If you have never experienced the deliciousness of pomegranates, make it a goal to taste one this fall. These beautiful and tricky-to-eat fruits are loaded with benefits. Perhaps one of the most researched of these benefits is the ability of pomegranates to keep your blood vessels free from plaque, the fatty accumulations that can eventually lead to atherosclerosis and heart attacks.
In one of the more recent studies of its kind, mice predisposed to coronary artery blockages were given pomegranate extract in their drinking water for two weeks. Oddly, the pomegranate extract resulted in increased cholesterol levels (which, if you read some of our previous articles on the cholesterol myth, isn’t necessarily a bad thing). But even with the cholesterol increase, the treatment reduced the size of arterial accumulations, essentially scrubbing it from the arterial walls.
Published in the journal Atherosclerosis, the researchers said:
“Pomegranate extract reduced aortic sinus and coronary artery atherosclerosis in SR-BI/apoE dKO mice. The atheroprotective effects of pomegranate extract appear to involve reduced oxidative stress and inflammation in the vessel wall despite unaltered systemic markers of inflammation and increased lipoprotein cholesterol in these mice.”
They noted a variety of benefits in the pomegranate group of mice. These included:
- Reduced fat accumulation in the heart itself
- Reduced enlargement of the heart
- Improved ECG results
- Reduced oxidative stress
- Reduced level of proteins and chemicals found in heart disease and inflammation
Another study looked at 10 patients with atherosclerosis and measured their arteries at the onset and one year after beginning pomegranate juice supplementation. In one year’s time, the participants reduced plaque in their carotid arteries by up to 30%. In the control group (not supplementing with pomegranate), plaque increased by 9%.
We know pomegranates are a valuable source of antioxidants including vitamin C, and it’s believed these compounds are what is delivering all of the benefits. In the treatment and prevention of heart disease alone, pomegranates are able to reduce inflammation and blood pressure, reduce the occurrence of infections common with hardening of the arteries, and reducing the oxidative stress in the blood.
Pomegranates are at their peak in the fall. This means you can find them just about anywhere right now. Selecting the heaviest fruit will ensure you get the most juice out of it. Slicing off the ends and scoring it along the white chambers will help you break it apart with minimal mess. A clean tip is to separate the pomegranate sections in a bowl of water. Fewer seeds fly out and you end up with less juice on your hands.