Everyday, I try to do something good for my heart. In a perfect world, I would go to the gym everyday, but in real life, I’m happy to make time for a brisk 30-minute walk. On days when I don’t even have half an hour to devote to exercise, I rely on my secret weapon. It almost sounds too good to be true, but studies have shown that pomegranate juice has multiple health benefits that include boosting the body’s most important muscle–the heart.
They Didn’t Have This Stuff When I Was a Kid!
What exactly is pomegranate juice, and why weren’t we drinking the stuff years ago if it’s so good for us?
Just like clothing styles go in and out of fashion, the same is true in the world of food. Pomegranates are not native to North America, but come from the Middle East and the Mediterranean. When scientists began learning more and more about the nutrients in fruits and vegetables, they took a look at the pomegranate and were pleasantly surprised.
As the power of antioxidants–substances that prevent the formation of free radicals, which damage cells in the body–came to light, interest in cultivating pomegranates grew. Today, they are grown in the dry areas of California and Arizona.
You can buy the whole fruit during the winter at the market, but if you’re anything like me, there’s no way you’re going to spend the time it takes to pick the individual arils (the edible part of the fruit that looks like seeds) out one by one.
When pomegranate juice came on the market several years ago, it was suddenly easy to enjoy the flavor of pomegranates, not to mention its stellar health benefits.
A Simple Step Toward Heart Health
I’ve evaluated the recent studies on pomegranate juice, and the news is very good! A 2005 study showed that just eight ounces of pomegranate juice a day can prevent and even reverse the damage caused by hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis.
For the 16 million Americans with this condition, the heart has to work overtime to pump blood through the body due to plaque that builds up inside the arteries. This can result in stroke or heart attacks over time.
It appears that the antioxidants in pomegranate juice encourage the cells in blood vessels to make nitric oxide, a chemical that helps keep blood flowing normally. Other studies show that drinking pomegranate juice may reduce LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol. Since it is high cholesterol that often leads to atherosclerosis, I’m all for making pomegranate juice part of my daily heart-healthy regimen!
Added Benefits for Men
When I talk to my patients, I tell all of them what I’ve learned about the benefits of pomegranate juice, but evidence shows that men may have the most to gain from this “super juice.” A study done at UCLA on prostate cancer patients showed that drinking eight ounces of pomegranate juice a day for two years slowed the progression of the disease. This is encouraging news since prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death among men in the U.S.
Another study just published in 2007, offers hope for men with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction. After drinking pomegranate juice for four weeks, men were 50% more likely than a group drinking a placebo to have improved erectile function. It seems there is little that this drink can’t do!
Pomegranate juice can be found in supermarkets everywhere, refrigerated near the orange juice. Make sure you’re buying 100% pure pomegranate juice, and if you have any of the conditions discussed above, talk to your doctor before trying this or any other treatment. Not only is pomegranate juice a great way to safeguard your health, but it tastes great too!
Photo Credit: graur codrin