The pomegranate, which literally means, “seeded apple,” has a rich symbolic and mythological history. The ancient Egyptians believed pomegranates signified prosperity and ambition. The ancient Greeks built a chapel devoted to “Our Lady of the Pomegranate.” In more recent times, it's been considered good luck for a Greek houseguest to bring a pomegranate as a housewarming gift. Ancient Jerusalem temple pillars were engraved with pomegranates, and they are part of the traditional Jewish New Year meal. Pomegranates have been found down through the ages as a motif in Christian religious decoration.
Clearly, the pomegranate is a fruit of historical significance, and you may be surprised to discover that it also is a bone-building powerhouse.
Today, we'll explore what the nutrients in pomegranates can do for your health and your bones, and how to incorporate this delicious fruit into your diet.
Punica granatum L. (Pomegranate) is a long-lived, drought-tolerant plant and they are packed with fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients that will support your bone health and overall health.
The polyphenols in pomegranates have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic properties. In fact, the antioxidant activity of pomegranate juice is triple that of red wine and green tea.1
The primary pomegranate challenge is how to eat it since the outer skin (which is inedible) is thick and difficult to peel. The edible inner part of the pomegranate, called an aril, is comprised of hundreds of small seed sacs containing red or pink pulp and juice. These aril seeds can be eaten raw, ground into a smoothie, or juiced. Because peeling and processing pomegranates can be arduous — and messy — many people opt to enjoy bottled pomegranate juice, or pomegranate extract, instead of the fruit itself.
Pomegranates are a nutritional powerhouse, with potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties. The challenge is how to eat them since the skin is both inedible and hard to peel. You can enjoy the seeds that are stored within the pomegranate, or consume it as pomegranate juice or pomegranate extract.
The Bone-Smart Nutritional Profile of Pomegranates
Pomegranate is a winter treasure, because it's abundant in one of the vitamins we need most this time of year: Vitamin C (ascorbic acid). As Savers know, in addition to the antioxidant properties that help ward off colds, flu, and other viruses, Vitamin C is also essential for collagen production, which is key to strong bones, muscles, and healthy skin.
Pomegranates contain several B vitamins. Folate, also known as folic acid and B9, is the most abundant one. It is a water-soluble vitamin that together with Vitamin B12 and Vitamin C acts as a coenzyme to help metabolize protein and plays an important role in cellular reproduction. It is also necessary for red blood cell and DNA synthesis. One pomegranate contains approximately a fourth of the recommended daily value of folate.
Pomegranates deliver a healthy dose of Vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that protects against free radicals. As it relates to bone health, Vitamin E its a powerful osteoporosis fighter, since it is necessary to build strong muscles, which in turn help to build bone, per Wolff's Law.
When we think of potassium, we typically think of bananas. However, pomegranates contain more potassium than bananas — as well as more potassium than a serving of many other potassium-rich foods, such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash, yogurt, beets, spinach, and beans.2
Savers know potassium strengthens bones, alkalizes your pH, and is essential for energy metabolism. So while continuing to eat the Foundation Foods that contain good levels of potassium, adding pomegranate to your diet is a definite plus.
Polyphenols, the micronutrients found in plants, were briefly known as Vitamin P due to their powerful antioxidant properties. Their protective health benefits against osteoporosis, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease are well documented.3
Pomegranates contain three potent polyphenols.3 Luteolin, a highly bone-protective plant antioxidant because of its anti-inflammatory properties, quercetin, which helps increase bone density and reduce stress by preventing the release of cortisol, and the flavonoid kaempferol which has been proven to protect osteoblasts from bacterial toxins.
Pomegranates are loaded with nutrients, including Vitamins C and E, the B vitamin folate (also known as folic acid), potassium, and a number of polyphenols, all of which are excellent bone builders, and help protect against a range of other health conditions, including breast cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
What The Nutrients In Pomegranate Can Do For Your Health
Because it physically resembles the human ovary, pomegranates often served as fertility symbols in ancient cultures. Fortunately for post-menopausal women today, the resemblance extends beyond appearance to the fruit's healthful benefits: pomegranate is estrogenic, providing the same estrogens (estradiol, estrone, and estriol) as human ovaries. This is a boon for bone health, and welcome news for those dealing with depression and breast cancer.
