Pomegranate – The Antioxidant Super-fruit

Pomegranate – The Antioxidant Super-fruit

With antioxidant properties, three times the strength of red wine and highly-acclaimed green tea, pomegranates are superfoods with superior nutritional and medicinal benefits.

Pomegranate is a reddish, rounded, hexagon-shaped fruit. It is native to Iran, but it also grows in Iraq, northern India, USA, tropical Africa and in certain Mediterranean countries like Spain and Turkey. The pomegranate fruit contains around 600 seeds. A water-rich pulp (aril) surrounds each seed, ranging in colour from deep red to purple. The arils and seeds are the edible part of the fruit.

Pomegranates have a prominent place in Ayurvedic medicine. They have been used to treat dysentery, diarrhoea, ulcers and helminth infections. Every part of the pomegranate plant, including its juice, peel (white part), arils, flowers, bark, and root have demonstrated potent medicinal properties in several scientific studies.


The therapeutic benefits of pomegranates are primarily due to phytochemicals including ellagic acid, ellagitannins, punicic acid, flavonoids, anthocyanidins, anthocyanins, and estrogenic flavonols and flavones.

Therapeutic Benefits of Pomegranates

Antioxidants

Free radicals are notorious for altering the chemical structure of essential molecules in your body into malfunctioning or cancer-causing forms. Antioxidants are the ‘antidote’ compounds that neutralise the effects of these free radicals, and thus protect you from developing chronic conditions.

Pomegranate seed oil, peels, and juice contain antioxidants (flavonoids and anthocyanidins) that neutralise free radicals. These flavonoid and anthocyanidins have antioxidant properties that are three times greater than that of green tea.

Pomegranate peels contain the most phytochemicals and the highest antioxidant activity. The antioxidant activity in the peel is ten times greater than that of the pulp.

Cancer

Ellagitannins and ellagic acid are the main pomegranate polyphenols that prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells. They are both present in its juice, seed oil and peel. Studies performed on cancer cell line cells, and animal models show that these polyphenols are potentially potent in preventing cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, colon, and skin.

Heart disease

One of the main risk factors for developing heart disease is high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels and its oxidation by free radicals. Oxidised LDLs can build up on the walls of arteries and eventually lead to atherosclerosis. Pomegranate juice prevents oxidisation of LDLs and lowers the risk of atherosclerosis.

Pomegranate juice and its seed oil (through punicic acid)  lowers blood pressure and triglycerides and prevents inflammation in human and animal studies. Pomegranate juice decreases the activity of a key enzyme that promotes hypertension.

Other conditions

Pomegranates are also known to promote wound healing and sperm health. They prevent yeast and bacterial infections and are also protective against, osteoporosisosteoarthritiscerebral malaria, and diabetes.

Nutritional Profile

Pomegranate juice is a source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamins B1, B2, B3 C and K. It contains small amounts of amino acids including proline, methionine, and valine. 100g of pomegranate provides:

  • Calories (Energy): 83kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 18.7g
  • Protein: 1.67g
  • Fat: 1.17g
  • Fibre: 4.0g
  • Calcium: 10mg
  • Magnesium: 12mg
  • Phosphorus: 36mg
  • Potassium: 236mg
  • Sodium: 3mg
  • Choline: 7.6mg
  • Iron: 0.3mg
  • Folate: 38mcg
  • Vitamin C: 10.2 mg (17% RDI)
  • Vitamin K: 16.4mcg (20% RDI)

Getting the best from pomegranates

Pomegranate juices that are prepared commercially contain higher levels of antioxidants than juices hand-pressed from just the arils. This is because phytochemicals in the peel/rind, which have the highest antioxidant activity are included in commercial juice. If you choose to buy pomegranate juice, avoid juice drinks that contain less than 5% pomegranate juice; they have no therapeutic benefit. Opt for organic varieties made with 100% pomegranate juice. Organic pomegranate juice also has higher antioxidant activity than conventional juices.

Freeze-dried* pomegranate juice powder is an excellent alternative if you can’t find the fresh juice. You can reconstitute it to juice, add it to smoothies or sprinkle over oatmeal.

Don’t just drink the juice, eat the arils with the seeds because they are a source of omega-3 fats, phytoestrogen and isoflavones similar to those found in soy products. The seeds also contain protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. You can also sprinkle the seeds on vegetable salads, grain salads, or combine them with other fruits to make a fruit salad.

*Freeze-drying generally extends the shelf-life of foods by preventing the growth of bacteria. It also preserves heat-sensitive antioxidants and nutrients in food.

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