Written by Shabana Parveen
Pomegranates may be on your breakfast plate for boosting immunity, hemoglobin, diabetes and heart health, but given the latest research shows they have anti-aging properties, make them a staple of your morning menu. Granted, it takes a bit of effort to eat the fruit, pry it open and scoop out the spherical pearls, but the high antioxidant value is worth splurging on the juice.
It is one of the few superfoods with strong antioxidant properties. Many may not know this, but pomegranate contains nearly three times the antioxidants of green tea or red wine. The large polyphenolic compounds in pomegranates, such as punicalagins, protect the body against free radicals. These antioxidants are quickly absorbed and converted into smaller polyphenols. Pomegranate seeds or extracts help prevent oxidative damage to the skin, improve skin texture, prevent wrinkles and increase microcirculation. The fruit facilitates the body’s ability to produce glutathione, which protects cells from free radical damage. It improves skin elasticity, aids in cell regeneration and collagen production, and prevents sun damage, age spots and hyperpigmentation. As a result, it deeply hydrates and nourishes the skin.
A series of studies testify to the pomegranate’s anti-aging properties. Recent research from the University of Washington has found that a compound in pomegranates called “urolithin A” could be used to create new anti-aging treatments that boost muscle and mitochondrial health, protecting against frailty in old age. A study from Taiwan in 2021 showed how the daily consumption of fermented pomegranate extracts can protect the skin against oxidative stress and slow skin aging. Another 2016 study showed how a molecule in pomegranates, transformed by microbes in the gut, enables muscle cells to protect themselves against one of the main causes of aging.
CHOLESTEROL AND HEART HEALTH
Its muscle-boosting properties make pomegranate a superfood for heart health. Pomegranate juice is a good source of potassium, an important electrolyte for healthy muscle function and heart rate regulation. It contains tannins and anthocyanins, which have anti-atherogenic properties and slow down the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein or LDL, the bad cholesterol, preventing atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Pomegranates increase the activity of HDL (high density lipoprotein)-associated paraoxonase 1, which breaks down harmful oxidized lipids into lipoproteins.
But the best part is that the fruit can block triglycerides that increase your risk of heart disease. By attacking them before they can be deposited in the body, a pomegranate keeps constipation away and even stops belly fat. A study in 51 people with high cholesterol and triglyceride levels showed that pomegranate seed oil taken daily for four weeks significantly lowered triglycerides and improved the HDL-LDL ratio. The potassium and magnesium content helps lower hypertension and blood pressure (BP).
A 2017 review in Pharmacological Research of eight clinical trials found that pomegranate juice lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure, sealing its place as a heart-healthy food.
Pomegranates are a rich source of antioxidants such as polyphenols and conjugated linolenic acid, which help burn fat and boost the body’s metabolism.
DIABETES AND WEIGHT LOSS
Pomegranates are low in calories and fat, but high in fiber. This helps break down food slowly, slows the release of glucose into the bloodstream, builds a feeling of fullness for longer that counteracts silly snacking, and helps you stick to diet discipline and maintain your weight. Several studies have linked pomegranate to the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. One study has shown how pomegranates work in type 2 diabetes by reducing their oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation. It showed how fasting blood glucose levels dropped significantly with punicic acid, methanol seed extract and pomegranate peel extract. Known compounds in pomegranate, punicalagin, ellagic, gallic, oleanolic, ursolic, uallic acids and tannins have been identified as regulating diabetes. A 2014 study in people with diabetes showed that daily consumption of pomegranate juice reduced inflammatory markers by about 30 percent. It is important to consume the whole fruit to reap all the benefits of fiber.
WATER SOLUBLE NUTRIENTS ACT AS AN IMMUNITY SHIELD
The fruit contains folic acid, iron (which increases hemoglobin levels) and other vitamins and minerals with a high content of polyphenols, including tannins. These are water soluble and easily digested in the body. The fruit contains some protein and is a good source of vitamin C, which helps keep other antioxidants working properly throughout the body. Vitamin C plays a key role in several essential body processes, such as protein metabolism, collagen synthesis and neurotransmitter production. It aids in immune system function and aids in the absorption of non-heme iron, which is found in plant sources of iron.
Studies in 2013 and 2014 showed that pomegranate extract can reduce inflammatory activity in the digestive tract, breast cancer and colon cancer cells. Some lab studies have shown that pomegranate extracts can slow the reproduction of cancer cells and even induce apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells.
Pomegranate seeds can be added to fruit salads, cereals, salad greens, smoothies, yogurt, and recipes for muffins and pancakes. They can also be mixed into smoothies. Besides adding a pop of color, they have a goodness that is unbeatable.