by Tammera J Karr, PhD
I love pomegranates, they are one of the few foods I can eat every day for months and never get tired of the flavor. When I was a kid, pomegranates were only available during the Christmas and New Year season in rural Eastern Oregon. Today they are available in fresh, cleaned seeds and juice forms almost year around. For those who grew up in southern California, you may have had a tree in your yard and remember the beautiful deep red jellies made by family members from the pomegranate fruit.
A little history
Pomegranate is one of the “seven kinds” mentioned in the Bible which Israel was blessed with long ago. An ancient legend, world religions, history and traditional medicine, have all celebrated the unique beauty and health benefits of the pomegranate. It is a fruit of legend and power – a sacred symbol of human civilization.
Mankind has revered the magical, mystical pomegranate since the dawn of recorded history. Ancient Greeks, Romans, and the peoples of China, India and the Middle East found its properties to be life-giving and invigorating.It grew in the region for thousands of years and is very much adapted to it. As befits a fruit with many seeds, the pomegranate is the traditional representation of fertility and seems to have its origins everywhere. The pomegranate was cultivated in Egypt before the time of Moses. It was found in the Indus valley so early that there is a word in Sanskrit for pomegranate.
The pomegranate is significant in Jewish custom. Tradition holds that a pomegranate has 613 seeds to represent the 613 commandments in the Torah. The design of the pomegranate was woven into the high priest’s robes, and brass representations were part of the Temple’s pillars. It is mentioned six times inch Song of Solomon.
The pomegranate tree is native from Iran to the Himalayas in northern India and has been cultivated since ancient times throughout the Mediterranean region of Asia, Africa, and Europe. The most important growing areas are Egypt, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, India, Burma and Saudi Arabia.
The tree was introduced in California by Spanish settlers in 1769. It is grown for its fruit mostly in the dry zones of that state and Arizona. In California, commercial pomegranate cultivation is concentrated in Tulare, Fresno, and Kern counties, with small farms in Imperial and Riverside counties.
Pomegranate seeds get their vibrant red hue from polyphenols. These chemicals are potent antioxidants. Pomegranate juice contains higher levels of antioxidants than most other fruit juices. It also has three times more antioxidants than red wine and green tea. The antioxidants in pomegranate juice can help remove free radicals, protect cells from damage, and reduce inflammation.
The juice of a single pomegranate has more than 40 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin C. Vitamin C can be broken down when pasteurized, so opt for homemade or fresh pomegranate juice to get the most of the nutrient. In addition to vitamin C and vitamin E, pomegranate juice is an excellent source of folate, potassium, and vitamin K.
Pomegranate juice made a splash when researchers found it helped stop the growth of prostate cancer cells. The antioxidants in the juice and their high concentration are believed to stall the progress of Alzheimer disease and protect memory. Pomegranate juice can reduce inflammation in the gut and improve digestion. It may be beneficial for people with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and other inflammatory bowel diseases.
Pomegranate juice is a potent anti-inflammatory due to its high concentration of antioxidants. The juice has been found to reduce inflammation throughout the body and prevent oxidative stress damage. Flavonols in pomegranate juice may help block inflammation that contributes to osteoarthritis and cartilage damage. The juice is currently being studied for its potential effects on osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other types of arthritis and joint inflammation.
Pomegranate was traditionally used as a remedy for diabetes in the Middle East and India.
Researchers believe the effects of pomegranate on diabetes may help decrease insulin resistance and lower blood sugar.
Pomegranate juice is in the running as the most heart-healthy juice. It appears to protect the heart and arteries. Small studies have shown that the juice improves blood flow and keeps the arteries from becoming stiff and thick. It may also slow the growth of plaque and buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. Drinking pomegranate juice daily may lower systolic blood pressure.
Between the vitamin C and other immune-boosting nutrients like vitamin E, pomegranate juice can prevent illness and fight off infection. Pomegranates have also been shown to be antibacterial and antiviral in lab tests. They are being studied for their effects on common infections and viruses.
These are just a few of the benefits research is finding – soooo here is to superfoods with vibrant red!
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Ferreira, Mandy. “15 health benefits of pomegranate juice.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 12 Jul. 2017. Web.
12 Jan. 2018. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318385.php