Antioxidants: The Punch that Powers the Pomegranate Super Fruit

By Michael A. Smith, MD

Pomegranate fruit has gained a great deal of popularity over the years. Originally from the Middle East and Asia, it's also referred to as the Granada or the Chinese apple.

These days, pomegranates are mostly grown in India, Africa, and the United States. Just about every culture in the world eats and enjoys them (even though they’re known to stain clothes).

The fruit is round or spherical and red. Inside, you’ll find dozens of small, ruby-colored seeds with a distinct citrus flavor and an extremely juicy consistency. Today, a wealth of foods, drinks, and even dietary supplements are made with the fruit as a result of its popularity.

These days, pomegranate is becoming more commercialized and can be found in various forms in supermarkets everywhere. Pomegranate juice is the most popular, but jellies, wines, and even salad dressings are also available. Be careful, though, as many of these processed pomegranate products are literally loaded with sugar.

Punicalagins are Powerful Pomegranate Antioxidants

Time for the juicy stuff — the health benefits. Just about every part of your body can reap rewards from pomegranate. It’s an extremely rich source of antioxidants — specifically, a group of antioxidants known as punicalagins, which are powerful, free radical scavengers that can help reduce oxidative damage throughout your body.

The ORAC chart1 — Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity — measures the antioxidant power of different food sources. The higher the ORAC value, the greater the food’s antioxidant power. Note that pomegranate fruit weighs in at a whopping 10,500 ORAC units (note that the numerical values here are based on a serving of 100 grams or 3.5 ounces). Impressive, isn’t it?


Again, most of the pomegranate’s antioxidant punch comes from the punicalagins. But how does this punch actually measure up? To give you an idea, one popular pomegranate extract has been found to increase blood antioxidant status by 32%.2

Pomegranate’s Range of Health Benefits

Many studies, ranging from laboratory tests to human clinical studies, have confirmed the health benefits of pomegranate punicalagins, especially in terms of cardiovascular benefits. The following is a list of some compelling observations that have been made by researchers about the fruit:

  • It inhibits the proliferation of prostate cancer cells.3
  • It enhances nitric oxide production and improves endothelial cell function.4
  • It inhibits cholesterol oxidation by increasing paraoxonase-1 activity by 83%.5
  • It reduces the incidence and number of skin tumors in animal models.6
  • It prevents platelet clumping and clot formation by boosting prostacyclin production by 61%.7,8
  • It lowers total cholesterol and LDL levels — markers of cardiovascular risk.9
As you can see, pomegranate really is a “super fruit.” Not only is it beautiful and tasty, but it’s also a virtual gold mine of health benefits. For this reason, we suggest eating as many as you can every day. However, if you want to reap the maximum rewards, a high-potency extract providing 250 to 500 mg is probably your best bet.

Recipe: Persimmon Pomegranate Fruit Salad

Although the end of summer is near, the days are still pretty hot for many of us. If you want help beating the heat, give this cool, refreshing persimmon pomegranate fruit salad a shot. The recipe comes courtesy of Simply Recipes.

Ingredients:

  • 3 fuyu persimmons, peeled, chopped (¼- to ½-inch pieces), disregard seeds.
  • ¾ cup pomegranate seeds.
  • 1 Granny Smith or Fuji apple, thinly sliced crosswise (stack and roll them up like a cigar).
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
Preparation:

  • Gently toss all of the ingredients togther.
  • Chill and enjoy!
  • It keeps for about 2 days in the refrigerator, but is best eaten the same day. 


Do you like pomegranates as much as we do? Is there a specific health benefit that you’re most interested in? Share your thoughts in the comments.

References

  1. Available at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive.
  2. J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Nov 15;54(23):8956-61.
  3. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Oct 11;102(41):14813-8.
  4. Nitric Oxide. 2006 Nov;15(3):259-63.
  5. Clin Nutr. 2004 Jun;23(3):423-33.
  6. Int J Cancer. 2005 Jan 20;113(3):423-33.
  7. J Med Food. 2003;6(4):301-8.
  8. J Med Food. 2009 Apr;12(2):334-9.
  9. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2006 May;76(3):147-51.

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2 comments:

antioxidant foods said...

Thanks for a great article. I didn't know pomegranate was such a highly nutritional antioxidant fruit. What do you recommend the daily intake should be, as they are a seasonal fruit?

Life Extension said...

Eat as many as you can when in season and take a pomegranate extract (250 to 500 mg) everyday!

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