Pomegranate – Antioxidants Galore

The pomegranate is particularly known for its richness in antioxidants and is therefore just as much a medicinal plant as food. It can be used in a wide variety of ways, for example for menopausal symptoms, diabetes, prostate, and breast cancer. Its application is very simple – just a glass of pomegranate juice a day is said to be able to alleviate many complaints.

Pomegranate – the apple of paradise

Because of its numerous juicy seeds, pomegranate ( Punica granatum ) is considered a symbol of fertility in many cultures and also has a special position in religions. It will e.g. B. suspects that the apple that Adam and Eve ate in paradise was actually a pomegranate. That’s why the pomegranate is also called the apple of paradise – and you feel like you’re in paradise when you eat the delicious pomegranate.

This is what pomegranate tastes like

Under the leathery, yellowish to red skin of the pomegranate are individual chambers that are separated by white skins. The chambers contain edible red seeds. A single pomegranate can contain several hundred seeds. They taste tart-sweet, are nice and crunchy, and give many dishes an exotic touch.

The pomegranate is a berry

The pomegranate got its name from Latin. Because granum means kernel (or grain) and granatus mean rich in kernels. Incidentally, the mineral stones from the pomegranate group got their name from the pomegranate, as they often have a similar deep red color to the pomegranate seeds.

Although the pomegranate looks very similar to an apple in terms of its shape and color, the two have nothing to do with each other from a botanical point of view. The pomegranate belongs to the loosestrife family, so it is related to the purple loosestrife, a pink-flowering marsh plant that you may be familiar with if you have a garden pond. Other willow-rich plants are the marsh Quenzel and the water chestnut.

Furthermore, from a botanical point of view, pomegranate is not even a fruit (like the apple), but a berry, just like the pumpkin, cucumber, and banana, for example.

Plant a pomegranate tree

Pomegranate trees grow in western and central Asia and around the Mediterranean. The deciduous trees are usually between 3 and a maximum of 5 meters high and are extremely drought-resistant. They can live to be over 100 years old. The leaves are bright red when they sprout in spring – just like the large, funnel-shaped flowers a little later.

Pomegranate trees can also be planted in pots. They need a sheltered spot in full sun, preferably on a house wall or in the conservatory. In mild regions of Europe, the tree can also be planted in the garden. However, it should not get colder than -5 degrees Celsius in winter, because the pomegranate tree is only partially frost hardy.

In summer, the pomegranate tree needs enough warmth and sun, otherwise, it will not bear fruit. The fruits are harvested from September to October. The pomegranate tree survives dry periods without any problems, but at some point, it sheds its leaves. It should therefore be watered regularly during longer periods of heat.

The glycemic index and glycemic load of pomegranate

The glycemic index and glycemic load of food indicate how much it affects blood sugar levels. The glycemic index refers to 100 g of carbohydrates. The glycemic index of pomegranate is 35. The lower the glycemic index, the less and slower the blood sugar level rises. For comparison: White bread has a glycemic index of 70, which means that the blood sugar level rises faster and faster. Broccoli, on the other hand, has a glycemic index of 15 because it hardly contains any carbohydrates.

However, we recommend that you better use the glycemic load as a guide, since it relates to 100 g of the food and is, therefore, more practical. The glycemic load of 100g of pomegranates is 5.6. Values up to 10 are considered low, and values above 20 are considered high. So pomegranates only have a minor effect on blood sugar levels.

The pomegranate for fructose intolerance

100 g of pomegranates contain about 7.4 g of fructose, which is generally too much for fructose intolerance – both in the waiting phase and in long-term nutrition. It does contain around 9.1 g of glucose and the following applies: If a food contains more glucose than fructose, this increases its tolerability. However, this is only the case with low to medium fructose levels.

The pomegranate in sorbitol intolerance

Pomegranates are sorbitol-free and therefore compatible with pure sorbitol intolerance. Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that is metabolized to fructose in the body. For this reason, some people with fructose intolerance cannot tolerate foods containing sorbitol. This danger does not exist with the pomegranate.

Pomegranate juice and pomegranate extract in cancer

The antioxidants in pomegranate also make it a potent agent that could accompany cancer therapy. The polyphenols z. B. inhibit the growth of tumor cells and metastasis in some cancers.

So far, the effects of hormone-dependent cancers such as breast cancer and prostate cancer have been best studied, since the polyphenols regulate the hormone balance. Both pomegranate extracts and pomegranate juice were tested in the relevant studies.

Prostate cancer

For prostate cancer, for example, an extract containing 600 mg of polyphenols (mainly ellagitannins such as punicalagin) daily was used for 6 months. This increased the PSA doubling time from 11.9 to 18.5 months. PSA stands for “prostate-specific antigen” and is the most important value for the progression of prostate cancer. The slower the value increases after therapy, the longer the life expectancy. So, taking pomegranate extract caused the value to rise at a much slower rate.

