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The Power of the Pomegranate: The 9 Health Benefits of this Wonder Fruit, and How to Eat Them

For centuries, pomegranates have been regarded as a treasure among fruits. In ancient times, the Babylonians would chew the seeds before battle, believing it would make them invincible. And the ancient Egyptians were buried with pomegranates.

In modern times, the pomegranate is a popular addition to Middle Eastern, Indian and Iranian cuisines. In the United States, this "jewel of winter" as it's sometimes referred to has become widely marketed as a powerful health juice in the last couple of years.

Only the seeds of this heart-healthy fruit are edible.

And increasing numbers of studies are confirming what it appears many cultures have known for some time: pomegranates are indeed a wonder fruit. If you don't regularly eat pomegranates or drink their juice, here are nine reasons why you may want to start.

1. Rich in Disease-Fighting Antioxidants
Pomegranate juice may contain close to three times the antioxidants as green tea or red wine. Antioxidants fight against free radicals -- unstable molecules that can damage DNA and cell membranes. This cellular damage has been linked to all kinds of diseases including cancer.

2. Protect Your Heart
A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that pomegranate juice combats hardening of the arteries and related diseases like heart attacks and strokes. It seems to limit the genetic tendency toward hardening of the arteries.

"The protective effects of pomegranate juice were higher than previously assumed," said Claudio Napoli, the study's author and a professor of medicine and clinical pathology at the University of Naples, Italy.

Another study in the September 16 issue of the Journal of Cardiology found that after patients with coronary heart disease (CHD) drank pomegranate juice every day for three months:

  • Blood flow to the heart improved by about 17 percent in the pomegranate group.

  • Blood flow declined by 18 percent in the placebo group.

"In conclusion, daily consumption of pomegranate juice may improve stress-induced myocardial ischemia in patients who have CHD," researchers said.

3. Fight Osteoarthritis
Pomegranate extract may be useful in fighting osteoarthritis, according to a study at Case Western Reserve University, published in The Journal of Nutrition. In lab tests, the extract:

  • Cut levels of an inflammatory chemical called interleukin-1b (IL-1b).

  • Stopped enzymes that erode cartilage.

Researchers said their findings "indicate the pomegranate fruit extract or compounds derived from it may inhibit cartilage degradation in osteoarthritis and may also be a useful nutritive supplement for maintaining joint integrity and function."

4. Keep Prostate Cancer From Returning
A study found that pomegranate juice may help fight the return of prostate cancer among men who have had surgery or radiation for the disease. In fact, among 48 such men who drank 8 ounces of pomegranate juice each day until their prostate cancer progressed:

  • The juice significantly lengthened the time it took for the men's average PSA levels (a gauge of prostate cancer progression) to double.

  • None of the men developed cancer that spread beyond the prostate during the study.

It's been suggested that the apple in the biblical Garden of Eden was actually a pomegranate.

"Pomegranate juice contains antioxidant chemicals that may have cancer-preventing benefits," the researchers said.

5. Help Lower Bad Cholesterol
Antioxidants in pomegranates have been found to reduce the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol in mice, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

6. Lower Blood Pressure
A study also found that pomegranates help lower blood pressure among people with hypertension.

7. Get Your Nutrients
One pomegranate has about 40 percent of the recommended daily vitamin C requirement for adults, along with folic acid, fiber, potassium, niacin and vitamins A and E.

8. Protection for Newborns
A study published in Pediatric Research found that drinking pomegranate juice during pregnancy helped protect newborns' brains during traumatic births.

9. Fight Breast Cancer
Israeli researchers found that pomegranate seed oil causes breast cancer cells to self-destruct, while leaving healthy cells unharmed.

How to Eat (and Enjoy) a Pomegranate

Eating a pomegranate takes some work because the edible seeds are encased in an inedible white membrane. The seeds are the part you want to eat -- they have a tangy, sweet-sour flavor -- or use to make juice, jellies and marinades. Here's the best way to get to them:

  • Slice the crown end of the pomegranate off.

  • Score the rind in several places around the fruit (from top to bottom).

  • Break (or cut) the sections apart.

  • Put the sections in a bowl of water.

  • Pry the seeds out with your fingers (be careful, the juice will stain clothes permanently).

  • Strain the seeds using a colander.

  • The seeds can be eaten right away, stored in the refrigerator or even frozen.

Looking for a special treat? Try this tasty recipe for Pomegranate Ginger Muffins from the Pomegranate Council:

Recommended Reading

The 15 Healthiest Berries You Could Possibly Eat ... Including 7 Most Haven't Heard Of

Sweet on Lemons: Seven Reasons to Give Healthy Lemons a Loving Squeeze


National Geographic News

CBS News September 9, 2005

Nutra Ingredients September 19, 2005

WebMD Health

Newswise: Health Benefits and Pomegranate Juice

Whole Health MD

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