Showing posts with label antioxidants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label antioxidants. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Spirulina – Is It Good for You or Bad for You?

Some give high praise to spirulina, dubbing it a superfood. But how super is it really? While several studies show that spirulina has a wealth of health benefits, recent research warns of risks associated with consuming spirulina.

The benefits and popularity of this odd, super-green powder derived from watery depths are hard to ignore. Equally hard to ignore are the apparent risks implied by some studies and research. Given the controversy, spirulina certainly deserves a closer look at both the benefits and the risks.

What is spirulina?


Similar to blue-green algae, spirulina is found in lakes in the tropics and subtropics. But because of its popularity, spirulina is also cultivated in ponds in the US and many other countries.
Spirulina is about one-fourth phycocyanin by weight. Phycocyanin is a blue pigment that latches onto spirulina's membranes and is  believed to play a role in spirulina’s health benefits.

What are the health benefits of spirulina?


Proponents of spirulina praise it as a rich source of protein, minerals, vitamins, and carotenoids – the substance that gives many plants there bright color, such as watermelon and elderberries.  And scientific studies give credence to many of these claims.
Its nutritional content includes generous amounts of vitamin E, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, beta-carotene, and B complex vitamins. Some specific benefits linked to spirulina include:
  • Cell protection. Spiralina contains antioxidants, known for combating free radicals, strengthening the immune system, and promoting cell regeneration. Spirulina has 400 percent more antioxidant ability than blueberries. A 2008 study, Spirulina in Human Nutrition and Health, showed that spirulina can prevent organ damage caused by toxins.
  • Cancer and eye health. Because of the carotenoids that give spirulina it's rich green color, spirulina may help reduce the risk of some forms of cancer and eye disease.
  • Anti-inflammation.  Spirulina is packed with gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a natural anti-inflammatory agent, making it good for your joints, your heart, and for PMS symptoms management.
  • ADHD symptom reduction. Some research indicates that spirulina may have positive benefits for those who suffer from attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder when used in combination with other herbs.
  • Detoxification. Spirulina’s high chlorophyll content makes it an effective detoxifier, removing toxins from your system.  The chlorophyll binds to heavy metals and radioactive isotopes, which can help to protect organs for those going through radiation therapy (a method of treating thyroid cancer) or recovering from radiation exposure.
  • Eye Health.  Rich in vitamin A – about 10 times as much as in carrots – spirulina can benefit your vision.
There are naysayers….
There are a couple of question marks regarding the nutritional value of spirulina:
  • While there is no doubt that spirulina is a good source of protein – up to 70 percent protein by weight – the U.S. National Library of Medicine states that spirulina is only about as good as milk or meat for obtaining dietary protein per normal serving … but that you will pay around 30 times more per gram to get the same amount of protein in spirulina.
  • Though spirulina is often marketed as being a good source of vitamin B12, several studies (here, here, and here) refute this claim, saying that the form of vitamin B12 in spirulina is in active/not bioavailable for humans –  in other words, it's there, but your body cannot use it.

What are the health risks of spirulina?


Ironically, the fact that spirulina in the body binds to heavy metals and radioactive isotopes – a good thing – spirulina also binds in  nature to binds to heavy metals and radioactive isotopes. Effectively, it’s a natural toxins magnet.
Consequently, if the source of spirulina you use is from a body of water contaminated with radioactive exposure, your spirulina is likely also contaminated, as researchers have found in some spirulina supplements on the market. Reports indicate that some spirulina to to be contaminated with lead, mercury, and arsenic – a particular risk to infants.  Other risks:
  • Testing on spirulina supplements has has shown some to be contaminated with microcystins, which can produce gastrointestinal problems and, with prolonged exposure, even at a minimal levels, liver cancer.
  • It is believed that spirulina may interfere with certain immunosuppressant drugs.
  • Some scientists have connected cases of serious (albeit rare) of muscle disease to spirulina.
  • Samples of spirulina have contained liver toxins and neurotoxins.
  • Some researchers caution that those with phenylketonuria should not take spirulina.