Breast cancer

After 3 weeks, pomegranate juice (240 mL per day) was able to lower estrogen levels in healthy female subjects. Since the hormone estrogen can promote cancer growth in existing breast cancer, it is hoped that estrogen-lowering measures will have a cancer-inhibiting effect.

Pomegranate strengthens the athletic performance

Dietary supplements made from pomegranates are often advertised to promote performance in sports and are said to help against sore muscles, for example. A 2018 review published in the British Journal of Nutrition took a closer look at this connection. The results of 11 studies were included.

It was shown that drinking pomegranate juice and taking pomegranate extract actually had a positive effect on athletic performance: For example, the test subjects lasted longer on the treadmill, were able to lift more weight, their muscles recovered faster and they suffered less from muscle soreness.

The doses used and the frequency of administration differed greatly in the studies: In most cases, the intake was started a few days before training (4 to 15 days) and continued for a few days afterward (2 to 5 days). Doses of 250 ml to 500 ml of pomegranate juice once or twice a day were often used. Drinking 500ml of pomegranate juice one hour before training also proved effective. Taking 1000 mg of pomegranate extract half an hour earlier, on the other hand, had a smaller effect. In addition, taking pomegranate also improved cardiovascular values ​​during exercises, such as blood pressure, heart rate, and blood flow.

Pomegranate – more than a symbol of fertility

Pomegranates are considered a symbol of love in many cultures and are said to increase fertility. Rightly so, as at least animal experiments show: pomegranate juice increases testosterone levels, sperm quality, and sperm motility. Studies on humans are still rare: In one study, taking 1000 mg of pomegranate extract divided into one capsule four times a day for 3 months increased the number of motile sperm by 62 percent.

However, this cannot be attributed to the pomegranate intake alone, as the subjects also consumed around 760 mg of Thai ginger powder daily, which the researchers also found to have positive effects. Thai ginger, also known as galangal or greater galangal, is related to ginger and is mainly used as a spice in Southeast Asia. It should also contain antioxidant substances and have a positive effect on sperm quality.

It would also be conceivable that the pomegranate increases fertility due to its powerful antioxidant properties – because oxidative stress reduces fertility (in both men and women). Women are also advised to drink pomegranate juice during pregnancy. Because the pomegranate is said to have a positive effect on the baby’s brain, which we report on under the previous link.

Buy pomegranates – you should pay attention to this

Pomegranates are in peak season from October to February. You can buy them in larger supermarkets and cheaper in Turkish shops. Since pomegranates do not ripen, they are only picked when they are fully ripe. However, they must not hang on the tree for too long, otherwise, they will burst. As long as the shell is hard, the kernels are juicy inside and taste wonderfully sweet, fruity, and tart. The heavier the fruit, the juicier the flesh. If, on the other hand, the skin has soft spots, the pomegranate could already be brown on the inside and rot. A dented, dried-up shell, on the other hand, doesn’t do anything. Popular pomegranate varieties are Granada, Aco, and Wonderful.

When shopping for pomegranates, be sure to opt for organic quality, as exotic fruits are often heavily contaminated with pesticides. According to a 2019 study by the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety, pomegranate is one of the most frequently objected to foods. 7.8 percent of the samples from conventional cultivation exceeded the MRL.

The side effects of pomegranate

The pomegranate has been valued for its health benefits for centuries. It is considered safe, well tolerated, and largely free of side effects. Only in studies did some people experience diarrhea when taking pomegranate extract in daily doses of 1 to 3 g. Of course, allergic reactions and individual intolerances can never be ruled out.

Interactions between the pomegranate and medicines

However, it is important – especially for people who take pomegranate supplements alongside another treatment – that the ingredients in pomegranate can weaken or enhance the effects of some medications.

Because of the similar effect, the pomegranate should not be taken with antihypertensive drugs (ACE inhibitors). Interactions with anticoagulants (e.g. warfarin), chemotherapy drugs, and drugs for erectile dysfunction are also possible.

Interactions with the pill are not yet known, despite the hormone-regulating effect of pomegranate. In principle, however, interactions with other medications cannot be ruled out. Therefore, ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking medication. Occasionally a few pomegranate seeds in food should not have any effect.

What is edible from the pomegranate and what is not?

The juicy red seeds inside of the pomegranate are edible – along with the whitish seeds that are inside. The shell and the white skin around the kernels, on the other hand, are inedible because they taste very bitter – but they are not poisonous. At the very least, pomegranate extracts from the peels and skins are considered safe at the dosages listed above. In principle, however, every food can have a negative effect at some point if it is eaten in large quantities. The bark and roots of the pomegranate tree, on the other hand, are poisonous.

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Written by Lindy Valdez

I specialize in food and product photography, recipe development, testing, and editing. My passion is health and nutrition and I am well-versed in all types of diets, which, combined with my food styling and photography expertise, helps me to create unique recipes and photos. I draw inspiration from my extensive knowledge of world cuisines and try to tell a story with every image. I am a best-selling cookbook author and I have also edited, styled and photographed cookbooks for other publishers and authors.

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