Tonawanda News

December 16, 2013

NATURAL HEALTH: Pomegranate has long history, many benefits

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — As the holiday season nears, one of my favorite fruits, the pomegranate, returns to my diet and brings me back to my childhood. I would place all the individual seeds in a dish, my fingers stained with the juices, and then admire my collection of “rubies” before devouring them. Long before I knew or even cared about the health benefits, I thought this was one of the most beautiful fruits; and it has quite a history.

The pomegranate dates back to 3000 B.C., praised in the Old Testament of the Bible and Christianity with references of continued life after death and spiritual abundance. In Egypt, they were a symbol of safe passage into the new life and were found placed near treasures of King Tutankhamen. 

In Greek Mythology, pomegranates came to be known as a symbol of a lasting marriage when Persephone — the goddess of fertility — was enticed into marrying Hades — lord of the underworld — who tempted her with a pomegranate. When Aphrodite — the goddess of love, fertility and beauty — planted a pomegranate on the island of Cyprus, she started being referred to as the goddess of abundant fruits. 

The prophet Mohammed instructed the followers of Islam to eat pomegranates because they purged the body of envy and hatred. These are just some of the many interesting tidbits I have found about this amazing fruit.

Originally native to Iran and the Himalayas, pomegranates eventually naturalized to the Mediterranean regions and eventually came to North America through Spanish missionaries in 1521. Little did they know of the health benefits — or maybe intuitively, they did.

This handsome fruit is quite popular for its deep and purple-colored juice that is packed with lots of antioxidants that may help in maintaining a smooth and wrinkle-free skin. But, aside from the possibility of helping people to maintain youthful and glowing skin, there are so many health benefits of pomegranate to people of all ages. 

The antioxidants in pomegranates include polyphenols, such as tannins and anthocyanins. In fact, according to Karen Collins, a nutritional advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research, pomegranates may have even more antioxidant power than cranberry juice or green tea. Potent antioxidants help us reduce inflammatory conditions within the body. Pomegranates may play a very protective role against heart disease, cancers, arthritis, diabetes, plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, etc. Pomegranates help support healthy blood flow and may protect us against clot formation.

Pomegranates are a great natural source of vitamin A, C, E and K, as well as folic acid. They also contain naturally occurring calcium and iron. The tiny seeds within the “rubies” (aril) are also a great source of fiber. All these nutrients help to protect our immune system.

While no medical claims can be made for pomegranate, the juice is growing in popularity everyday as more and more people try it and benefit from it. Pomegranates meet all my criteria for real food and provide so many benefits to the body. If you have not had the pleasure of eating this treasure, you are in luck, as they are easily found around this time of year. Pomegranates are part of holiday traditions throughout the world. To get the most out of New Year’s Eve in Greece, celebrants smash a pomegranate wrapped in silver foil against the threshold of a home. That way they feel assured they will spread the seeds of good luck and perpetuate an abundant year.  

Me, I prefer to eat them — but if you are looking for a new holiday tradition, the pomegranate may be what you are looking for.

Catherine Stack is a doctor of naturopathy and a certified nurse midwife. Her practice is located at Journey II Health in Niagara Falls. Contact her at 298-8603 or at her website at www.journeyiihealth.com.