Pomegranates have been a popular fruit in the Middle East, Spain, and Italy for centuries. Now that we see the health benefits of the juice of this fruit, we are starting to incorporate it into our diets as well.
Promising new studies brought pomegranates into the spotlight when it was discovered that drinking just one glass of pomegranate juice every day for one year reduces blood pressure and the oxidation that causes the “bad” LDL cholesterol to stick to the artery walls. Food scientists credit the pomegranate’s tannins, polyphenols, and anthocyanins for these particular cardiovascular benefits.
Best of all, this is one of the richest-tasting fruit juices out there.
A specific component of pomegranate juice, called ellagic acid, was found to be protective against several types of cancer. One particularly impressive study from the University of South Carolina’s Hollings Cancer Institute found that ellagic acid stops cancer cells from dividing in patients with breast, pancreas, esophageal, skin, colon, and prostate cancers. An equally exciting study from Japan found that when leukemia patients drank pomegranate extracts, leukemia cells reverted to their normal noncancerous state.
Even the common apple is getting a little more respect in the medical world these days.
A recent study found that rats fed the equivalent of one to six apples per day developed fewer breast-cancer tumors, even after being treated with a carcinogen known to trigger mammary cancer. The average apple, it turns out, is a rich source of the flavonoid quercetin, which protects our cells from cancer and our blood vessels from chemical damage—once again proving that old adages often have validity and our grandmothers were right.
Population studies are generating an impressive number of new reports on the reduction of disease risk for those who drink tea. Any tea will do, it appears, as each has its own health- generating properties. Green and black teas contain natural phytochemicals called polyphenols, which have cardiovascular protecting effects, and white tea is very high in antioxidants.
Studies that look at groups of people with specific dietary habits are helpful in showing us the potential benefits of a particular food. For example, the National Cancer Institute found that Chinese men and women who drank green tea had a whop- ping 60 percent reduced risk of esophageal cancer.
One medicinal food that Americans are more than willing to incorporate into their diets is cocoa. I’d like to take a minute now to pay homage to this delight, befitting our palates. I’d also like to give thanks to the researchers at the University of California in San Francisco who discovered its medicinal benefits so that we can partake with pride.
Numerous studies have confirmed that cocoa is a rich source of antioxidant flavonoids with beneficial cardiovascular properties such as vasodilatation and blood pressure reduction, inhibition of platelet activity, and de- creased inflammation. The caveat is that to get these benefits, you must eat it daily. They recommend about 1.6 ounces per day.
—now that’s a prescription I can live with!