Should I take spirulina?


It’s your call.  Most research shows minimal risks with spirulina supplementation, and plenty of health benefits. On the other hand, with the current lack of regulatory standards in the U.S, it is uncertain whether any spirulina and other blue-green algae supplements are free of contamination.
Given the potential risks associated with contaminated spirulina, you may conclude that the generous benefits of spirulina may not be worth the toxicity risks, unless you are fully confident in the source of your spirulina supplements.
If you want the benefits of spirulina with the risks, check out chlorella, which has many of the same health benefits as spirulina and yet with fewer risks.


Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bee Pollen Health Benefits & Risks

Some research shows that Bee pollen – the nutrient-rich pellet made by honeybees and used to feed their young – is full of concentrated goodness for humans too. To help you decide if supplementing your diet with bee pollen is right for you, let’s take a look at the benefits, the risks, and the research. But first…

What is bee pollen?


The pollen that makes you sneeze is chemically different than the pollen molded by bees into granules. Honeybees create bee pollen as they fly from flower to flower. When a honeybee lands on a flower, it scrapes off the loose pollen powder from the stamen using its jaws and legs, and then moistens the pollen with honey it brought from the hive, mixing it and pressing it down into pockets on its legs. It forms into a single pollen granule, which the bee takes back to the hive to become food for the young bees. Amazingly, a single teaspoon of bee pollen pellets represents about 240 hours of pollen-harvesting labor from one bee! 

Bee pollen possesses the nearly all the nutritional substances we need for survival and health, including B-complex, other vitamins, amino acids, and more accessible protein per ounce than that of any animal source. Bee pollen has been called by many "the ultimate survival pack," because it is such a complete nutrient combination. Purportedly, you could live indefinitely on a diet of nothing but bee pollen and water if you add a source of dietary roughage.

Key health benefits of bee pollen


While bee pollen is popular in health circles today, its history is deep, having been used as food for centuries. Written history shows that Hippocrates and Pythagoras recommended bee pollen for its healing powers, even prescribing it to their patients.
Positive health benefit claims by proponents of bee pollen include:
  • Boosting the immune system (due to its antibiotic effect on the body, potentially protecting it from viruses)
  • Enhancing energy (because of its carbohydrates, protein, and B vitamins)
  • Increasing sexual functions in both men and women – aphrodisiac (due to hormonal boosting)
  • Lifespan/longevity increase (because of its high antioxidant count)
  • Soothing skin irritation (bee pollen is often used in topical products for this reason)
  • Aiding digestion (due to its enzymes)
  • Protecting the skin and boosting skin cell regeneration (through its amino acids and vitamins)
  • Reducing inflammation in the lungs (due to its inherent antioxidants that can induce anti-inflammatory effects)
  • Boosting sports performance, including speed, stamina, and endurance
  • Reducing allergic reactions (by reducing the presence of histamines)
  • Correcting nutritional imbalances in the body
  • Improving prostate health (by reducing inflammation resulting from benign prostate hyperplasia)
  • Treating addiction and supporting weight loss (by reducing cravings)
  • Increasing cardiovascular health (due to be pollen's high amounts of the antioxidant bioflavonoid Rutin, which is known for strengthening blood vessels and capillaries)
  • Preventing heart attacks and strokes (also because of bee pollen's Rutin)
  • Stimulating ovary function
  • Battling oxidation (because of its high antioxidant content that strengthens the cells' ability to fight free radicals)

