is most often 8 ounces of juice daily or the equivalent in an extract, taken for at least a few months. Health improvements generally result from making pomegranate a routine part of one's daily diet. These are some research highlights:
Unusually Beneficial Sugars
Researchers in Israel found that the natural sugar in pomegranate does not act like sugar in other fruit juices, which raise blood sugar. In a study of 20 diabetics, published in Atherosclerosis, pomegranate did not raise blood sugar but reduced the development of atherosclerosis.
"In most juices, sugars are present in ‘free and harmful' forms," said lead researcher Michael Aviram, PhD. "In pomegranate juice, however, the sugars are attached to unique antioxidants, which actually make these sugars protective against atherosclerosis."
At the University of California, Los Angeles, a study of 50 men who had been treated for prostate cancer found that pomegranate juice (8 ounces daily of POM Wonderful) quadrupled the length of time during which there was little or no cancer progression.
"In men 65 to 70 who have been treated for prostate cancer, we can give them pomegranate juice and it may be possible for them to outlive their risk of dying from their cancer," said lead researcher Allan Pantuck, PhD. "We're hoping we may be able to prevent or delay the need for other therapies usually used in this population, such as hormone treatment or chemotherapy, both of which bring with them harmful side effects."
A Versatile Food
The pomegranate's bright red seeds, or arils, are little juice sacs with crunchy inner seeds that are rich in fiber. Eat them as a snack, sprinkle on fish or game meats, or fold into rice or other grain dishes. These are some other ways to enjoy the fruit:
- Make a quick salad dressing: Blend pomegranate seeds or juice with balsamic or rice vinegar and extra virgin olive oil; add honey to taste. If using seeds, strain before serving.
- Add pomegranate juice to smoothies for an antioxidant boost.
- Liven up guacamole: Mix one or two tablespoons of pomegranate juice into guacamole, and gently fold in pomegranate seeds for added visual appeal and taste.
- Brighten up a salad: Sprinkle pomegranate seeds onto green or fruit salad after tossing.
- Add a burst of flavor to plain yogurt: Mix a little honey into yogurt, and then fold in pomegranate seeds for a sweet-tart combination.
- Sprinkle pomegranate seeds on cereal, pancakes, waffles, puddings, ice cream, or other desserts. Or decorate a cake with the ruby jewels.
- Enjoy a ruby-red glass of pomegranate juice in place of wine, during holidays, on other festive occasions.
Pomology AntiAging Drink Mix in Blueberry/Pomegranate/Açai Flavor is a delicious way to get pomegranate into your diet. And this smart formula combines pomegranate with resveratrol and 15 red-purple fruits and vegetables. The mix also comes in "Energy" and "Immunity" versions.
American Health Ester-C Advanced Antioxidant Formula gives you 1,000 mg of Ester-C along with a powerful blend of antioxidant-rich fruits, including pomegranate. The veggie tablets are whole foods-based, and the Ester-C is gentle on your stomach.
Jarrow Formulas PomeGreat Pomegranate 4x Juice Concentrate is made with California Wonderful Variety pomegranate fruit and is four times more concentrated than regular pomegranate juice. All you need is 1 Tbs. daily.