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Painless Pomegranate

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Pomegranate May Reduce Stomach Pain and Inflammation

Pomegranates are one of the trendiest health foods on the market today, celebrated for their high antioxidant content and potential therapeutic benefits. The fruit has been used for centuries to treat inflammatory diseases, prompting researchers from Mexico, Italy and Spain to explore the science behind pomegranate as a potential remedy for stomach pain and inflammation. Results from the 2015 study are published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition.

Using extract from whole fruit, researchers tested how the polyphenols in pomegranates may alleviate stomach pain and inflammation in an animal model. Not only was the pomegranate extract effective in reducing pain and inflammation, it worked better than the anti-inflammatory drugs often given to people (indomethacin and diclofenac, both NSAIDs). Pomegranate extract also offered protection to the gastric mucosal barrier, the outer lining of the stomach that prevents stomach acids from leaking to the rest of the body. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin may actually damage this lining and result in stomach ulcers. The major phytochemicals present were tannins and anthocyanins, but the compounds responsible for the effect cannot be fully determined. Though more research is needed in humans, this study suggests pomegranates may be useful in treating pain and gastric inflammation.

You can find pomegranate seeds (called arils) in your supermarket, or you can remove them from the whole fruit yourself. Using a paring knife, slice the top off the pomegranate and score the skin from the top down to the bottom of the fruit, moving a few times around the fruit. Break apart the pomegranate into several sections and remove the seeds with your hands or by hitting the fruit with a spoon. Enjoy the seeds on their own or sprinkled over yogurt or salads. Our Butternut Squash with Eggplant-Pomegranate Sauce uses the seeds in two different ways. This delicious salad makes a beautiful addition to your dinner menu this holiday season. Serve this as a hearty side salad or a vegetarian main.

BONUS: Researchers from the UK found that pomegranates may be useful for any condition involving inflammation, such as Parkinson’s disease, thanks to the polyphenol punicalagin.

Published December 1, 2015

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