Research on bee pollen


Since many of the bee pollen health benefit claims come from those who market bee pollen, it's helpful to look at scientific research to see if it supports claims. Here is what we found:
  • A 1983 study of bee pollen to analyze its properties found that it  has high crude fiber content, and contains high concentrations potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and sodium. While they found bee pollen to be high in protein, it is minimally useful to humans because of its low digestibility.
  • One study reports anti-inflammatory benefits from bee pollen, similar to the effect of the drug Vioxx, but without the increased heart attack risks.
  • Two studies, one in China and one in Denmark, on the effect of bee pollen on memory found little to no improvement on memory. However, in both cases, the tests involved a formula that only had 14% bee pollen.
  • A 1977 clinical trial on bee pollen determined that bee pollen provided no significant sports performance enhancement benefit.
  • A 1978 study, reported in Journal of Sports Medicine, tested bee pollen’s effect on athletic performance, and concluded that the pollen had no significant effect.
  • Former Russian Olympic coach Korchemny determined in a 2-year study that bee pollen improves athletes’ recovery power. 
  • Vanderbilt University compiled results from multiple bee pollen studies, finding no proof that bee pollen has any energy-enhancing effects nor positive weight loss effects.
  • Some clinical tests showed that bee pollen is quickly digested and enters the bloodstream quickly.
  • One experiment showed that, on a diet of nothing but bee pollen,  mice can survive and reproduce.
  • A 1994 mouse experiment tested bee pollen’s effect on maternal nutrition and fetal growth. The pollen-fed group experienced increased body weight,  higher levels of total protein, and a lower death rate than the fetuses fed a normal diet. 
  • A 1995 clinical trial on pollen extract’s anti-tumor potential found it to be effective in treating prostate enlargement and prostatitis.
  • In a 1991 study on rats on the effect of pollen on prolonged poisoning of rats with simulated industrial exposure, liver damage was nearly nonexistent in pollen-treated rates, yet significant in the control group.

Bee Pollen risks


The University of Utah states that there are no significant food or drug interactions to bee pollen. That said, some people are allergic to ingested pollen, with symptoms ranging from mild to fatal.  Allergy warning signs include:
  • Wheezing
  • Rash
  • Photosensitivity
  • Anaphylaxis
If you have a history of airborne allergies to pollen, the risk of a reaction to bee pollen supplements is higher.
Some studies also suggest that bee pollen can create liver damage or renal failure.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Friday, August 2, 2013

What the Heck are Superfoods anyway?

When the mood strikes, pizza probably sounds like a super food to be chowing down on.  But what are people talking about when they refer to some foods as “superfoods”?  And why should you care?  To find out, read this concise intro to super foods.  We’ll cover the basics and a bit more, including: 
  • What are superfoods?
  • What makes superfoods so super?
  • How can I get superfoods into my diet?
Super foods


What are superfoods?


Superfoods are a category of natural foods that are, bite-for-bite, unusually high in nutritional value.  Most of the foods typically included in the category of superfoods are not only nutrient dense but also lower in calories, and are generally high in phytonutrient content. 

Unless you’ve been delving deeply into health foods, many superfoods may be completely new to you, such as maca root powder, blue-green algae, wheat grass, barley grass, spirulina, and chlorella.  But many more commonly consumed foods are also commonly categorized as superfoods, such as blueberries, spinach, dandelion greens, kale, sardines, and pistachios. 


What makes superfoods so super?


Superfoods fuel your body better than highly processed foods.  Those who regularly consume superfoods often rave about such benefits as increased levels of natural energy, more balanced hormone systems, faster healing from injuries or illnesses, increased mental alertness, and a general sense of well being.
The benefits you may experience from a diet high in superfoods may also result from what other foods do not provide by comparison – from what your diet lacked but needed before you began regularly consuming superfoods.  Many of the superfoods are eaten in a raw or dehydrated state, preserving their phytonutrient content (plant nutrients that are killed from heating and other processing methods).  Also, superfoods are an excellent source of antioxidants, which may help you counteract the negative effect of free radicals.  As well, many foods grown in soil that has been depleted of its mineral content can make even farm-grown natural foods less nutritious.  With the nutrient-dense nature of superfoods, you can still be sure you’re getting a good quantity of essential vitamins and minerals.

Fresh kale


How can I get superfoods into my diet?


