Pomegranates have been grown in the Middle East since ancient times. They have also been cultivated in the Mediterranean region, Europe, Asia, Africa and India. The pomegranate tree was introduced to California in the late eighteenth century; today, pomegranates in the United States are grown primarily in Arizona and California.

Pomegranates are basically round with a tough reddish-pink skin. Cutting the fruit open reveals white, fleshy tissue and hundreds of pips – small translucent sacs that contain juice, tart red pulp and a seed. To eat a pomegranate, slice it in half and place it in a bowl of water. Gently remove the pips from the rind and membrane and strain the pips from the water. Then, enjoy the tart, rich flavor of the pips by themselves, or use them on salads and in baked goods.

Nutritional Benefits of Pomegranate

Pomegranates are an excellent source of potassium, vitamin C and polyphenols, especially anthocyanins, ellagic acid, tannins and punicalagin (of all the polyphenols contained in pomegranate juice, punicalagin is responsible for half of the juice’s antioxidant powder). In one study, researchers compared pomegranate juice with cranberry juice, red win, blueberry juice and orange juice and found that pomegranate juice had more polyphenols than the other juices and that the polyphenols in pomegranate juice were significantly more active. Pomegranate juice neutralized free radicals and prevented LDL cholesterol oxidation, which contributes to atherosclerosis.

Pomegranate and Your Health

Scientific literature increasingly shows that the polyphenols in pomegranate juice protect the heart, fight free radicals and protect against cancer and other chronic diseases.

Studies suggest that regularly drinking pomegranate juice helps to reduce oxidative stress, atherosclerosis, blood pressure and narrowing of the carotid arteries in the neck. Scientists at the Preventive Medicine Research Center in Sausalito, California, found that 240 milliliters (about eight ounces) of pomegranate juice a day improved blood flow to the heart in patients with coronary heart disease.

In 2006, Israeli researchers reported that the antioxidants in pomegranate juice are especially beneficial for diabetics. Noting that diabetes increases oxidative stress and the risk of atherosclerosis, the researchers gave 10 diabetic patients 50 milliliters of pomegranate juice per day for three months. (As a control, 10 non-diabetic patients received the same amount of pomegranate juice). The researchers found that pomegranate juice reduced the risk of oxidation and atherosclerosis in the diabetic patients without increasing blood sugar levels.

Pomegranate juice may even protect against cancer. Laboratory and animal studies have revealed potential roles for pomegranate in fighting lung cancer, skin cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer and breast cancer.

The Bottom Line

As baby boomers reach their fifties and sixties, the emphasis on active lifestyles, maintaining good health and living longer increase. To meet their health goals, more and more people are tuning to fruits and vegetables for the healthful antioxidants they contain. As modern science continues to research the role of free-radical damage in aging and disease, expect to hear more about the potent phytochemicals in acai berries, mangosteen, goji berries and pomegranate, al of which offer numerous benefits to those who want to take control of their health.

Superfruits Fast Facts

Uses and Benefits: Superfruits are nutritional powerhouse, providing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and more. Because of their nutritiaonl value, superfruits may boost overall well-being and help prevent disease.

Forms: Superfruits are whole foods and can be enjoyed as such. Many are also available as juices or fruit extracts. Because of its astringency, the highly nutritious mangosteen pericarp is inedible – look for supplements instead.

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