The Power of Pomegranates

With a labyrinth of seeds tucked inside inedible flesh and surrounded by a tough shell, the unique pomegranate is a fruit that is considered a superfood and is honored all over the world. Ancient Egyptians thought burying the dead with pomegranates would ensure eternal life, and breaking open pomegranates is a common tradition at Greek weddings. While this humble fruit may offer luck and good fortune, it is also receiving a lot of recent attention for its many healthful properties. In fact, pomegranate is a popular ingredient in many fruit powders and super fruit supplements because of these health properties.

High in Fiber
One pomegranate packs roughly 25 percent of the recommended daily fiber. This is good news for those who are trying to lose weight because foods high in fiber keep people full for longer periods. Better yet, pomegranates contain only 72 calories.

Full of Antioxidants
Pomegranate juice is chock full of antioxidants. In fact, levels are three times as much as an equivalent amount of green tea or red wine. Antioxidants neutralize damage to cells caused by free radicals, compounds associated with many degenerative diseases and early aging.

A study that appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition stated, "Pomegranates are proving to be the most powerful antioxidant source available, better than red wine, tomatoes, vitamin E and a variety of other headline makers."

Rich in Cancer-Fighting Ellagic Acid
Pomegranates are a rich source of ellagic acid, a phytonutrient receiving recent praise for its health benefits. Laboratory and animal research has shown that this healthy acid can impede the growth of cancer cells and counteract cancer-causing compounds. Other foods high in ellagic acid are dark berries, walnuts, pecans and red or purple grapes.

Lowers LDL Cholesterol
Although LDL is considered the harmful form of cholesterol, some experts break this down even further and deem "oxidized LDL" as the most harmful form. This is the type that damages arterial walls, which can lead to atherosclerosis. Research shows that pomegranate juice may help lower levels of oxidized LDL. Many individuals looking to lower their LDL cholesterol have been supplementing their diet with super fruit powders that contain pomegranate.

Punicalagins are nutrients unique to pomegranates that benefit the circulatory system. In addition to lowering oxidized LDL cholesterol, these healthful compounds may also lower blood pressure and help reduce severe blockages in the carotid artery.

In one study, patients were given one ounce of pomegranate juice per day for a full year. Over that time, blood pressure was reduced by roughly 12 percent on average, and arterial plaque decreased by an average of 30 percent. Control subjects who did not consume juice experienced a 9 percent increase in arterial plaque on average.

Because pomegranates contain so many healthful properties, it makes sense to add them to the diet. To find the ripest, best-tasting pomegranates, choose by weight, as heavier pomegranates contain more juice. While the color varies from red to a reddish-brown, it is the deepness of the color, not the color itself, which indicates ripeness. Try pomegranates in smoothies, in a fruit salad or atop yogurt or breakfast cereal. 

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