November is National Pomegranate Month and there’s a good reason a whole month is dedicated to it! Why? Pomegranates are amazing…and cultures around the globe have known it for thousands of years. That’s the reason major religions think the pomegranate is powerfully symbolic…as the fruit of the gods, a link to the after world, a symbol of fertility, abundance, rebirth and more.
But it was only recently that scientists were able to confirm what people have believed for centuries: Pomegranates are POWERFUL health boosters.
Pomegranate: Fabulous Fruit with a Rich History
The scientific name for pomegranate name is Punica granatum, and it belongs in the family Lythraceae.3 Technically, this softball-sized fruit is considered a berry…and it’s tough outer flesh isn’t edible at all. The flavor (and health benefits) of the pomegranate are found in the vibrant red flesh surrounding each seed of the pomegranate, or the arils.
The pomegranate originated in the middle east, though it was cultivated throughout the region of Mediterranean and Northern India, even in ancient times. At present, it is widely cultivated in many parts of the world, including the region of Caucasus, the Middle East, North Africa, tropical Africa, Southern and Central Asia, some parts of Southeast Asia, North America, and the Mediterranean region.4
What Makes Pomegranate So Healthy?
A pomegranate is believed to be among the healthiest fruits on the planet. In fact, studies have shown that this tasty fruit has numerous benefits. Studies also suggest that this superfruit may reduce the chances of getting certain types of diseases.5
And all those benefits are thanks, in part to the two unique antioxidants that help elevate pomegranate to superfruit status. These powerful compounds, punicalagins and punicic acid, are responsible for many of the fruit’s health benefits.6
- Punicalagins are found abundantly in pomegranate juice and in the pomegranate’s tiny seeds (it’s fine not to spit them out when eating pomegranates!). They are extremely powerful antioxidants.7In one study, the antioxidant activity of a red wine and green tea infusion was compared with the antioxidant activity of pomegranate juice. The result showed that pomegranate juice has an antioxidant activity three times higher than the red wine and green tea infusion.8
- Punicic acid,a component of pomegranate seed oil, is the main fatty acid in pomegranate arils.9And this powerful antioxidant is believed to be one of the substances that contributes to the many health benefits associated with pomegranates.9
Polyphenols and Pomegranates
Pomegranates are a powerful source of one of my favorite wellness powerhouses, polyphenols.10 Polyphenols are phytochemicals that act as antioxidant. These substances counteract the damaging effects of free radicals.11
But what, exactly, is free radical damage?
Well, Free radicals are molecules that contain oxygen and these molecules have one or more unpaired electrons. This makes them highly reactive to other molecules.12
And free radicals can chemically interact with your cells, to actually steal electrons.13 When a free radical steals electrons from the molecules of cells, the molecules in cells become free radicals themselves, kicking off a free radical chain reaction.14
How can polyphenols help?
Polyphenols help prevent damage caused by free radicals by giving away their electrons, so free radicals don’t take them from your body’s cells. Your body is able to fight some free radical damage on its own, but if it becomes overwhelmed, polyphenols can help protect your body against damage.>15
And that’s important, because free radical damage, or oxidative stress, can trigger a host of diseases.16According to a research published by the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, dietary polyphenols may help to prevent degenerative diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer. However, the antioxidant effect of polyphenols may vary on the amount of intake and their bioavailability.17
But how potent are pomegranates, really? Well, a study published in the Journal of Food Processing & Technologycompared the polyphenol content of antioxidant-rich foods, such as purple potato tuber, pomegranate juice, and blueberries. And the results of the study showed pomegranates have the highest contents of phenolic acid, anthocyanins and flavonoids. Even more exciting, pomegranates were found to have the highest antioxidant activity, free radical scavenging activity and ORAC value among the three.18
Potent Pomegranate = Multiple Benefits
May Have Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Inflammation is your body’s natural process to protect itself from infection, illness, and injury. There are two types: acute inflammation and chronic inflammation. The most common type, which is short-term, is acute inflammation, or redness, pain, heat, and swelling.19
But it’s less-common chronic inflammation that’s truly dangerous…and it often goes undetected. This type of inflammation is thought to lead to some serious ailments.20, 21, 22, 23
And some researchers believe that the occurrence of some inflammation may be reduced by including pomegranates as part of a regular diet. One study in particular, found that pomegranate extracts are rich in ellagic acid, an antioxidant which may be responsible for anti-inflammatory activities in the gut.24
Other studies support the idea that pomegranate, either the fruit or the extract, is a potentially powerful anti-inflammatory agent. 25,26
May Help to Reduce Blood Pressure
According to the American Heart Association, about 80 million Americans have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, or hypertension.27
That is a staggering number, with far-reaching health consequences.
Hypertension can strain the heart and damage blood vessels. And over time, it could also increase the risk of major health complications like stroke, kidney problems, heart attack, and even death.28
But researchers found pomegranates may be a powerful tool if you want to help reduce the likelihood of having high blood pressure. One study showed that pomegranate juice lowered blood pressure in as little as two weeks, and may act as a cardioprotective supplement for hypertensive patients.29
May Prove to Help Joint Mobility
Arthritis can hit people of all ages, sexes, and races. In fact, it is the most common cause of disability in the United States. There are more than 50 million adults and around 300,000 children living with some type of arthritis.30
The most common arthritis joint symptoms are inflammation or swelling, pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion in the affected joint area.31
There’s that word again: Inflammation. We’ve established that studies show pomegranate and its extract have anti-inflammatory effects. This means that yes, there is a chance that it may help with symptoms of arthritis. And studies have shown that pomegranate fruit extract may inhibit cartilage degradation in osteoarthritis, and that it can be a beneficial supplement for maintaining the integrity and function of a joint.32
May Help with Lowering Triglycerides
The American Heart Association defines heart disease as any of numerous problems that are mostly related to atherosclerosis – plaque build-up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup makes it hard for blood to flow through your arteries.33
But punicic acid is believed to help protect from this build-up.34
A study conducted on 51 people with high cholesterol and triglycerides showed a significant reduction of triglycerides and an improvement of the triglyceride/HDL cholesterol ratio. And that was after just four weeks of taking pomegranate oil every day.35
Another study was conducted to evaluate the effects of pomegranate juice in people diagnosed diabetes and high cholesterol. The results showed significant LDL cholesterol reduction and other improvements.36
Antibacterial & Antifungal Properties
Pomegranate has compounds that may naturally protect you from harmful microorganisms. A study that evaluated the antimicrobial and antifungal activities of the compounds found in pomegranate showed that pomegranate, has a strong ability to inhibit Candida albicans.37 Candida albicans are the most common species of yeast, which can affect your body’s microbial balance and cause yeast infections.38
Brain Boosting Benefits
Researchers believe that punicalagin, a polyphenol found in pomegranate, may help fight Alzheimer’s disease by helping to reduce the inflammation in certain brain cells. The inflammation in these specific brain cells may destroy additional brain cells, leading to a worsening of symptoms and an overall deterioration of patients with brain ailments.40
In ACS Chemical Neuroscience Journal, new research has been published revealing another brain boosting compound found in pomegranate: urolithins. The study provided more insights into the pomegranate’s anti-Alzheimer’s powers.41
So, you see, all those ancient cultures that believed pomegranates had special powers were so right! They are power-packed with nutrients to help you feel healthy and energetic. The only drawback to this ruby-red colored fruit? It’s hard to find and expensive. However, you can use supplements containing pomegranate to make sure you’re getting enough in your diet to make a real difference!
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