In the story of Persephone in Greek mythology, the pomegranate represents life, regeneration and marriage. Of course, in this case, the marriage involved the god of the underworld, Hades, who kidnapped her. But that shouldn’t be held against the pomegranate.
That’s because the Greeks, marriage to Hades aside, had it right about the pomegranate representing life and regeneration. And they weren’t alone. Others through the ages have heralded the pomegranate for its medicinal properties and used it in ceremonies connected to Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam.
Much like berries, apples and tea – or everything in the Mediterranean diet – respect for pomegranates crosses all geographical, cultural and religious boundaries.
Modern science proves this reverence for the pomegranate is well placed. Here are eight benefits of getting pomegranate into your diet.
Maintain Visual Information Processing
A randomized study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found those who drank pomegranate juice daily for more than a year did a better job in processing visual information than did a control group given a placebo. The researchers concluded daily pomegranate juice consumption “may stabilize the ability to learn visual information over a 12-month period.”
Improvements in Memory
Studies in mice have found that pomegranate juice can slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, lowering the amount of amyloid deposits in the hippocampus when compared to control mice who did not receive juice. Other studies have found that both verbal and visual memory skills improve after eating pomegranates.
Pomegranate also can fight inflammation with the antioxidant properties of punicalagins found in the pomegranate juice and peel. This is important because chronic inflammation drives many of the most serious diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.
A Defense Against Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is a common cancer among men. Past studies have found that pomegranate may act as a defense against prostate cancer, slowing cancer cell reproduction and in some cases causing an increased amount of cancer cell death.
A Heart-Healthy Food
Pomegranate lowered blood pressure by as much as 12% among test subjects in some studies. It also can reduce the amount of plaque buildup in the carotid artery and lower bad cholesterol. That’s like the benefits of three difference medications rolled into one fruit.
Reduces Dental Plaque
Speaking of plaque, pomegranates also can reduce the plaque in your mouth. Past studies have found that the chemical composition of pomegranate is effective in destroying microorganisms that lead to dental plaque.
May Treat Erectile Dysfunction
In a study done with rabbits, pomegranate juice increased blood flow and erectile response in rabbits. A study in men found some improvement. Researchers wrote that more study is needed to determine the significance of the improvements over the long term.
With these medical benefits, it’s little wonder the pomegranate has been held in such high esteem for so many years. We could all take the advice of our ancestors and strive to put more pomegranate – and pomegranate juice – into our daily lives.