In this new series I am going to be looking at food in the news and look at the claims that are often made about their health benefits. I will also give you the nutritional breakdown of the elements contained in the food so that you can connect the nutrients to the claims being made about the food.
We tend to buy food for its taste, seasonality and very often its cost. However, our bodies relationship with food is very different and I try to encourage those I work with to look at their diet with their body’s needs in mind as well as their own. This is only possible if you understand the elements that are essential for the chemical reactions within the body that maintain our health.
The pomegranate is what I would call a nutrient powerhouse and the listed nutrients however are in varying amounts from a good source to a trace only. However, the power comes from not just the amount of a particular nutrient but the combination and synergistic reaction between them that provide the benefit. For example Calcium and Magnesium and Zinc and Copper.
There were a number of health claims made in this article which appeared in the Daily Mail today. To be fair there was some clear emphasis on the size of the studies involved and also the fact that findings were based on animal trials and not human trials. However, the results look interesting and certainly I look forward to seeing more concrete evidence in the future.
From the Daily Mail.
They’re the trendy fruit that are the latest must-have ingredient for salads and juices, even cocktails. But could pomegranates help you live longer, too?
Last week, Swiss scientists suggested that the Middle Eastern fruit may strengthen ageing muscles and add years to your life.
Read the full article which contains details of the research here.
There are a number of foods at the moment that are flavour of the month, usually in the form of a concoction that has some commercial benefit rather than health benefit!
The fact is that fruit is best eaten as nature intended not squeezed, pummelled, canned in syrup or smoothed alongside three other fruits that can strip the enamel off your teeth within weeks of drinking.
The claims of scientists who are studying the pomegranate are not news to those of us in nutrition but we are a little more wary about toting it as the next cure all.
Here are the basic facts about the pomegranate and also its nutritional content that does make it a candidate to be included from time to time in your diet. However, it is not for the faint hearted as most of the nutrients are in the seeds and the skin of the fruit.
The pomegranate is cultivated on a massive scale in India, Iran and the Mediterranean and features heavily in the cuisine of those countries. This in itself is a testament to its flavour and historically, a belief in its health benefits.
Apart from fibre,the fruit contains the following nutrients that are beneficial to our overall health. There is no doubt that as a package of nutrients it provides us with a healthy addition to our diet by boosting our immune systems which is the first line of defence against cancers and other chronic illnesses.
VITAMIN C: ASCORBIC ACID; An antioxidant that protects LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) from oxidative damage, leading to hardening of the arteries. May also protect against heart disease reducing the hardening of arteries and the tendency of platelets to clump together blocking them. Vitamin C is necessary to form collagen, which acts like glue strengthening parts of the body such as muscles and blood vessels. It aids with healing and is a natural anti-histamine.
It is essential for the action of the Immune system and plays a part in the actions of the white blood cells and anti-bodies. It protects other antioxidants A and E from free radical damage and is involved in the production of some adrenal hormones.
VITAMIN E: TOCOPHEROL; As an antioxidant it protects cell membranes and other fat-soluble parts of the body such as LDL cholesterol from oxidative damage and blood vessels. It can be used topically for skin health and is involved in the reproductive system. It may help prevent circulatory problems that lead to heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease by preventing clots from forming. It improves the pulmonary function of the lungs and enhances the white blood cells ability to resist infection.
VITAMIN K: PHYLLOQUINONE; Necessary for proper bone formation and blood clotting.
FOLATE: FOLIC ACID; Folic acid is a B Vitamin essential for cell replication and growth. It helps form the building blocks of DNA the body’s genetic information which is why it is recommended prior to conception and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to ensure the rapidly growing and replicating cells of the foetus are normal. This helps prevent low birth weight and abnormalities such as Heart defects or lip and palate malformations.
It is essential for transporting co-enzymes needed for amino acid metabolism in the body and is necessary for a functioning nervous system
VITAMIN B1: THIAMINE; This vitamin is essential in the metabolism of carbohydrates and for the strength of the nervous system. Every cell in the body requires this vitamin to form the fuel that the body runs on ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate).
