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Nutrient - Nutrient focus on pomegranate

By Jenny Bodenham BA (Hons) DipION MBANT

Forbidden desire, birth and eternal life are just some of the cultural and mythological associations attributed to the pomegranate! The ancient Egyptians, hopeful of re-birth, were buried with pomegranates and, in Persian culture, the pomegranate is a symbol of strength. Additionally, there are religious scholars who believe that the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden was actually a pomegranate. Native to Middle Eastern countries, the pomegranate, whose name is derived from the Latin pomum (apple) and granatus (seeded), is now grown in many countries throughout the world.

The average-sized pomegranate contains approximately 600 edible seeds, which may be eaten as tasty and nutritious snacks, added to savoury and sweet dishes and, in some parts of the world, such as India, used as a spice.

While the pomegranate flower, leaf, rind and juice have been prized in many cultures, for hundreds of years, for their health-giving properties, more recently, they have been the focus of much research.

The pomegranate fruit is a rich source of iron, as well as vitamins A, C, E, K, B6 and pantothenic acid.  Additionally, pomegranate juice contains polyphenols; compounds that include anthocyanidins and hydrolysable tannins, which are thought to have considerable antioxidant activity in the body and so may be helpful in combating free radical damage. Free radical damage is associated with an increased risk of many chronic diseases. A study carried out on elderly subjects in China found that pomegranate juice was potentially better than apple juice in improving antioxidant function. Research shows that pomegranate juice contains more polyphenols than red wine, blueberry, cranberry, green tea or orange juice. Israeli studies suggest that, due to its significant antioxidant activity, pomegranate juice may play a role in slowing the progression of atherosclerosis. This is thought to be partly as a result of its effect in reducing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. It is thought that polyphenols might also decrease cholesterol synthesis in the liver. Another benefit of pomegranate juice has been found in those suffering from hypertension. It appears to reduce the serum activity of ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme), so helping to reduce high blood pressure. 

Preliminary research also suggests that pomegranate juice may increase nitric oxide availability in the body.  Nitric oxide acts as an antioxidant and vasodilator, and plays an important role in healthy erectile function.

As well as making a refreshing drink, with a unique sweet / sour balance, the juice of the pomegranate has even been combined with vinegar! When the juice is combined with unpasteurised balsamic vinegar it makes a tasty addition to both sweet and savoury dishes. If the vinegar contains beneficial “mother” - a natural sediment formed by Acetobacter bacteria - the vinegar will have added nutritional benefits, because “mother” contains trace minerals, friendly bacteria and enzymes. 

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