Go Pink!

October is the month of rosy hues. Women (and men) are asked to wear pink for breast cancer awareness. Women are told to GO RED for women’s heart health and in many parts of the world October brings on the ruby reds and gold’s of autumn. Not that the changing leaves have anything to do with nutrition, it is just my favorite time of year.

Here at Eat Well Shanghai we are using this time of year to promote the pretty pink juice of pomegranates. You have seen the vendors on every street corner with a cart full of pomegranates and a hand juicer. Turns out it takes 3 pomegranates to make a 250 ml cup of juice, for about 10-12 kuai depending on the corner.

Pomegranates seem to be one of those fruits that has a myriad of health benefits attributed to it but on a closer look there isn’t any strong clinical evidence that supports these claims. In this case it is best to consider the fruit logically . We do know that pomegranates are high in fiber and relatively low in calories. One 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds will have 72 calories and 3.5 gm. of fiber. All the calories come from simple carbohydrates but the beauty of the pomegranate fruit is that the high fiber seeds counteract the effect of the sugar. So eating the fruit seeds do not upset your blood sugar. Plus we have all learned that having lots of fiber in our diet helps with digestion and can improve cholesterol levels.

Besides having fiber and carbohydrates, pomegranates don’t offer much in terms of the traditional nutrients. There is a decent amount of vitamin K and potassium but that is about it. Potassium is especially important for blood pressure control and vitamin K is essential for healthy blood. But these are both found in abundance in other fruits and vegetables.

So why go pink then?  One word: ANTIOXIDANTS !   For those who don’t know yet, anti-oxidants are substances found in foods that help repair the damage to our cells from everyday living and  as a result reduce inflammation. Persistent inflammation is linked to the onset of many chronic diseases so reducing inflammation  is a good thing and anti-oxidants have the power to do that naturally.

Pomegranates just don’t have anti-oxidants, they have a truck load of anti-oxidants, the most abundant being the polyphenols and the anthrocyanins which are responsible for the pink color of the juice.  “The U.S. Department of Agriculture ranks pomegranate juice as the fifth strongest antioxidant behind baking chocolate, elderberry,” per www.livestrong.com  Another study* in 2008 found that the anti-oxidant level of potency in pomegranate juice beat out blueberry, acai, green tea, cranberry juice and red wine by 20%. I suspect this is why drinking  pomegranate juice is touted for improving blood flow, reducing blood pressure, decreasing the risk of breast and prostrate cancer and improving acne.   All these conditions are irritated by inflammation so a good dose of anti-oxidants can’t hurt.

Another important reason to cosy up to a pomegranate vendor is the experience. You are in Shanghai, it is fall and these guys are offering you a sweet treat of the ages that just might cure what ails you.

Eat Well, Live Well, Have fun!

* Center for Human Nutrition at UCLA  study, reported in the February 27, 2008, issue of the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry,”