When it comes to healthy eating strategies, everyone seems to have a superfood in mind that they insist could help you stay on track to reach your goals. Ruby red and bursting with flavors, pomegranates are more than the latest fad.
Nutritionists are encouraging their clients to integrate pomegranate, a nutrient-loaded healthy food, into their diets. If you’re an athlete or fitness fanatic, you likely have healthy eating on the brain. Small but mighty, could pomegranate play a role in improving your athletic performance?
Healthy Eating: Benefits Of Pomegranate
Rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, pomegranates have been gaining popularity in the mainstream for years. What is it about the crunchy seeds and tart juice of this super-fruit that makes it such a healthy food? Well, a number of factors:
*Loaded with antioxidants, pomegranates have anti-aging agents
*Pomegranate extract helps protect your kidneys from damage causes by destructive toxins
*Studies show that pomegranate extract and juice help battle breast and prostate cancer, and decrease the risk of developing skin cancer
*High in polyphenols, they decrease certain biochemical processes associated with allergies
*Crammed with vitamin C, pomegranate fruit and juice help strengthen the immune system
*Research shows that pomegranate juice helps protect the liver and aids with liver regeneration
*A heart healthy fruit, pomegranate helps protect against heart disease and helps normalize blood pressure.
And this is just a sample of pomegranate’s many benefits!
Integrating This Healthy Food Into Your Diet
Pomegranate can be eaten solo for a snack or dessert, or mixed with other fruits in a delicious fruit salad. You can also toss this healthy food into a green salad for a burst of color or flavor. Pomegranate extract or juice can be used in salad dressing, smoothies, “mocktails” or the occasional cocktail. If you’re going to drink pomegranate juice or use it in your cooking, purchase an unsweetened, preservative-free variety.
How This Healthy Food Will Improve Your Workouts
Pomegranates are rich in nitrates and nitrites, which contribute to blood vessel nitric oxide (NO) balance in tissue with high oxygen demands, like muscle. Improving blood circulation to the muscles can have a positive impact on athletic performance.
How exactly does it work? When you’re doing ongoing, intense exercise, as much as 80% of your blood flows into your muscle tissue, giving you the oxygen and nutrients you need, as well as picking up carbon dioxide and heat which are released by the skin and lungs. After being eaten and absorbed into the digestive tracts, the nitrates contained in pomegranates circulate into the bloodstream. Some of these nitrates are then absorbed by the salivary glands in the mouth, where bacteria transform them into nitrites. Finally, we swallow and absorb these nitrites.
During exercise, the muscles need oxygen. Where do they get that oxygen? Our blood. According to Steve Hertzler, register dietitian and author of Nitrate Supplementation for Cardiovascular Health, excess nitrites in the blood are converted to NO which helps widen your blood vessels and improve blood flood flow. This ultimately boosts athletic ability.
Nitrates and nitrites can also help the body use oxygen more efficiently. This means that during a workout, you could end up using less oxygen or achieve greater athletic performance before getting tired. According to a study conducted by the Human Performance Lab at the University of Texas, and published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, drinking pomegranate juice has also been shown to improve the recovery of skeletal muscle strength after a strenuous workout.
The only known “downsides” of this fabulous fruit are that pomegranates tend to be pricey and time-consuming to prepare. But hey, that’s the price you pay for one of Mother Nature’s finest superfoods. Get ready for some healthy eating – just be careful not to let the red juice stain your clothes!