Why You Should Be in Love With Pomegranates4 years ago | Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
One of the most popular Valentine’s Day treats is chocolate. And if you are a health nut, you might suggest dark chocolate gifts to celebrate the day, because chocolate is widely known to have health benefits, like putting you in a good mood. Recently, it has even been reported that eating chocolate may be better than codeine to stop a cough (and who wants to be coughing on Valentine’s Day?).
But another Valentine’s Day food you might want to consider is pomegranate.
In Chinese history, the pomegranate was a symbol of fertility. Some would even say the seeds inside a pomegranate represented the number of generations of children a family would have.
During medieval times, the pomegranate tree was also depicted as a symbol of fertility. Several reports say pomegranates have had a special role as a fertility symbol in weddings among the Bedouins of the Middle East.
And there may be some truth to these long standing beliefs about this fruit having ‘fruitful’ properties.
Pomegranates are probably one of the most antioxidant-rich foods you can get your hands on. Credible research suggests that pomegranate has “antioxidant and antiatherosclerotic properties attributed to the presence of multiple polyphenols such as tannins, flavonols, anthocyanins and ellagic acid.”
Pomegranate juice has higher antioxidant properties than red wine. And according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it has “significantly higher [antioxidant activity] than more commonly consumed fruit juices such as grape, cranberry, grapefruit, and orange.”
Antioxidants help prevent and delay cell damage by combating inflammation and oxidative stress (OS), two major contributors to several types of disease. You can get antioxidants in supplement forms but eating natural foods that contain them may be a better way to help protect yourself from cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, arthritis and more.
And diminishing inflammation and OS may also be important for increasing fertility in both men and women.
Don’t have babies on the brain, but still have a special someone in your life?
An additional bonus to consuming pomegranates may be that they increase testosterone levels in both men and women, which is one of the main hormones behind sex drive. The anti-inflammatory properties of pomegranates may help prevent erectile dysfunction and keep the prostate gland healthy.
A 2009 study published in The Journal of Urology associated drinking pomegranate juice with slow prostate cancer progression.
Want to know more about this love-making fruit?
Native to Iran, the pomegranate plant (Punica granatum) is a shrub that bears these beautiful, red fruits that are considered to be berries. The part of the pomegranate you eat are the seeds, called arils. You can eat the white pulp around the arils, but it is quite bitter. If you do not care to eat the raw arils by the handful, making fresh juice from them is a great way to enjoy the delicious taste and health benefits of pomegranates.
Pomegranates are tart, sweet and chalk full of nutrients that may help you be your healthiest and happiest self.
So If you have a broken heart this Valentine’s Day, we hope these heart-healing nutrients found in pomegranates will help you feel better.
One pomegranate contains about 34 mg of magnesium and 28 mg of calcium. These minerals’ importance for the heart can’t be overstated, and they work together hand-in-hand.
Magnesium influences heart muscle energy production, keeps calcium levels balanced, loosens up tight blood vessels, reduces inflammation and keeps the electrical activity in the heart behaving properly. Think of calcium as “Fire” and magnesium as “Hold your fire!” in the heart. Low magnesium has actually been found to lead to worse outcomes in patients with heart disease and higher risk of irregular heartbeat. Magnesium is also widely regarded for its muscle-relaxing properties, which may help people with high blood pressure.
Low calcium levels can also cause electrical abnormalities in the heart.
There are also about 666 mg of potassium in one pomegranate, and this fruit is very low in sodium. High blood pressure increases your risk for heart disease. And if you have high blood pressure, your doctor has probably told you to cut back on salty foods. Reducing your sodium intake can help lower high blood pressure.
What your doctor may not have told you is that a good balance of sodium and potassium can also help to reduce blood pressure. Studies show that the sodium/potassium ratio intake should be less than 1. Unfortunately, only 12% of the U.S. population has this adequate ratio. The American Heart Association recommends a maximum daily intake of 1,500 mg of sodium, but in reality 99.8 percent of the population consumes much more. So savor the sweet, tartness of pomegranates instead of reaching for the chips!
And pomegranates may help lower cholesterol, another potentially heart-saving quality. Pomegranates are rich in a substance called beta-sitosterol, which may have cholesterol-lowering effects. Keep in mind, cholesterol is a necessary substance produced by the body. You just want to make sure your cholesterol level is not too low or high.
Feel like you have butterflies in your stomach? Pomegranates may keep tummy issues at bay.
One pomegranate has about 11.3 grams of fiber. Fiber helps relieve constipation, soothe irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and may even help prevent colon cancer. Pomegranate juice also contains antimicrobial compounds that may help prevent the overgrowth of bacteria that can cause an upset stomach.
As sweet as they are, pomegranates may help manage diabetes.
More research is needed, but there is some evidence that pomegranates may help decrease insulin resistance and lower blood sugar. This is very interesting since one pomegranate actually contains around 38.55 grams of sugar. It just goes to show you, not all sugar is created equal. Sugar from natural foods, like fruits, is far better than sugar from refined, processed food such as cookies. It is important for people with diabetes to watch their sugar intake. If you are prediabetic or have diabetes, speak with your doctor before you make pomegranates a staple of your diet.
Additional nutrients in one pomegranate include:
- Phosphorus, 102 mg. Adults 19 and older usually need about 700 mg. of phosphorus daily. This mineral often does not get the credit it deserves, but it does so much for your body. Phosphorus is almost as abundant in your body as calcium and helps calcium build strong bones and teeth. Phosphorus is also important for how your body stores and uses energy, repairs cells and is needed to make proteins like the one responsible for the oxygen-carrying capabilities of our red blood cells.
- Vitamin C, 28.8 mg. One pomegranate provides about 40% of the daily requirement of this vitamin. You likely know about the immune-boosting benefits of vitamin C, but what about this nutrient’s importance regarding aging? Click here to find out.
- Folate, 107 mcg. Folate (also called vitamin B9) is a very important nutrient, especially for pregnant women. Folate may also help prevent cancer and heart disease and improve mental health. A study from Harvard Health reported folate may also be useful in treating symptoms of depression.
- Vitamin K, 46.2 mcg. This vitamin is critical for proper blood clotting and bone metabolism. It may also help maintain brain function, a healthy metabolism and may even help prevent cancer.
- Choline, 21.4 mg. Choline is a nutrient that was recognized as an essential nutrient by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 1998. “The importance of choline in the diet extends into adulthood and old age. In a study of healthy adult subjects deprived of dietary choline, 77% of the men and 80% of the postmenopausal women developed signs of subclinical organ dysfunction (fatty liver or muscle damage)," reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
So how should I incorporate pomegranates in my diet?
Pomegranates are great simply eaten as they are. But if you want to perk up a simple green salad, add pomegranate seeds. You can also add pomegranates to smoothies and Greek yogurt.
Feeling a bit more inventive or want something fun and healthy you can make for your valentine?
Try making this Vegan and Gluten-Free Pomegranate Chia Seed Pudding.
All you need are:
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds + more to top if you want
- 3 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 tablespoon brown rice syrup
Any precautions with pomegranates?
If you are currently taking blood pressure and/or cholesterol medications, speak with your doctor before you add pomegranates to your diet. Pomegranates may interact with these drugs, and you always want to try to avoid a drug interaction.
If you are interested in taking pomegranate extract, do not give to a child and consult a doctor first.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.