Originating in the Middle East and cultivated throughout the Mediterranean and parts of the United States and Asia, the pomegranate tree can reach 30 feet in height but often resembles a shrub with many stems. Many cultures have relied on the different parts of the plant for medicinal purposes, but today the focus is on the brilliant, edible red seeds contained in the fruit. I love their gorgeous color, stunning good looks, interactive eating experience, sensational taste…but most of all I love their health benefits. They help reduce pain, prevent heart disease, have anti-viral properties and much more. Here are my top five reasons for eating pomegranates:
1. Pomegranates support good cardiovascular health. That ruby-red color of pomegranate seeds provides visual confirmation of high levels of antioxidants present in the fruit. These antioxidants help protect artery walls from free radical damage and reduce the likelihood of arterial plaque. Researchers in the United States and Italy conducted a study on the effectiveness of pomegranate juice on atherosclerosis and determined that therapeutic intervention with antioxidant polyphenols contained in pomegranate juice had both preventive and corrective effects.
2. Eat pomegranates to reduce inflammation and joint pain. Researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio studied the effects of pomegranate fruit extract on classical markers of inflammation and cartilage degradation in arthritic joints. These markers, referred to as matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), are a family of enzymes that facilitate a wide variety of functions in the body; however, the uncontrolled regulation and enhanced expression of MMPs is linked with the development of arthritis.
3. Pomegranates fight viruses. The anti-viral properties of pomegranates have been tested against the HIV virus by researchers from the Kimball Research Institute in New York. They found that pomegranate juice offered the highest inhibitory activity against the HIV-1 virus.
The authors of the study included an interesting bit of pomegranate trivia in their study to highlight the long-held recognition of pomegranate’s medicinal properties: the British Medical Association and several British Royal Colleges feature the pomegranate in their coat of arms. Additionally, The Royal College of Physicians of London adopted the pomegranate in their coat of arms by the middle of the 16th Century.
4. Pomegranates are a delicious and effective weapon against cancer. Numerous studies have been conducted to evaluate this fruit’s ability to inhibit different types of cancer, included lung, colon, skin, breast and prostate cancers and leukemia.
5. Pomegranates fight bad bacteria. Researchers in South Africa evaluated the antibacterial, antioxidant and tyrosinase-inhibition activities of extracts from peels of seven commercially grown pomegranate cultivars. They determined that peel extracts showed strong broad-spectrum activity against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria and concluded that pomegranate fruit peel has potential as a safe and natural antimicrobial agent.
Enjoy pomegranate seeds fresh from the fruit by cutting it in half and pulling them from the off-white flesh of the fruit. The seeds are delicious on their own or added to your favorite brown rice or quinoa dish for an explosion of taste. They’re also excellent on top of Greek yogurt. Many grocery or health food stores now offer pomegranate juice, which is great on its own or mixed with orange juice and sparkling water for an amazing spritzer. During the holidays I tried mixing pomegranate juice with stevia-sweetened gingerale for an amazing special occasion drink. It’s now one of my favorites.