Food as medicine - Pomegranates - Part 1

Pomegranates are still in season but they are coming to an end.  Buy them while you can, as they are such a wonderful health food.

Their many benefits are too extensive for one blog post, so I'll cover them in a few.


The whole plant seems to practically burst with disease-fighting antioxidants called polyphenols - from the seed, pulp, skin, root, flower and even the bark of the tree.  In fact, pomegranate seed extracts and juice have two to three times the anti-oxidant activity of red wine and green tea.

And while lots of foods have high levels of polyphenols, what makes pomegranates such superstars is that they are a top source of several varieties of polyphenols, namely flavenoids, anthocyanins, ellagic acid, punicic acid and many others.  Hundreds of scientific studies confirm these polyphenols can prevent and treat a variety of diseases, including heart disease, cancer and stroke.  This ties in to the pomegranate being known as "a pharmacy unto itself" in Ayurvedic medicine.


There are several ways to get your pomegranate!

  • You can find fresh whole pomegranates from October - February, and use the seeds - arils
  • You can purchase the seeds frozen throughout the year
  • You can drink pomegranate juice 
  • You can buy dried seeds which are called ANARDANA - they can be used dried or soaked in water before use to plump them up
  • You can buy  pomegranate "spice" which is ground up dried seeds, again called ground anardana
  • You can buy pomegranate molasses

Anardana is used a lot in India - both whole and ground in curries, chutneys and as fillings for savory snacks such as pakoras and in flatbreads like parathas.


Pomegranate molasses is popular in the Middle East.  It is made by crushing the seeds into juice and cooking it until it reaches an almost black, thick molasses-like texture.  The molasses have a berry like taste with a citrus tang.  I discovered pomegranate molasses about 9 years ago and love it. If you haven't tried it before, make this your new food of the week. I frequently use it to make a salad dressing, or drizzle it on a savory or sweet dish. I also use it instead of sugar in baking - but it is thick so you have to chose recipes carefully!

Walnut and pomegranate roulade drizzled with pomegranate molasses
(sugar free, gluten free, no added oil)

I sprinkle pomegranate seeds on my oat muesli every morning....in fact, I'm getting worried about my supply running dry as its now February and the season is coming to a close. I guess I'll be using frozen pomegranate seeds instead.

A couple of quick snippets:
DENTAL 

  • researchers found that rinsing the mouth with pomegranate extract reduced bacteria-causing dental plaque 84% MORE than commercial mouthwash
  • researchers in Thailand treated gum disease (periodontal disease) with pomegranate extract and found it decreased gum erosion and plaque
  • a pomegranate formula was found to clear up denture stomatitis, a fungal infection in people wearing dentures.


I'll tell you about other specific health benefits in the next few posts, including pomegranates effects on

  • atheroschlerosis, 
  • diabetes 
  • prostate cancer
  • aging
In the meantime, try to think of ways you can add pomegranate to your diet EVERY day.....on cereal/oatmeal for breakfast, sprinkled on a salad for lunch, drizzled on a whole grain meal for dinner ...

What is your favorite pomegranate dish?

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The trouble with dairy

In US - average calcium intake 1,143mg.   Primary source dairy. Incidence of osteoporosis - Epidemic

In China - average calcium intake  544mg. Primary source veg.   Incidence of osteoporosis - Rare
* data from Study on Diet, Nutrition and Disease in the People's Republic of China.

More reasons to go dairy free:

  Got Milk?

 As you can see, for many people, dairy is not easy to digest. So especially if you are ill, giving up dairy can reduce  a big stress on your body. There are so many good alternatives. Give them a try.
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National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Prostate cancer is the fourth most common malignancy among men worldwide, with an estimated 400,000 new cases diagnosed annually, accounting for 3.9% of all new cancers.



This summer I read a great book about prostate cancer that I'd like to recommend to you. The title is quite unexpected. It is:

Invasion of the prostate snatchers: An essential guide to managing prostate cancer for patients and their families, by Mark Scholz MD and Ralph Blum.


The book discusses the latest thinking on prostate cancer management, from two perspectives, a doctor and a patient.  Ralph Blum writes in an entertaining style about his twenty year journey with prostate cancer and his decisions along the way, while Dr Mark Scholz presents new scientific advances, with a focus on non invasive approaches.

Chapters alternate between the two authors - with comments at the end by the other.  It's a nice style and makes for easy reading.  It provides a lot of information for patients and families to help them make decisions on what approach to take.  I highly recommend it.


Prostate Cancer Incidence Rates by State, 2008



Epidemiologic evidence strongly suggests that dietary factors play a major role in prostate cancer progression and mortality, with protective effects associated with consumption of fruit (esp. tomatoes),  and increased risk linked to dairy. My recommendation for prostate cancer patients, or those at risk, is to avoid milk and dairy consumption (actually, this is my recommendation for everyone!) .    The evidence is mounting.  Major studies suggesting a link between milk and prostate cancer have appeared in medical journals since the 70's.

In international and interregional correlational studies, dairy product consumption has been consistently associated with prostate cancer mortality.


Researchers are looking at not only whether milk increases cancer risk, but also how.  There are several possible mechanisms: that milk with its high calcium levels adversely affect vitamin D metabolism; that dairy consumption leads to an increase in concentration of insulin like growth factor (IGF-1) which promotes cell cancer growth; and that most dairy products contain substantial amounts of fat and no fiber which is a combination that leads to increased testosterone concentration and activity which can have a cell replicating effect on prostate tissue. .

For further information on the research regarding prostate cancer and dairy, see the summaries supplied by Dr Neal Barnard of PCRM.

References
1. Chan JM, Stampfer MJ, Ma J, Ajani U, Gaziano JM, Giovannucci E. Dairy products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk in the Physicians’ Health Study. Presentation, American Association for Cancer Research, San Francisco, April 2000.
2. Cohen P. Serum insulin-like growth factor-I levels and prostate cancer risk—interpreting the evidence. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1998;90:876-879.
3. Chan JM, Stampfer MJ, Giovannucci EL. What causes prostate cancer? A brief summary of the epidemiology. Sem Canc Biol. 1998a;8:263-73. 
4. Giovannucci E. Dietary influences of 1,25(OH)2 vitamin D in relation to prostate cancer: a hypothesis. Cancer Causes and Control. 1998b;9:567-82. 
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