Focus on Pomegranate

October 21, 2021

FOCUS ON Pomegranate

Pomegranate is sometimes described as a superfood. It’s nutrient dense fruit with many potent nutritional properties. It’s been used in ancient medicine and in cuisine around the world, in particular China, India and the Mediterranean region.

You’ll find pomegranate in the form of supplements, juice, powders, extracts, and, of course, the fruit itself.

Pomegranate Juice has attracted attention in the sporting world.

Today we are going to answer the following questions

  1. Why has pomegranate been a focus of research in sports nutrition
  2. A look at the key nutrients in pomegranate
  3. Practical suggestions to consider when using pomegranate as a food or supplement
LISTEN HERE Episode 73: FOCUS on Pomegranate

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SHOW NOTES

FOCUS on Pomegranate

(04:54) An introduction to pomegranate and its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capacity.

(07:32)

We look at a review in 2018 By British Journal of Nutrition:

Effects of pomegranate supplementation on exercise performance and post-exercise recovery in healthy adults: a systematic review (British Journal of Nutrition (2018), 120, 1201–1216 doi:10.1017/S0007114518002696 © The Authors 2018)

The studies chosen examined either the effects of POMEGRANATE intake on exercise performance and/or exercise-induced fatigue, soreness, muscle damage, oxidative stress, inflammation and cardiovascular function. Initially they had a pool of over 900 studies and selected 11 that met their review criteria.  The review looked at

Effect of pomegranate on;

  • acute and delayed physical performance
  • muscle strength recovery
  • muscle fatigue, pain and soreness
  • delayed onset muscle soreness – DOMS

Effect of pomegranate supplementation;

  • on acute and delayed muscle damage responses
  • oxidative stress responses
  • on inflammatory responses
  • on cardiovascular parameters

All of which would be of interest to an endurance runner.

Findings indicate that POMEGRANATE has the potential to:

  • enhance endurance and strength performance
  • advance post-exercise recovery
  • improve cardiovascular responses during and following exercise

The researchers also point out that positive effects of POMEGRANATE supplementation of juice are more likely when;

  • POMEGRANATE juice contains >0·7g total polyphenols/0·5 litre
  • When large muscle mass exercise is engaged
  • When POMEGRANATE juice is consumed at least 60 min before exercise

Additionally the review suggests, the inclusion (750ml/d) of polyphenol-rich POMEGRANATE in the diet of active people prior (60 min) and after exercise (during 48h) could be beneficial for their physical performance and muscle recovery during and following exercise.

They also point out that further research is required to assess how chronic POMEGRANATE supplementation (that means consuming it consistently over a long period of time) impacts the physiological and performance adaptations to exercise training. That type of research may to help optimise POMEGRANATE supplementation guidelines for a range of exercise settings.

(12:44)

The key nutrients in pomegranate;

Pomegranates contain Potassium, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Folate. The GL Load of a Pomegranate is 18 which is similar to a small banana or 1/3 of a mango.

However, it’s the antioxidant and phytonutrient properties of pomegranates which attract the most attention.

The POMEGRANATE fruit has a leathery rind enclosing many seeds and juicy arils which contain the edible part of the fruit which is approximately 52% of the total fruit – and that part is comprised 78% juice and 22% seeds. The rind of the fruit also contains many nutrients which are utilised when juice and supplements are processed.

Pomegranates contains many phenolic compounds including;

  • Flavonoids including anthocyanins and other complex flavonoids
  • Hydrolyzable tannins (punicalagin, gallic and ellagic acid), which are compounds with high anti- oxidant activity that may offer beneficial health properties

Around 92% of pomegranate antioxidant activity comes from hydrolysable tannins. (Punicalagin, ellagic acid and gallic acid are the polyphenols found in pomegranate). The main component of pomegranate husk is punicalagin.

Punicalagin is responsible for more than 50% of the juice’s potent antioxidant activity. It appears that pomegranate juice has high levels of punicalagin because the rind is used in its production.

As a dietary source Punicalagin is found in pomegranates only-  so it’s unique in that sense – although it is found in some tropical trees which may be a source of the nutrient for supplements but not for an everyday food.

Pomegranate juice is a rich source of QUERCETIN shown to help with muscle recovery and improved exercise performance.

Pomegranates are rich in NITRATES which are chemicals naturally occurring in a variety of plant foods and convert to nitric oxide in our body when consumed. Nitric oxide dilates our blood vessels to increase oxygen delivery to working muscles. This process is shown to increase cardiorespiratory performance and improve muscle function. We talked about nitrates in episode 40 Beetroot for Running Performance.

(21:33)

Practical suggestions to consider when using pomegranate as a food or supplement.

