It's the time of year when crimson bulbs filled with little red gems pop up in our grocery store from across the world, and unless you are focused on eating local – they are a great treat to take advantage of! Pomegranates have unusually high levels of antioxidants, helpful compounds that prevent damage to your tissues and inflammation. Research has suggested multiple health benefits of consuming moderate amounts of pomegranate juice, although I would argue the seeds may be a better choice for overall health.
TO JUICE OR NOT TO JUICE My general thought about any juice is that it is often better to consume the fruit. First and foremost – make sure there is no added sugar or artificial flavours in a juice you are purchasing if you are using it for health benefits. Don't fool yourself into thinking Oceanspray Pomegranate Blueberry juice will give you the antioxidants and health benefits of a pomegranate. The other problem with many concentrated juices is that they can be cut with other juices like grape, so again you are not getting the most bang for your buck. Make sure to read the ingredient list for any extra additives and take notice of the sugar content – keep in mind a can of regular coke contains about 38g of sugar, and it’s not hard to hit that number with most juices either. There is some argument that the sugar found from foods like fruit are better than the type added to packaged foods, but often it affects our blood sugar levels in exactly the same way meaning there is no difference in the impact on our health. Another reason I recommend eating fruit instead of drinking juice is because you are getting important dietary fibre that is absent when fruit juice is extracted – and pomegranate is no exception. Fibre is important for many reasons, but especially when consuming a food with high sugar juice because it can help slow down absorption of sugar into your system and balance our your blood sugar levels.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF POMEGRANATE
The health benefits of pomegranate are still in the preliminary stage of study, but seem to be focused around heart health and cancer. Some studies suggest that regular juice consumption may help slow the buildup of cholesterol in vessels in those with high cholesterol levels. This may be because the antioxidants in pomegranate could help to decrease levels of LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol). (1,2) Pomegranate may help protect heart health by lowering blood pressure (3). Other research has focused on the use of pomegranate in prostate cancer. Studies have shown that PSA (prostate specific antigen), a hormone that can be used to gauge the progression of a cancerous growth, increases more slowly in men who regularly consumed only 8 oz of pomegranate juice per day than those who didn't. (4) The same results were found in men who consumed pomegranate juice after surgery for prostate cancer (5). The evidence supporting the use of daily pomegranate juice for health promotion in high blood pressure, high cholesterol or prostate cancer is all preliminary at this stage, although the portion size is reasonable and it may be something worth trying depending on the severity of your condition.
POMEGRANATES AND MEDICATIONS
The one serious risk of regularly consuming pomegranate is a potential interaction with the blood thinning medication warfarin. This drug works by inhibiting a vitamin K depending clotting pathway, thus thinning the blood, but pomegranate juice happens to contains high amounts of vitamin K and can counteract this effect. Ask your pharmacist, doctor or naturopath if pomegranate could interact with any medications you are taking. Dr. Sarah Penney, ND, MSc www.HamiltonND.ca REFERENCES
1. Davidson MH, et al. Effects of consumption of pomegranate juice on carotid intima-media thickness in men and women at moderate risk for coronary heart disease. American Journal of Cardiology. 2009;104:936. Accessed Dec 6, 2013.
2. Hosseini B., et al. Effects of pomegranate extract supplementation on inflammation in overweight and obese individuals: A randomized, controlled clinical trial. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2016; 44:50.
3. Stowe CB. The effects of pomegranate juice consumption on blood pressure and cardiovascular health. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2011;17:113.
4. Paller CJ, et al. A randomized phase II study of pomegranate extract for men with rising PSA following initial therapy for localized prostate cancer. Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases. 2013;16:50
5. Pantuck AJ, et al. Phase II study of pomegranate juice for men with rising prostate-specific antigen following surgery or radiation for prostate cancer. Clinical Cancer Research. 2006;12:4018.