Pomegranate: Origin, History, and its Many Health Benefits

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Pomegranate is a fruit-bearing shrub that originated between Egypt and the Himalayas, eventually spreading across the northern and southern hemisphere. The fruit of the pomegranate tree is often used in baking, cooking, juicing, meal garnishing, and alcoholic beverages. The pomegranate tree’s fruits are considered a berry. The fruit is known for its pulpy seeds ranging in color — from deep red to white and purple.

The Origin and History of Pomegranate

According to history, pomegranate is native to Persia or modern-day Iran. It was exported to Italy from Northern Africa. The Romans called pomegranate “Punic Apple.” From Europe, pomegranate was brought to Britain and planted in the royal garden of King Henry VIII. Spanish traders brought pomegranate in their voyages during the middle ages and started spreading to other parts of Asia.

What makes pomegranate unique from other fruits is that many spiritual groups revere it so. The fruit plays a role in mythological and spiritual foundations of cultures across the world. In Christianity, pomegranate symbolizes eternal life. Renowned painters the likes of Botticelli, Raphael, and Filippino Lippi used the pomegranate to represent plenitude, hope, spiritual fruitfulness, and chastity in Christian paintings.

In Middle Eastern philosophies, the fruit is prized for its mysterious powers. In Greek Orthodox, pomegranate is considered a source of potent healing properties while the fruit is often featured in Greek myths.

In Buddhism, pomegranate is regarded as a blessed fruit. Pomegranate also represents sanctity, fertility, and abundance in Judaism. Clearly, pomegranate has a long history of fascinating ancient and modern civilizations.

The Many Health Benefits of Pomegranate

The reason why pomegranate was held in such high regard is its amazing level of nutrition. Considered as a superfood, pomegranate is a rich source of essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. In fact, more than 400 studies (and growing) have been conducted to determine just how beneficial the pomegranate fruit is!

Vitamin Rich

Pomegranate is an excellent source of vitamins A, B, C, E, and K. These powerful vitamins help restore vision clarity; promote healthy bones and teeth, youthful skin and shiny hair; and protect the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals.

High in Antioxidants

Pomegranate contains polyphenols, antioxidants that protect the body from unstable biomolecule called free radicals. Free radicals attack healthy cells and this leads to all sorts of diseases, including cancer. Polyphenols in pomegranate create a protective barrier from free radicals, inhibit cancer cells from spreading, and delay the signs of aging.

Pomegranate juice also contains more punicalagin, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid than cranberry or blueberry juice.

Prevents Inflammation

Pomegranate also contains punicic acid. This is a type of fatty acid found in the oil of pomegranate seeds. Punicic acid helps protect the body from infection and inflammation. Punicic acid also helps boost the immune system, lower bad cholesterol in the body, prevent obesity, and even have powerful anti-cancer properties.

Stabilizes Hormones

Excessive estrogen production is linked to cancer development in women. Pomegranate contains all-natural phytoestrogens (kaempferol, quercetin, and luteolin); it’s the only fruit with such a high level of these compounds. Phytoestrogens help neutralize the negative effects of human-produced estrogen by incorporating into the cell receptor sites for estrogen, thus cutting the risk of too much estrogen triggering cell mutation. The fruit also contains apigenin, which counteracts the estrogen’s effects in the body.