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Summer 2006

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Sing the Praises of the Pomegranate

It is said that the Prophet Muhammad encouraged his followers to eat pomegranate fruit to purge themselves of envy and hatred. Now, the fruit is being touted for its ability to purge the arteries of fatty deposits and therefore slowing down the process of hardening of the arteries and cardiovascular disease.

The word pomegranate comes from the Latin pomum granatum, meaning apple of many seeds. The pomegranate does look somewhat like an apple and contains many seeds.

Today, health experts are singing the praises of the pomegranate for its apparent protective powers. Pomegranates are loaded with Vitamins A, C, E and iron, and the fruit is known as a powerful antioxidant that helps fight off free radicals in the blood. Free radicals can cause damage to the body if they are not controlled by antioxidants. Experts now believe that pomegranates contain the highest antioxidant capacity of any other natural juice, red wine or green tea.

Antioxidants are substances that occur in plants and help protect the body from free radicals. Free radicals can affect cholesterol and can speed up hardening of the arteries. This process takes place through what is known as oxidation, which causes narrowing and sometimes blockages in arteries.

One great benefit of pomegranate consumption, according to experts, is that it is believed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. According to a BBC News story by Jini Reddy, studies in Israel have shown that drinking pomegranate juice slows down oxidation by almost half, thereby reducing the retention of LDL, or bad cholesterol. In another study on pomegranate consumption in Naples, Italy, researchers found that the effects of pomegranate juice in limiting hardening of the arteries were even higher than previously presumed, according to a National Geographic News story by Stefan Lovgren.

Mythology and cultural rituals have often attributed superpowers such as resurrection and fantastic longevity to the pomegranate. It seems that science is finally catching up and catching on to the possibilities of this amazing fruit.


Olive Oil: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

According to Greek mythology, Zeus once held a contest to see who would be awarded patronage of Attica. The patronage would be awarded to the god or goddess who provided the most useful gift. Poseidon, to show that he would be a great patron, took his trident and struck open the rock of the Acropolis and from the crevice poured a great spring of water. When the Athenians tasted the spring water, it was salty since Poseidon was a sea god. When her turn came, Athena made an olive tree grow on the Acropolis. From this the Athenians were able to produce oil. The oil was used to light lamps, anoint the body and prepare food. Athena won and became the patron god of Athens. (Mythology, Edith Hamilton)

Olives were cultivated in Crete as early as 2500 B.C., according to Peggy Knickerbocker in Olive Oil: From Tree to Table. Today, health experts say that even though Americans have a better healthcare system and Greeks smoke more than they do, Greeks live longer and have lower rates of cancer and heart disease than Americans. (“Olive oil fights heart disease, breast cancer, studies say,” by Stefan Lovgren in National Geographic News.)

Why is olive oil so good for you? The answer is simply this: Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat, which is the “good” fat you hear about when doctors are preaching to you about cholesterol.

New studies have shown that oleic acid, which is the main monounsaturated fatty acid in olive oil, can actually cripple a gene that is responsible for 25 percent to 30 percent of breast cancers today. Javier Menendez of Northwestern University, one of the study’s authors, says that the Mediterranean diet, which is laced with olive oil, has significant protective effects against cancer, heart disease and aging. All of which makes Athena’s tree a pretty good gift.