To boost your diet and your health by consuming superfoods, get an easy start by increasing your intake of these common, easy-to-find, and easy-to-prepare foods:
  • Spinach – Research suggests that spinach can help prevent certain cancers, age-related macular degeneration, and cardiovascular disease.  Simply substitute spinach for lettuce in your salad to start your ride on the superfood train.
  • Kale – This nutrient-rich green can easily be added to your salad.  Learn more about kale.
  • Blueberries – Loaded with antioxidants, just add a half cup to your next serving of Greek yogurt (another superfood) and your healthy benefits may include decreased aging effects of degenerative diseases, improved motor skills, and better urinary tract health, according to some studies.
  • Wild salmon – This seafood is rich in healthful omega-3 fatty acids and protein.  Make a salmon-and-kale salad and you’ll be going whole-hog with superfoods.
  • Honey –  This sweet additive to your favorite tea, cereal, or bread is full of beneficial antioxidants and oligosaccharides – a substance that boosts the levels of good bacteria in your colon.
  • Greek yogurt – a healthy protein source that’s loaded with gut-friendly bacteria.  Use Greek yogurt as a low-fat alternative to sour cream. You can even make your own Greek yogurt fairly easily.
HoneyIf you want to experiment with some of the more exotic superfoods, many of which are highly concentrated sources of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients – try these:


Are there superfood recipes?


There are more superfood recipes available online than you can shake an organic stick at.  To get you started, try these:
For a few hundred more recipes that use superfoods, simply do a Google search for “superfood recipes.”

Greek yogurt with blackberries


How can I learn more about superfoods and super-healthy dieting?


Some good resources for delving deep on superfoods:
  • Learn about specific superfoods in this Top 10 Superfoods article.
  • Read The World’s 127 Healthiest Foods, nearly all of which are generally considered superfoods.
  • For a serious education on superfoods, check out the book Superfoods For Dummies by Brent Agin, MD, and Shereen Jegtvig.
For more information on health-speak, make sure and check out these other what-the-heck articles from FamilyWize What the Heck Are Free Radicals Anyway? and What the Heck are Antioxidants Anyway?


Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer



Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What the Heck Are Free Radicals Anyway?

Antioxidants … raw foods … macrobiotics … free radicals … bioflavonoids … phytonutrients …

Confused? It's no surprise. When talking about healthy foods and healthy living, the terminology can make you feel like an outsider.  It’s a vocabulary that you’ll hear in no other context of daily living, but words like these are tossed about by health-conscious well-wishers in conversations or articles, hoping to persuade, but not realizing that they are speaking what amounts to a foreign language to the uninitiated. 

Welcome to the club.  If you are one of those who would like to be eating and living healthier, our new What-the-Heck-Is-This-Anyway series will arm you with the confidence the next time you hear one of these words, beginning with this article on free radicals

Aging hands


What is a free radical?


Free radicals are molecules with unpaired electrons.  Free radical molecules form when oxygen interacts with them.  Free radicals are everywhere on this planet.  You’ll find them in the air, inside human bodies, in plants and animals, and in objects all around us.

Perhaps this all sounds innocent enough, but these microscopic little stinkers are far from harmless.  Free radical molecules require that second electron.  Without it, they are unstable: reactive.  Thus, free radicals roam their cellular neighborhood, as though anxiously seeking an electron to steal.  And until they succeed, they react with anything around them, causing damage to surrounding stable molecules.  When they successfully make the steal, there goes the neighborhood – the attacked molecule has now lost one of its electrons and itself becomes a free radical.  This launches a chain reaction as the newly formed free radical heads out to steal an electron, and so on. This degeneration of the ‘hood around that first free radical spreads until BAM! the living cell is disrupted: damaged or destroyed.

Free radical molecules damage just about everything.  Consider the apple.  When you slice it open, notice how quickly the exposed apple’s interior turns brown.  This is caused by free radical damage.  In fact, you may have noticed that absolutely everything seems to age, even if at different rates of decay.  This aging is largely the result of free radical damage.  It causes plastics to deteriorate, paint to fade, rocks to crumble, and works of art to deteriorate.


