Few people give any thought to how important fruit is to their daily diet. It’s true that we’ve all heard about the food pyramid and that we should eat several servings of fruits and vegetables a day to be healthy, but do you honestly pay attention to that advice? Most don’t. It’s much easier and quicker with our busy modern lifestyle to grab fast food on the run or buy pre-packaged food at the grocery store and pop it in the microwave. But it would pay each and every one of us to stop and think about what that kind of nutrient-depleted, fat and calorie-laden diet is doing to our health and the health of our family, especially for the long haul. Not only are these foods devoid of vital nutrients, they contain chemicals, carcinogens and preservatives that wreak havoc on the systems of our bodies. A diet that is not balanced and nutritious sets the stage for health problems and disease as we grow older. It doesn’t happen overnight, but make no mistake, it will happen.
Let’s take a look at just one kind of fruit and the issue of health – the pomegranate.
The pomegranate, Punica granatum, is a species of fruit-bearing deciduous shrub or small tree. The fruit is between an orange and a grapefruit in size, has a thick reddish skin and many seeds. The edible parts are the seeds and the brilliant red seed pulp surrounding them. The pomegranate, an ancient fruit whose regenerative properties have been celebrated for thousands of years, has come under growing scrutiny by medical researchers seeking natural agents for the prevention and treatment of degenerative diseases.
The pomegranate has a long and far-reaching history as food and medicine. It is seen in Egyptian mythology and art, praised in the Old Testament of the Bible and in the Babylonian Talmud. Supposedly it was carried by desert caravans for the sake of its thirst-quenching juice. It traveled to central and southern India from Iran about the first century A.D. and was reported growing in Indonesia in 1416. The pomegranate is native from Iran to the Himalayas in northern India and was cultivated and naturalized over the whole Mediterranean region since ancient times. The tree was introduced into California by Spanish settlers in 1769 and is grown in the U.S. today mainly in the drier parts of California and Arizona.
Scientists believe that unstable little molecules called free radicals may be linked to disease. Where do they come from? Everywhere. Not only does your body produce them as part of normal metabolism but there are also many external sources such as air pollution, alcohol, pesticides, sunlight, tobacco smoke, drugs, and even fried foods.
Antioxidants, like those found in pomegranates, fight hard to help prevent free radicals from doing their damage. Cancer is characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells such as is caused by free radicals and scientists have found that diets rich in fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants may slow or help prevent the development of cancer.
Another area that experts believe are helped by antioxidants is that of aging. They believe that free radical damage accumulates with age and sufficient antioxidants on a regular basis help protect your body from free radical damage and help you live ‘younger’ no matter your age.
In laboratory research and human pilot studies, the juice of the pomegranate has been found effective in reducing heart disease risk factors and systolic blood pressure. Other clinical trials suggest that pomegranate juice may be effective against prostate cancer, breast cancer, and osteoarthritis.
Even more studies have shown that pomegranate juice may also have antiviral and antibacterial effects against dental plaque. Drinking pomegranate juice during pregnancy may help reduce the risk of brain injuries in babies; it protects nitric oxide, which has an effect on erectile dysfunction; and has the potential as a safe and effective chemopreventive agent against skin cancer.
Pomegranates have been consumed by man since before recorded history, but we are just now beginning to understand how beneficial this fruit may be to human health. The next time you go to the grocery store, I hope you remember this article and swing through the produce section.