Planting the Seeds for Healthy Living

Pomegranates have found their way into many culinary delights, but it’s not just because they taste good.  Many Canadians have discovered including the exotic red fruit as part of their diet will help them reduce their risk of cancer and heart disease.  It is considered the next nutritional powerhouse and can be found in many variations from cocktails to body lotion.  In fact, pomegranate juice has higher antioxidant activity than green tea and red wine.

Why is this IT-food - the pomegranate with its edible seeds inside juicy sacs - so popular with nutritionalists?  It is a good source of fibre, high in both Vitamin C and potassium while having a low caloric value of 80 per serving which is less than a third of the any other medium fruit.  

This healthy addition can easily make dishes more nutritious.  The fruit can be enjoyed on its own or the seeds can be sprinkled in salads or over cooked dishes.  The juice can be used to make sauces, sorbets, jellies and wine.  Pomegranate syrup is used to make grenadine which adds flavour and sweetness to mixed drinks.  Canadian retailers have seen a spike in pomegranate juice sales since 2006 as consumers take active steps to make healthy choices.  

American Dietetic Association studies have touted that eating pomegranates may help prevent clogged arteries and reduce the risk of heart disease.  This is due to the red fruit being especially high in polyphenols, a form of antioxidant.  The fruit juice also contains anthocyanins, health-boosting tannins and ellagic acid - which has the beneficial effect of suppressing the growth of cancer cells and specifically kills prostate cancer cells.

Another recent study conducted at Jonsson Cancer Center at UCLA came up with some more encouraging news for prostate cancer patients - they surmised drinking pomegranate juice slowed down the disease.  Researchers found levels of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA), a protein marker for the disease, increased 35% more slowly in men with recurrent prostate cancer when they drank 8 ounces of the nectar daily after they had surgery or radiation for their cancer treatments.  They also realized that it took almost 4 times longer to double PSA levels compared to 15 months in the men who did not drink the juice.  This prolonged timeframe to double the PSA levels allowed the men to postpone other cancer treatment procedures due to the cancer taking longer to reoccur.

Although North American science is just starting to uncover the pomegranate's potential many cultures have used the fruit for medicinal purposes for centuries - especially for gastroenterological ailments.  The fruit is considered so important that the pomegranate appears in the coats-of-arms of several medical associations, including the Royal College of Physicians in London and British Medical Association.

The researchers are not done with pomegranates just yet.  Some early studies are being conducted to determine how pomegranate juice can be used to treat breast cancer and osteoarthritis.  It looks like the health benefits of these tasty little seeds will continue for many years to come.

Source: "Fruit of the Gods." Lifestyle from Yahoo. September 17, 2009