Why should I care about free radicals?


The free radicals that cause inanimate materials to age also cause living things to decay, or “age” – including humans. 

Today, many scientists believe that much of what we call aging or age-related illness results from free radical damage to the cells, DNA, enzyme systems, and our immune system functions.  This includes the damage that leads to heart attacks, stroke, Parkinson's disease, arthritis, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and cancers.  Scientists have discovered evidence that free radicals start and accelerate cell death mechanisms.

Some scientists also believe in the free radical theory of aging; that organisms age because the cells of all organism are continually accumulating free radical damage over time.   The more free radical damage that builds up in your body, the more and faster you age.

Organic strawberries


What can I do to avoid free radicals?


Because free radical molecules are everywhere, and are a natural bi-product of certain bodily functions, you may be wondering then; how is it possible to reduce exposure to free radicals? 

First consider that free radicals – a normal part of life – only becoming a health risk when your body is bombarded beyond its ability to combat the free radicals.  Second, consider the common sources of free radical overload and make healthy life choices to avoid them.  For example:
  • Avoid fried foods.  When you fry foods – especially at high temperatures and especially when using unsaturated fats – cell-damaging free radicals form, which can  lead to many long-term illnesses.  Minimize frying, reduce the heat when frying, avoid frying with unsaturated fats (cottonseed, safflower, soy, or corn oil), and instead use saturated oils, such as coconut oil or olive oil, when frying food.
  • Buy organic.  Using organic produce will help you avoid ingesting toxic pesticides.  Particularly go organic when buying celery, apples, peaches, or strawberries – statistically the most pesticide-laden fruits.
  • Avoid pollution.  Air or water pollution, often sourced from smoke, herbicides, or chemical toxins, can cause free radicals to develop.  If you live in an area where the tap water is not high quality, use purified water.  As well, reduce or stop smoking, so that your home air space is less contaminated. 
  • Avoid radiation overexposure.  Radiation induced tumors result from free radicals that damage the DNA in your cells.  So, avoid overexposure to sun (sunburn is an example of free radical damage to the skin), X-rays, radioactive material, and close exposure to microwave towers.


How can I protect myself from free radicals?


As noted above, free radicals only become a health risk when there too many.  But “too many” is a relative term.  It implies a limit to what your body can handle.  In other words, free radical damage is a danger to you when your body is too weak to counteract their effect.  Indeed your body can normally handle free radicals when your body has enough antioxidants available.  This is why many scientists have concluded that the best way to protect yourself from free radical damage is to increase the amount of antioxidants in your body.

People exercisingWe’ll talk more about antioxidants – another one of those health food buzz words – in an upcoming What-the-Heck-Is-This-Anyway article.  But the short story is that they help you fight free radical damage.  So, eat foods high in antioxidants – foods that packed with naturally occurring vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene (vitamin A). 

In case you’ve heard the news that a hard cardio workout can produce free radicals, it’s true … but it’s not a good excuse to stop exercising.  Here’s why:  that same cardio workout also causes antioxidant enzyme production, which counteracts the free radicals.   As well, regular training improves fitness, which, in turn, boosts production of antioxidant enzymes.

Stay tuned: You’ll learn more about fighting free radicals when we do our follow-up article, What the Heck Are Antioxidants Anyway?

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wheatgrass – What's so Super about This Superfood?

Wheatgrass - a nutrient-dense superfood
Those who regularly include wheatgrass in their diet cannot sing the praises of wheatgrass loudly enough. I’ve known many people who, from their personal experience with wheatgrass, describe this superfood as a miracle worker for their health. If you’ve known anyone regularly taking wheatgrass, or had any personal experience with this beautiful, young bright-green grass, you know what I’m talking about.

Many people find that wheatgrass gives them a lift … physically, mentally, and emotionally. Why else would those who find it “distasteful” continue its use? The almost instantaneous benefits they feel, of course!

