Eating the delicious seeds of a ripe pomegranate is definitely a test of patience. Many health-conscious people rejoiced -- despite its high price -- when natural pomegranate juice became a common site in mainstream grocery stores about a decade or so ago. Pomegranate juice doesn’t have the variety of nutrients that most fresh fruit juices have, but it’s almost off the charts with antioxidants, which greatly benefit you in many ways.
Pomegranate juice is derived from freshly squeezed pomegranate seeds. This can be done at home, although it’s a time-consuming process and not recommended for those who don’t like making a mess in the kitchen. Store-bought brands may still contain lots of nutrients, but processing and pasteurization destroy heat-sensitive ones such as vitamin C and some powerful antioxidants called flavonoids. Some brands of pomegranate juice may also add nutrients after the pasteurization process, so read the labels carefully. Furthermore, avoid brands that have added sugar.
Lots of Antioxidants
Antioxidants destroy or eliminate free radicals, which are by-products of chemical reactions that tend to harm your tissues. Free radicals in the blood are especially harmful to arteries and your heart, which increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke. Pomegranate juice is a concentrated source of antioxidants such as vitamin C, flavonoids and others compounds called polyphenols. In fact, ounce-for-ounce, pomegranate typically has about three-times more antioxidant potency than red wine, grape juice or green tea.
The antioxidants in pomegranate juice may also reduce or slow down the buildup of cholesterol in your arteries. This is partly because the antioxidants protect the arteries from free radical damage and, thus, cholesterol is not constantly used to patch up injuries. Secondly, some antioxidants actually reduce the amount of “bad” LDL cholesterol circulating in the bloodstream, which reduces the buildup of fatty plaques that form in arteries. Clogged arteries increase the risk for high blood pressure, aneurysms and heart attacks. Some compounds in pomegranate juice also “thin” the blood, which means they prevent clot formation.
The antioxidants in pomegranate juice slow down the aging process somewhat because they prevent free radicals from damaging and deteriorating tissue such as your skin. The relatively high vitamin-C content in pomegranate juice is also useful for maintaining a youthful appearance because it’s needed to make the elastic-like compound in skin called collagen. Healthy collagen production and repair deters the formation of wrinkles and saggy skin.
Potential Cancer Fighter
Pomegranate juice contains a unique type of antioxidant called punicalagin. Some research on mice and other animals suggest that punicalagin may be helpful for fighting breast and skin cancers. However, extensive clinical research is needed before any specific claims or recommendations can be made regarding its use for cancer prevention in humans.
- Human Biochemistry; Charles Dreiling
- Natural Standard Herb & Supplement Reference: Evidence-based Clinical Reviews; Catherine E. Ulbricht and Ethan M. Basch
- Contemporary Nutrition: Functional Approach; Gordon M. Wardlaw et al.
Sirah Dubois is currently a PhD student in food science after having completed her master's degree in nutrition at the University of Alberta. She has worked in private practice as a dietitian in Edmonton, Canada and her nutrition-related articles have appeared in The Edmonton Journal newspaper.