Choosing a ready to use pomegranate

  • Choose a deep red colour that seems to weigh a lot for its size
  • Look for glossy, blemish-free skin and scratch it gently. If it’s soft and easy to scratch, it’s likely ripe
  • A heavier fruit also indicates that it’s ripe
  • A pomegranate with a squared off circle shape means the seeds inside the fruit have reached their juiciest potential.
  • The best season for fresh pomegranates seems to be Oct-Jan in the sunny regions where they are farmed

(22:54)

Storing the fruit  

  • Keep it away from direct sunlight
  • Keep it in a cool, dry place
  • Or store the fruit whole in your refrigerator for up to two months
  • Once you crack open the skin and extract the arils or juice, keep them in the refrigerator and enjoy within five days.
  • if you’re not ready to eat them yet, you can store the arils in the freezer for up to one year

(24:03)

Preparing a pomegranate

Method 1

  • Roll the fruit first to loosen the seeds.
  • Score around the middle and tear it open into halves. Take care not to cut through into the seeds, just the skin.
  • Hold each half over a bowl, seeds facing down and tap the skin with a wooden spoon, squeezing a little to release the seeds.

Method 2

  • Score four lines from top to bottom to quarter the pomegranate
  • Submerge the pomegranate in a bowl of water and and pull apart the quarters, releasing the seeds with your hands.
  • The pith will float in the water and the seeds will sink.
  • Remove the pith and discard, then drain the seeds.

Check out a video!

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/how-eat-pomegranate

(27:13)

Considerations when buying ready-made pomegranate juice or as a supplement

We recommend choosing the best quality so you get therapeutic value.

JUICE

Check the label – choose a pure form of juice that isn’t from a concentrate or is mixed with other juices/liquids or has added sugar, organic varieties are best. A brand I recommend in BIONA.

Active Edge do a concentrated pomegranate drink which you add water to – PomegranateActive® is a 100% natural, pomegranate concentrate. Each 473ml bottle is made from the concentrated juice of approximately 27 pomegranates and contains no sweeteners, preservatives, flavourings or added sugar.

(28:58)

SUPPLEMENTS

  • Check the label – is it certified organic with no artificial ingredients or preservatives
  • What does it say about the pomegranate content – is it of therapeutic value i.e. 275-800 mg per serving – seems to be a wide range but there is no RDA to follow – studies appeared to get positive results with these amounts
  • Some labels will explain the punicaligan content. When pomegranate is processed punicaligans break up into ellagic acid and their benefits are lost. Some supplements are created in such a way that punicaligan content is preserved
  • True Vida have an organic supplement in their range which contains 800mg per serving (2 capsules)

(31:08)

How can runners use pomegranate in our food plans to support our running?

We’d suggest using pomegranate as an addition to sweet and savoury dishes will add the nutrients we have talked about. Sprinkle some pomegranate seeds on porridge or yoghurt, add to a salad or a smoothie or as garnish on savoury dishes.

It’s certainly worth trying having a good quality pomegranate juice before and after exercise over a couple of weeks and see what results you experience – do let us know if you notice any positive changes

A final thought is that plant antioxidants tend to work synergistically; you will have more benefits from a supplement if your dietary antioxidant intake is high and varied  i.e. by ensuring your daily diet contains plenty of brightly coloured fresh fruits and vegetables. Eat a rainbow alongside  pomegranates in your food plan.

Female Factors

Pomegranates are rich in antioxidants, which may help to increase blood flow to the uterus and promote a healthy uterine lining. Pomegranates contain some important vitamins, such as vitamin C, vitamin E and folic acid. All of these are beneficial for a healthy pregnancy, and for those trying to conceive.

You may wish to read more Pomegranate Worth in Women’s Health-a review 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

FOCUS ON Pomegranate

  1. Pomegranate may be consumed in the form of fruit, juice, supplements, powders, extracts and concentrate.
  2. It’s the potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capacity of pomegranate which brings health, performance and recovery benefits.
  3. Pomegranate has the potential to:
    • enhance endurance and strength performance
    • advance post-exercise recovery
    • improve cardiovascular responses during and following exercise
  1. For maximum benefits its suggested pomegranate juice or supplements are consumed 60minutes before exercise and within 48 hours after exercise.
  2. It’s best to choose juices or supplements with a high polyphenol content
    • POMEGRANATE juice ideally should contain >0·7g total polyphenols/0·5 litre
    • SUPPLEMENTS – check the punicaligan content – ideally 800mg per serving
    • Choose organic pure forms of food and supplements free of added sugar or additives
  1. Enjoy fresh or frozen pomegranate seeds on sweet and savoury dishes.

Related Episodes:

Beetroot For Running Performance
Nutrition Basics for All Runners
Sports Nutrition Foundations For Female Runners

Disclaimer:

The suggestions we make during this episode are for guidance and advice only, and are not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you have any concerns regarding your health, please contact your healthcare professional for advice as soon as possible.

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