Colorful, delicious fruit packs a powerful antioxidant punch
As a kid, I was one of the few people in my family willing to work at eating
a pomegranate. I'd patiently peel away each pomegranate kernel until I had a
mouth's worth in my hand, then pop them into my mouth, carefully sucking away
the juicy outside, then spitting out the hard seeds. No matter how careful I
was, I ended up with pink hands and pomegranate juice stains on my shirt.
Now, all that fruity fun has been eliminated for you; you can buy
pomegranate juice in bottles at your friendly neighborhood grocery store. It's
rather pricey, in terms of both the green stuff and calories, so you might want
to mix it with mineral or seltzer water to make it go further.
Why should you give pomegranate juice a second look?
- It has a unique, pleasant flavor.
- The color is amazing. It can add a splash of red to your beverages,
smoothies, and other recipes.
- Pomegranates are a rich source of antioxidants.
Antioxidants in pomegranates include polyphenols, such as tannins and
anthocyanins. In fact, pomegranates may have even more antioxidant power than
cranberry juice or green tea, Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN, a nutrition advisor
for the American Institute for Cancer Research, has written in the AICR's
"Nutrition Wise" newsletter.
As for other possible health benefits, while more studies are needed, there
are indications that:
- Pomegranate juice may improve blood flow to the heart in people with
ischemic coronary heart disease (CHD). In a study
of 45 people with CHD and myocardial ischemia (in which not enough blood gets
to the heart muscle), participants who drank about 8 fluid ounces of
pomegranate juice daily for 3 months had less ischemia during a stress test. Study participants
who did not drink the juice, meanwhile, had evidence of more stress-induced
ischemia. The study noted no negative effects to drinking pomegranate juice
(even on blood sugar levels or body weight). Lead researcher,
Dean Ornish, MD, believes pomegranate juice may even be able to help prevent
heart disease in people who do not already have it.
- Pomegranate juice may help stop plaque from building up in blood vessels -
in other words, it may have an anti-atherogenic effect. The antioxidants in the
juice may help keep cholesterol in a form that is
less damaging, and may also reduce plaque that has already built up in vessels,
according to Collins. Pomegranate juice was shown to have potent
anti-atherogenic effects in healthy humans and in mice with plaque buildup --
possibly due to its antioxidative properties, researchers from Israel recently
concluded. In their study of healthy male volunteers, pomegranate juice was
shown to decrease the likelihood of LDL "bad" cholesterol to form
plaque. Another Israeli study showed a decrease in the development of
atherosclerosis in mice whose diets were supplemented with pomegranate juice.
- Pomegranate juice may slow prostate cancer growth.
Antioxidants are known to help prevent and repair DNA damage that can lead to
cancer. "Pomegranate juice won't fend off cancer by itself, but studies
suggest it may be a wonderful addition to the balanced, plant-based diet
recommended by the American Institute of Cancer Research," says Collins.
Men who have already had preliminary treatment for prostate cancer may benefit
from a daily dose of pomegranate juice. The juice appeared to suppress the
growth of cancer cells and the increase in cancer cell death in lab testing,
according to research from UCLA. Allan Pantuck, MD, said in an email interview
that he guesses a combination of elements in pomegranates -- rather than any
single component -- is probably responsible for these health effects.
Yes, more research needs to be done on pomegranate juice for us to know
anything definitive about its benefits. But, so far, the future looks bright
for this vibrant, fuchsia-colored fruit.