VITAMIN B2: RIBOFLAVIN; Also essential for metabolising carbohydrates to produce ATP, and also fats, amino acids and proteins too. It is necessary to activate Vitamin B6 and Folic Acid. It works with enzymes in the liver to eliminate toxins. It is water-soluble
VITAMIN B3: NIACIN; Also needed for the metabolism of carbohydrates (ATP), fats and proteins. Needed to process Alcohol. Niacin form of B3 helps regulate Cholesterol. In addition it is essential for the formation or red blood cells and the hormones. It works with Tryptophan in protein to form Serotonin and Melatonin in the brain
VITAMIN B5: PANTOTHENIC ACID; Essential for producing Glycogen (energy) and fatty acids in the body. Also activates the Adrenal Glands and assists in the management of Cholesterol. Needed in the manufacture of Neurotransmitter chemicals that transfer nerve impulses from one nerve to the next. Also essential for the production of steroid hormones (sex hormones) testosterone and oestrogen.
VITAMIN B6: PYRIDOXINE; The Master Vitamin for processing Amino Acids – the building blocks of all proteins and some hormones. It assists in the formation of several Neurotransmitters and can therefore help regulate mood. It has been shown to help lower Homocysteine levels in the blood linked to heart disease, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease. It produces Haemoglobin the Oxygen carrying pigment in the blood. It helps the release of carbohydrates stored in the liver and muscles for energy. It is involved in the production of antibodies and it helps balance female hormones. It is needed for the production of serotonin along with tryptophan and B12
CALCIUM: The most abundant and essential mineral in the body. There are approximately two to three pounds mainly found in the teeth and bones. Apart from its role in the formation of teeth and bones it is also required for blood clotting, transmission of signals in nerve cells and muscle contractions. There is some indication that higher calcium intake protects against cardiovascular disease particularly in women. If you are at risk of kidney stones consult your doctor before taking in additional calcium supplements. This also applies if you are suffering from prostate cancer where there may be a link between increased levels of dietary calcium in dairy products and this form of cancer. It is thought it is thought that excess calcium causes lower levels of Vitamin D, a homone like vitamin that helps protect against prostate cancer.
MAGNESIUM: It is essential mineral needed for bone, protein and fatty acid formation, forming new cells, activating the B vitamins, relaxing muscles, clotting blood and forming ATP the fuel the body runs on. The secretion and action of insulin also needs magnesium. It is needed to balance calcium in the body and too much can result in very low levels of calcium.
PHOSPHORUS: Essential for bone formation and production of red blood cells. Also needed for the production of ATP fuel for energy. Small amounts are involved in most of the chemical reactions throughout the body.
COPPER: Copper is an essential trace element needed to absorb and utilise Iron. It is needed to make ATP and is also to synthesise some hormones and blood cells. Collagen needs copper, as does the enzyme tyrosinase, which plays a role in the production of skin pigment. Too much copper in the diet can depress levels of zinc and effect wound healing.
MANGANESE: Needed for healthy skin, bone and cartilage formation as well as glucose tolerance. Also forms part of the antioxidant superoxide dismutase, which helps prevent free radical damage
SELENIUM: A very important trace mineral that activates an antioxidant enzyme called glutathione peroxidase, which may help protect the body from cancer. It is vital for immune system function and may help prevent prostate cancer.
ZINC: A trace mineral that is a component in the body’s ability to repair wounds, maintain fertility, synthesis protein, cell reproduction, maintain eyesight, act as an antioxidant and boost immunity. It can be used topically for skin conditions. It is essential for a functioning metabolism and hormone production such as testosterone. It is also needed for the production of stomach acid. Too much zinc will depress the copper levels in the body.
As you can see there is every reason to believe that the pomegranate deserves to be researched more closely in relation to disease and aging.
NB..If you are taking Statins, Blood Pressure medication, Anti-coagulants such as Warfarin or anticonvulsants you should not drink pomegranate juice as the effect of the fruit may inhibit or increase the effectiveness of your medication.
Check with your doctor first but usually the occasional use of seeds in meals may be an option.
Certainly if you are not on medication then drinking home-made juice and using the seeds regularly may prevent the need for the medication in the first place!
Here is tutorial on how to deseed a pomegranate. The seeds are the most nutritious part of the fruit and you can use in a number of ways. I enjoy sprinkled over a salad or included in a bowl of other fresh fruit. It is also delicious in hot dishes including in savoury rice dishes. In the Mediterranean pomegranate concentrate is used to make drinks, sorbets and in savoury dishes.
By the way Show me the Curry.com is a fantastic channel if you want to explore the wonders of this spicy dish.
I hope you have found this new series useful and as always would love your feedback.. Please feel free to share. thanks Sally
Image from Youtube.