Pomegranate Power: The Surprising Superfood

Pomegranates have been cultivated since ancient times, but did you know that new science has found surprising benefits for the fabled fruit? Research shows that the succulent seeds may slow aging, halt the spread of cancer, improve heart health, and have Viagra-like effects on men.

What’s more, this tasty treat is low in calories (only around 105 for an average-sized fruit) in addition to being loaded with nutrients. High in vitamin C and potassium, the bright red fruit also boasts high levels of antioxidants. And if you eat the seeds rather than drinking the tangy juice, you’ll have added fiber in your diet as well.

The ruby-red fruit is difficult to resist, according to mythology. In fact, some Biblical scholars believe that it was the pomegranate, not the apple, which was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. In Greek mythology, Persephone was condemned to spend six months in the Underworld each year because Hades tricked her into eating a few pomegranate seeds.

Here’s a glimpse at some of the many ways these tiny seeds can help improve your health. 

1. May Slow Aging

Pomegranates have polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that many believe slows aging. A look at polyphenol-rich foods including pomegranates has shown that it does in fact help extend the lifespan, according to new research from the University of Kansas.

2. Increases Testosterone

Researchers looked at 60 volunteers, and the results were clear: drinking pomegranate juice increased the level of testosterone in the saliva. Testosterone has myriad benefits, including increased muscle, reduced fat, renewed energy, better moods and, of course, an improved sex drive. The study found a surge in T levels in both men and women. Another small study, published in Journal of Impotence Research, suggested that pomegranate juice might have natural Viagra-like effects. The researchers reported that 47 percent of men with mild-to-moderate erectile dysfunction (ED) reported improvement after drinking the juice daily for one month, compared to a 31 percent rate of improvement in men who drank apple juice. Intriguingly, throughout history, the pomegranate has been a symbol of fertility and has long been thought to have aphrodisiac powers.

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3. Lowers Bad Cholesterol

Pomegranate juice may well slow the buildup of cholesterol for those who have risk factors associated with heart disease. This has to do with the tangy juice’s high levels of polyphenols and other antioxidants, which reduce “bad” cholesterol.

4. Zaps Inflammation

Pomegranates reduce inflammation and stop the breakdown of cartilage. This is particularly helpful for those suffering from arthritis, as it prevents its onset and severity, according to research published in the Journal of Inflammation. It does this by stopping the overproduction of cytokines, which are responsible for inflammation and the destruction of tissue when produced in excess.

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5. May Control Blood Pressure 

The study was small, but the results were promising—study participants drinking pomegranate juice significantly improved their blood pressure in only a week compared to those who only drank water. Drinking the ancient elixir also showed improved ratios of the stress hormone cortisol and cortisone, its inert counterpart. In a 2012 study lasting two weeks, sipping the juice improved blood pressure and reduced stiffness in arterial walls.

6. Fights Cancer

Some components of the tangy juice have the potential to stop cancer cells from spreading, according to researchers at the University of California. The research was conducted on prostate cancer cells that were prone to spread, but the cells treated with pomegranate juice were less likely to do so.

7. May Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Research on mice shows that pomegranate juice improved behavior in a model of Alzheimer’s disease. Mice given pomegranate juice were able to learn tasks more quickly and swim faster than mice that received sugar water.

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Want to work this nutritional powerhouse into your diet? Several sites feature creative recipes that are nutritious and delicious. Here are a handful of my favorites, plus shopping tips:

  • Eating Well’s Healthy Pomegranate Recipes include a variety of salads, main dishes, and a handful of pomegranate drinks, such as mimosas, iced tea, and a pomegranate cosmopolitan. Although pomegranate juice won’t get you the fiber packed in the ruby red seeds, you’ll still benefit from the antioxidants and various other vitamins and nutrients.
  • AllRecipes.com features a wide variety of recipes—pomegranate-themed ones included—submitted by readers.

If you choose to drink the tangy juice, make sure it’s pure pomegranate juice rather than a sugar-loaded mixture of fruit juices. As always, it’s wise to check with a doctor before making major dietary changes. Pomegranate juice can cause dangerous side effects when combined with certain medications.

 If you’re preparing the juicy fruit, start by cutting off the “crown” and slicing what’s left into sections. Then, place those sections into lukewarm water. You’ll be able to easily roll out the seeds with your fingers. Strain the water, and you’re ready to eat.

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