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Pomegranate — Nature’s Medicine Cabinet

pomegranate

Eating a pomegranate is a challenge. If you don't know what you're doing, you might create a scene that looks like something out of a horror film — seeds scattered all about, splattering their bloody-red color on your skin, clothes, hair and walls! There are, however, less messy ways to do this and they're well worth learning, if you're interested in partaking of one of Nature's best.

A lot of hype surrounds so-called "superfoods" like pomegranate, but this fruit deserves every bit of it! All parts — seeds (arils), pulp, skin, root, flower, even the bark from the pomegranate tree — are brimming with multiple varieties of polyphenols, disease fighting antioxidants which hundreds of scientific studies have confirmed can help prevent or treat a wide range of maladies, including the "big three": heart disease, cancer and stroke. People shy away from consuming the whole seed, but that would be missing the heart of pomegranate power. The seeds are especially rich in omega-3 fatty acid, along with protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber and polyphenolic compounds. No wonder this ancient, mystical fruit was one of the original Babylonian "Wonders of the World,"  celebrated in the Old Testament, beloved by the early Egyptians and Greeks, a symbol of health, luck, fertility and immortality.

Medicinal Benefits and Promising Areas Of Study

Heart disease. Pomegranate studies have shown remarkable reversal of atherosclerosis, clogged arteries that can lead to heart attacks and stroke. For instance, Israeli researchers compared two groups of people with atherosclerosis in the carotid artery — the artery in the neck that supplies blood to the brain. Half the group drank pomegranate juice, half did not. After 1 year, the juice-drinking half had a 30% decrease in plaque, the non-drinkers had a 9% increase.

In a University of California study, researchers selected 45 people (average age 69) with heart disease. Nearly half had suffered heart attacks, had high blood pressure; nearly all were taking multiple drugs. Patients were divided into 2 groups. For 3 months one group drank 8 oz. pomegranate juice a day; the other drank a placebo juice. After 3 months, the pomegranate half had 17% increased blood flow to the heart; the placebo group had 18%  decrease. Blood flow is considered a key predictor of whether or not a person will have a heart attack.

Pomegranate juice has also been found to significantly reduce angina (intense chest pain); protect against oxidative destruction and inflammation in arterial lining; lower high blood pressure.

Controlling diabetes. In animal studies, pomegranate flower and seed oil controlled or reversed diabetes. More study is underway.

Anti-cancer. In the last 5 years there's been an explosion of research re: pomegranates and cancer. Scientists in Germany and University of Wisconsin found that pomegranate extracts could stop the growth of prostate cancer cells, as well as kill them and prevent metastases in lab animals. Pomegranate extract appears to block a protein complex that fuels prostate cancer. In animal studies, pomegranate had similar effects on breast cancer, as well as colon and lung cancer cells. Used topically, it significantly inhibited skin cancer growth in animals and arrested the growth of leukemia cells in test tube research.

Dental problems. Brazilian studies have found that rinsing the mouth with pomegranate extract reduced bacteria-causing dental plaque 84% more than commercial mouthwash. The extract also was effective in treating periodontal disease and helped clear up denture stomatitis, a fungal infection in people wearing dentures.

Erectile dysfunction. A study in a clinic in Beverly Hills found that men who drank pomegranate juice for 2 weeks had improvement in erectile difficulties.

Wrinkles and aging skin. Pomegranate extract, applied daily, has been shown to minimize skin damage from ultraviolet radiation. The oils in the extract appear to prevent collagen destruction and may be a promising treatment for wrinkles.

Sports recovery. In a University of Texas study, exercisers who took pomegranate extract recovered their strength faster after a demanding workout than those who did not take it.

Arthritis relief. Animal research revealed that pomegranate extract slowed development and reduced severity (inflammation and bone destruction) of rheumatoid arthritis.

Alzheimer's disease. Researchers from Loma Linda University in California fed lab animals pomegranate extract from birth and learned they were more alert as they aged and had 50% less amyloid-A — a protein linked to Alzheimer's — in their brains than control groups.

Obesity. Animals fed pomegranate extract ate less and lost weight and fat, according to a study reported in International Journal of Obesity.

Male infertility. Male animals treated with pomegranate had better sperm quality, higher count and higher testosterone levels.

Ulcerative colitis. In animal experiments, Indian researchers found pomegranate reduced colon inflammation.

How to buy Pomegranate

Pomegranate is best enjoyed in season — from October to January. Look for the largest and heaviest which will give you the juiciest seeds. Fruit should be free of cracks and soft spots with a bright skin color, varying from pink to red.

Pomegranates will stay fresh at room temperature for several weeks before drying out, but will retain moisture better in the refrigerator, lasting for a month or longer. If you freeze the seeds, they'll keep for 6 to 9 months, so, in effect, you can enjoy the benefits of pomegranate year 'round.

So, how to open and de-seed a pomegranate?

In traditional societies, each seed was picked from the opened fruit with a pin, but nowadays, few have the time to do that! The easiest way is underwater at the sink. First, put on an apron or protective covering to avoid staining clothes. Place the fruit on a paper towel. Using a sharp knife, lightly score the skin in quarters from stem to crown. Take care not to cut deeper than the skin to avoid piercing the seeds inside. Immerse the scored fruit in a large bowl filled with cool water for a few minutes. Then break the sections apart with your fingers, separating seeds from membrane. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl; skin and membranes will float on the top for easy removal. Drain the seeds and let dry on a paper towel.

You can just eat the seeds by themselves as a crunchy snack or toss them in salad greens, fruit salad, vegetarian dishes, smoothies, whatever.

To make pomegranate juice, put the seeds in a food processor or blender or use the freezer bag method shown in this video.  One medium pomegranate will provide about 1 cup of seeds and ½ cup juice — a real medicinal punch, especially compared to commercial pomegranate juices which are pasteurized and, therefore, bereft of much healing power.

Sources:
The Pomegranate — A New Look at the Fruit of Paradise - USDA
Healing Spices by Bharat Aggarwal, PhD (Sterling Publishing)
Is It True That Pomegranates Help Prevent Prostate Cancer? - American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR)
UCR Scientists Identify Pomegranate Components That Could Stop Cancer From Spreading - American Association for the Advancement in Science
Pomegranate Juice Consumption for 3 Years By Patients With Carotid Artery Stenosis Reduces Common Carotid Intima-media Thickness, Plood Pressure and LDL Oxidation - Clinical Nutrition
Pomegranate Juice Decreases Amyloid Load and Improves Behavior in a Mouse Model of Alzheimer's Disease - Neurobiology of Disease

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