Yes, many people do find the flavor of wheatgrass unpleasant. But, for the record, not everyone finds the juice distasteful; some find it sweet and love the flavor.

No matter what you’re feeling about the taste, if you’ve used it for any length of time, you can’t deny the advantages you receive from taking this nutrient-dense green on a regular basis. For those who haven’t given it a try, let me share with you the wonders of wheatgrass.


Wheatgrass is considered a “Superfood”


Health benefits of wheatgrass juice are multifaceted. Though more scientific research needs to be done to validate claims, the reasons those who regularly take wheatgrass do so range from enhancing physical appearance (as in reversing the number of gray hairs you have); to healing disease (which is now being proven in clinical studies); to increasing energy levels.

No matter what your reason for using it, wheatgrass has something to offer. Here are a few benefits you might find appealing enough to give it a try for yourself.

Superfoods
Wheatgrass is one of several superfoods that may benefit our health


Wheatgrass benefits


What makes “superfoods” so super is the measured impact that the ingredients can have on the whole being. Because of this, even though you may start taking wheatgrass for a particular health issue, wheatgrass’ impact can be a whole-body game changer in many ways. Its benefits:
  • Improves the blood’s ability to transport oxygen during exercise. This effect continues for about 10 minutes after exercise into your post workout recovery.
  • The antioxidant values of food are described as the ORAC value. The ORAC value for wheatgrass extract was found to be higher than that of many other vegetables or extracts. Antioxidants remove potentially damaging oxidizing agents in your body.
  • Wheatgrass extract absorbs free radicals and inhibits fat cells in rats.
  • Wheatgrass juice has been used clinically to treat ulcerative colitis and aid breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
  • Many nutrition counselors use wheatgrass to treat anxiety and depression because the nutrient-dense grasses provide the building blocks to aid your body in producing its own serotonin (a hormone that contributes to your feelings of well-being and happiness).
  • Increases red blood cell count and lowers blood pressure.
  • Externally applied to the skin can help eliminate itching almost immediately.
  • Place a tray of wheatgrass you are growing at the head of your bed. It will release oxygen into the air and generate healthful negative ions to help you sleep more soundly.
  • Used as a beauty aid to slow down the aging process when the juice is consumed on a regular basis. Wheatgrass is reported to cleanse your blood and help rejuvenate aging cells, which also slows the aging process. It will help tighten loose and sagging skin.
I could continue with benefits that you could experience. The fact is, the body is a whole organism. When you positively affect one part, it is experienced throughout the entire system.


Nutrient Dense? To be or not to be…


Wheatgrass contains more than 90 minerals, including high concentrations of the most alkaline minerals: potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium. Wheatgrass also provides a concentrated amount of critical nutrients, including:
  • Chlorophyll
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Selenium
  • Vitamins A, C, E, K and B-complex
  • Amino Acid
Wheatgrass is 70 percent chlorophyll. The health benefits of chlorophyll could be a full discussion in and of itself, but, long story short: chlorophyll is a green pigment found in plants that it is similar in chemical structure to the hemoglobin that is found in human blood. Chlorophyll is considered by many to be as beneficial to humans as it is to plants.

Wheatgrass juice
Wheatgrass is usually consumed in juice form


What does wheatgrass have over your average vegetable?



Compared to many other vegetables, wheatgrass is like a sponge when it’s growing. When the wheatgrass is grown in nutrient rich organic soil, it will absorb 92 of the known 102 minerals from the soil. The fact that it can pull so many minerals from the soil is the primary reason juiced wheatgrass is so nutrient dense, and is a good reason to make it a part of your daily regimen.


Consuming wheatgrass


Since we do not have multiple stomachs like a cow, taking wheatgrass is not as straightforward as chewing and swallowing. Wheatgrass is usually consumed in juice form. You can grow and juice wheatgrass yourself, or may be able to get some juiced for you at a local health food store.
We will talk more in an upcoming article about wheatgrass recipes, as well as how to grow wheatgrass and how to juice wheatgrass. Stay tuned!

