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Pomegranates for Good Health

Ancient Fruits Join the Anticancer Diet Arsenal

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Updated October 25, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Pomegranate, Punica granatum, Lythraceae

Pomegranate, Punica granatum, Lythraceae

Photo © Karl D. Stephan

Ruby-toned and tart enough to take your breath away, pomegranates (punica granatum) are a very healthy fruit that appears to slow down the growth of estrogen-fueled breast cancers. Make astringent, juicy, beautiful pomegranates part of your anti-cancer diet.

Pomegranates With A Pedigree

Celebrated in the ancient world by Greeks, Persians, Chinese and Hebrews, pomegranates have been linked with fertility, royalty, and prosperity. The Persian hero, Isfandiyar, is said to have eaten a pomegranate and become invincible in war. Just bite into one of the hundreds of stained-glass-like seeds inside an almost leather-bound pomegranate, and you'll see why it may have tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. Packed inside the mysterious tough skin of a pomegranate are powerful antioxidants, vitamins, and beneficial acids that can be used in food and Ayurvedic medicine.

Peeling Back the Pomegranate's Hide

Pomegranates are high in antioxidants and low in carbohydrates, fat and sugar. They also contain vitamin C and vitamin B5. Like cranberries, pomegranates are high in anthocyanins, and if you consume the seeds as well as the juice, you benefit from the dietary fiber they contain. Almost the same red as blood, pomegranate juice helps slow bleeding while it promotes the clotting of blood.

Phytochemicals In Pomegranates: Helpful for Breast Cancer?

Pomegranates contain ellagic acid, a natural chemical that inhibits aromatase, an enzyme linked to the development of estrogen-responsive breast cancer.

Aromatase takes another hormone -- androgen -- and converts it to estrogen in your body. The majority of breast tumors are fueled by estrogen. When aromatase is inhibited, either by natural causes or medications, breast cancer cells have a harder time dividing and multiplying. Research published in Cancer Prevention Research found that, in lab tests, ellagitannins from pomegranates transform into ellagic acid during digestion. Since ellagic acid is a natural aromatase inhibitor, consuming pomegranates or using pomegranate extracts may slow down the growth of breast cancer.

Enjoying Pomegranates

It's a lot of work to get the arils, as the beautiful red seeds are called, out of the tough outer hide of a pomegranate. Once culled from the white pulp in which they nest, pomegranate seeds can be used in salads, sauces, chutneys, and juices. Pomegranate molasses, when mixed with equal parts of olive oil, makes a wonderful dressing for fresh greens and vegetables. Like the Persian hero Isfandiyar, may pomegranates not only make you healthy, but also invincible!

Sources:

Ellagic Acid. American Cancer Society. Last Revised: 11/01/2008.

Pomegranate Ellagitannin-Derived Compounds Exhibit Antiproliferative and Antiaromatase Activity in Breast Cancer Cells In vitro. Lynn S. Adams, Yanjun Zhang, Navindra P. Seeram, David Heber, and Shiuan Chen. Cancer Prev Res 2010 3: 108-113. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-08-0225

USDA What's In The Foods You Eat Search Tool, 3.0. Entry for 63145010-Pomegranate, raw. Based on Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies (FNDDS). Accessed January 11, 2010.

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