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Pomegranate: The Original Athletic Exlixir

Posted by Field Work Nutrition Co. on
Pomegranate: The Original Athletic Exlixir

You've probably heard of the antioxidant capabilities of certain superfoods like blueberries, green tea, and pomegranate.  If you are an athlete, you probably also know that exercise increases oxidative stress within the body, and that antioxidants, particularly those found in colorful fruits and vegetables like pomegranate, have been shown to reduce the effects of said oxidative stress.  If you want the CliffsNotes version of the following post, here it is: we all experience oxidation in our bodies.  Oxidation and free radicals cause harm to cells and potentially lead to things like cancer (they are also part of the normal immune response).  Antioxidants help combat these effects.  Pomegranates are rich in antioxidants called polyphenols.  You should consider adding them to your smoothies and / or otherwise to your diet.  The end.

Or...if you'd like the more extended version of why pomegranates are one of our favorite winter time fruits, keep reading below.

When most of us think of vibrant, colorful fruit for smoothies, our minds can go straight to spring and summer fruits like berries, or tropical fruits like pineapple and mango.  Although we too love these fruits, and generally keep them on hand frozen year around, we love the ability to go to our local farmer's market in January and grab whatever is seasonal and fresh and toss it into our smoothies.  Not only does this ensure we are getting the highest quality, freshest, most nutrient-dense produce possible, it also supports our local farmers (and generally our local economy), and helps us eat a varied diet throughout the year.  Here in California during the winter months, the freshest and most abundant fruits tend to be citrus and...pomegranates.  

For a brief history on pomegranates, they are native to the middle east and parts of Asia, were eventually brought to Latin America, and made their way to California by Spanish settlers in the 18th century (that's globalization, for you).  They are now grown all over California, from large scale agricultural operations to backyard fruit trees...we even know a particular center divider not far from the Field Work HQ landscaped with pomegranate trees that indeed bear fruit.  

Back to the fruit itself and potential benefits.  As you can see from the photo, pomegranate seeds are "tedious" to say the least.  For some, the hassle (and mess) of cutting open and removing the seeds is hardly worth it...though given the nutritional benefits, we find this a small price to pay.  From a practicality stand point, we find that removing all the seeds at the time of first use and keeping them refrigerated in a sealed container until you need them is the best way to go.  If you're gonna go through the work of seeding a pomegranate, just do it once.

There is a lot of hype out there about pomegranates having the most antioxidants of any fruit in existence ...this is not the case.  But pomegranate is rich in antioxidants, particularly polyphenols.  As with all things scientific, there is still quite a bit of research to be done on the actual effects on the human body of the polyphenols found in pomegranates, but studies show that they are indeed potent (in fact, roughly 3x more concentrated than other "superfoods" like green tea and red wine).  Studies have looked at quite a few health benefits of pomegranate and pomegranate juice, including anti-inflammatory effects (good for athletes), anti-carcinogenic effects (good for everyone), reducing oxidative stress, and even potentially doing other things like simply lowering blood pressure.  If you are interested in diving into this rabbit hole, here is a good place to start.  Although certain companies have sold pomegranate as a miracle elixir, other studies have shown considerably less sexy foods, like colored potatoes, to have similar polyphenol concentration.  Something to keep in mind while striving to fill your plate (or blender) with colorful foods on a daily basis.

But aside from the polyphenol conversation and the myriad of known and unknown health benefits they may provide, there are plenty of other key macro and micronutrients found in pomegranates that have well documented, known health benefits.  For one, pomegranate is a very good source of fiber.  No explanation needed there.  It is also super rich in vitamin C, a vitamin with many known benefits including immune support and antioxidant capacity (see: reducing oxidative stress).  Other noteworthy nutrients found in pomegranates are the fat soluble vitamin, vitamin k; various b vitamins including a very high amount of folate; and quite a bit of potassium.  One normal size pomegranate has considerably more potassium than a banana, for comparison.

So is the hassle of seeding a pomegranate worth the work, given the above known health benefits and nutritional punch?  We think so.  Though if you don't think you have the time, or are just not into the mess, fresh pomegranate juice is a great alternative (albeit a bit pricey).  One final pro tip on adding pomegranate seeds to your smoothie...unless you like a little seedy "texture," a good blender goes a long way.  We can personally attest that a Vitamix will puree pomegranate seeds down to nothingness...which we prefer.  But to each his (or her) own.

On a side note, our last post about the ridiculousness of the keto diet for athletes, particularly high performance endurance athletes, clearly struck a nerve with some people.  In lieu of an olive branch, we'd love to offer a pomegranate branch, full of pomegranates to these folks.  But sadly, the restrictions of the keto diet don't allow them to enjoy this wonderful fruit.  But we digress... 




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