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pomegranates: The Juice is Definitely Worth the Squeeze


Prepare to be surprised by the often-overlooked benefits of yet another peculiar super-food. You have probably heard of pomegranate; there’s a good chance you've even tasted it. But how much do you actually know about pomegranate nutrition?

Photo of a pomegranate
Photo from pomegranates.org
Firstly, to give you some background on the pomegranate, we have to travel back to the beginning of time. Biblical time, that is. According to the Global Healing Center, Persians and many other scholars believe that pomegranate is the forbidden fruit that Eve actually plucked from the Tree of Knowledge, as opposed to the traditional interpretation of it being an apple. Pomegranate has other interesting ties to the apple, as well. The word “pomegranate” literally comes from the Middle French word “pomme garnete” for “seeded apple.” It is also occasionally referred to as a “Chinese apple.” This unorthodox, rather mysterious fruit has its roots in many other cultures, typically symbolizing prosperity and abundance. 

So what is it about eating a pomegranate that captured everyone’s attention? Between the pomegranate itself, pomegranate seeds, and pomegranate juice, there are plenty of varieties to choose from. The most widely celebrated attribute in all of them is the high level of all three types of polyphenols, an especially potent antioxidant. According to the health research on pomegranates.org, it is extremely rare that any fruit has all three (tannins, anthocyanins, and elegiac acid), yet alone such a high level of each. It is also unusual for the juice of a fruit to be just as healthy as its fruit or seeds, which pomegranate juice boasts. Although the inedible peel contains the bulk of the antioxidants, much of it is released when the fruit is squeezed during the juicing process. Therefore, the benefits of pomegranate juice rival the nutritional content of any other fruit juice. In addition to all of this, pomegranates are loaded with vitamin C and potassium, are a good source of fiber, and are low in calories.

If you've never tried pomegranate before, I have a hunch about what you’re thinking. “Something this healthy can’t possibly taste great, can it?” Actually, it can and it does. Many people love its mildly acidic and sweet, cranberry-like taste. It’s packed with flavor without being tart. It’s also extremely versatile and can be eaten alone or as a part of a pomegranate recipe. Some of the most popular ones are pomegranate salad recipes.  No matter what form you are enjoying pomegranate in, the first step is always the same— discard the inedible rind. The Global Healing Center recommends a fuss-free way to get at the pomegranate seeds:
  1. Cut off the crown and throw it away.
  2. Score and slice the rind all around, but don’t cut the rind all the way through.
  3. Soak the pomegranate face down in cold water for about ten minutes.
  4. While the pomegranate is still in the bowl of water, break apart the scored rinds, and remove the seeds from the flesh (the seeds will sink to the bottom of your bowl).
  5. Remove the rind and membrane from the bowl with a sieve or spoon.
  6. Drain the seeds with a colander and pat dry with a paper towel.
Be careful during this process, as the deep red color of the pomegranate can stain everything from your hands to your counter tops. Once the seeds are free, you have the option to incorporate them into a variety of recipes. A good list of categorized recipes can be found at pomegranates.org. For your first pomegranate salad, we recommend trying one of their recipes:

Pomegranate and Papaya Salad with Ginger Dressing

photo from pomegranates.org
Ingredients (for six servings): 

2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger or a generous ¼ teaspoon powdered
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium pomegranate, seeded
2 heads endive, separated into leaves
3 quarts baby lettuce or other torn lettuce leaves
1 medium papaya, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green part of green onion

Dressing directions:

Mix lemon juice and the next 6 ingredients; whisk in oil and then reserve. On a large serving platter, arrange endive leaves like spokes with tips pointing out. Toss papaya with 1 tablespoon dressing, then reserve. Toss lettuce with remaining dressing and mound over endive leaves. Top with reserved papaya, then sprinkle with pomegranate arils and green onion.

Amanda Gilmore
Contributing Writer