In one study, mice that had their ovaries removed suffered bone loss at an accelerated rate. However, when the mice were fed pomegranate extract, their bone mineral density reverted to normal in two weeks.4
Furthermore, and quoting from the same study:
“Some histological bone formation/resorption parameters were significantly increased by ovariectomy but were normalized by administration of the pomegranate extract. These changes suggest that the pomegranate extract inhibits ovariectomy-stimulated bone turnover.5
The same researchers posited that pomegranate would be similarly beneficial for women with depression, as the depression indicators in mice also improved.4
How can pomegranate decrease the risk of breast cancer, when excess estrogen is thought to increase breast cancer risk? Pomegranate is a natural adaptogen, meaning that it exerts a normalizing effect on bodily functions. Since pomegranate is also a phytoestrogen, or dietary-derived plant estrogen that is not produced by the human body, its estrogenic effects only happen when the body is in need of estrogen.
In the same way, pomegranate juice helps diabetics reduce their risk of heart disease, even though it is high in natural sugars. According to one study,
“In most juices, sugars are present in free — and harmful — forms. In pomegranate juice, however, the sugars are attached to unique antioxidants, which actually make these sugars protective against atherosclerosis.”5
Pomegranate juice has been shown to help prevent or reduce the key factors that lead to heart disease, including high blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and blood clots.6, 7
And because the polyphenols in pomegranate juice generate a low-glycemic response when eaten with high-glycemic foods, pomegranate juice also benefits people at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.8
Pomegranate can help defend against several conditions that affect post-menopausal women, including osteoporosis, breast cancer, heart disease, and depression. Because it is a phytoestrogen as well as an adaptogen, pomegranate's estrogenic benefits only occur when the body requires this plant-derived form of estrogen, helping to normalize and balance all other internal functions. In the same way, the natural sugars in pomegranate, rather than being harmful, are attached to antioxidants, giving them a uniquely protective power against cardiovascular disease.
How to Include Pomegranate In Your Diet
While nutrient-rich pomegranate packs a powerful punch with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, de-seeding a whole pomegranate is quite a bit of work, as mentioned earlier. Fortunately, some grocery stores sell just the pomegranate seeds.
You can eat a handful of seeds as a healthy snack, or try one or more of the following ideas:
- Mix the uncooked seeds into a salad for flavor and added nutrition
- Serve as part of a tangy salsa topping with fish or poultry
- Place the seeds in a food processor and add a little white wine vinegar for a glaze
- Grind the seeds and add them to your bone-building smoothie.
You can probably come up with many additional recipe ideas!
The easiest way to consume pomegranate is as an extract, which is more concentrated than pomegranate juice and contains no sugar. Even if you buy pomegranate juice with no added sugar, the pomegranate juice itself is a rich source of natural fructose, sucrose, and glucose.
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The best and easiest way to reap the benefits of pomegranate is by consuming pomegranate extract, which has no sugar. Pomegranate juice, while abundantly healthy, contains a lot of natural sugar. You can also buy pomegranate seeds and add them to salads, salsas, and glazes.
Three Cheers For Pomegranates!
Pomegranate is a bone-building powerhouse that also protects against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and more, it's one of the most healthful additions Savers can make to their diet.
1 Aida Zarfeshany et al., “Potent health effects of pomegranate”, Adv Biomed Res. 2014; 3: 100. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4007340/
2 National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Web. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Potassium-HealthProfessional/
3 Danny A van Elswijk et al., “Rapid dereplication of estrogenic compounds in pomegranate (Punica granatum) using on-line biochemical detection coupled to mass spectrometry”, Phytochemistry 65(2):233-41 February 2004. Web. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031942203006241?via%3Dihub/
4 Mori-Okamoto J. et al., “Pomegranate extract improves a depressive state and bone properties in menopausal syndrome model ovariectomized mice.” J Ethnopharmacol. 2004 May;92(1):93-101. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15099854/
5 Aviram M et al., “Pomegranate juice consumption for 3 years by patients with carotid artery stenosis reduces common carotid intima-media thickness, blood pressure and LDL oxidation”, Clin Nutr. 2004 Jun;23(3):423-33. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15158307/
6 Teresa Mattiello et al., “Effects of Pomegranate Juice and Extract Polyphenols on Platelet Function”, Journal of Medicinal Food, Vol. 12, No. 2, May 21, 2009. Web. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jmf.2007.0640/
7 Michael Aviram et al., “Pomegranate for Your Cardiovascular Health”, Rambam Maimonides Med J. 2013 Apr; 4(2): e0013. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3678830/
8 Asimina Kerimi et al., “Pomegranate juice, but not an extract, confers a lower glycemic response on a high–glycemic index food: randomized, crossover, controlled trials in healthy subjects”, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 106, Issue 6, 1 December 2017, Pages 1384-1393. Web. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/106/6/1384/4823175/