12 health benefits of pomegranate – rich in anti-oxidants and vitamins
A superfood is a nutrient-rich diet containing balanced ingredients of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins, that is beneficial for health and well-bring. In modernity, a diet is no longer “foreign” to any global region. You can eat continental food or Chinese and Indian food in any global region.
In Europe, the staple food ie that makes up the dominant part of a meal in an average diet, consists of animal products such as meat, eggs, cheese and fish, supplemented by cereals like wheat
(bread, pasta) and vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, peas, beans and asparagus. Vegetables may be almost any part of a plant. Globally, most people live on such staple diets, such as rice in Manipur or wheat in the Punjab, depending on what is abundantly available regionally. Rice is a global staple food, and nearly half of the world live on rice.
When I arrived in London in February 1966, restaurants did not have vegetarian menus at all. If you were vegetarian you could ask for some boiled potatoes, peas and carrots on which you would sprinkle salt and pepper. You could ask for butter if you preferred your food to be elaborate. There was only one Indian restaurant in London – Veraswami at Regent Street where turbaned waiters use to serve. Twenty year later, Bangladeshis from Sylhet introduced “Indian” restaurants everywhere in Britain with Madras hot curry. These days, all menus in restaurants incorporate vegetarian dishes.
Britons are traditionally meat-eating people. They produce and import meat and vegetables from all over the world. Now many people have gone vegetarian – known as late-life vegetarianism (30s) after seeing the suffering of animals and battery hens. According to MORI poll in May 2016, 12% of Britons don’t eat meat, and over half a million are veggie or vegans (not eating meat, fish and animal products like milk, butter), especially after October 2015 when a study by the International Agency for research on Cancer – an offshoot of World Health Organisation – labelled red and processed meats as ‘probably carcinogenic’. Over half a million now are vegans.
Generally, health conscious British housewives, who go shopping for food to a supermarket, apart from looking for a favourable price at the processed food, will look at the calorie content, anti-oxidants and expiry dates.
Fairly recently, has come a new craze for “Superfoods”, drummed into the consumer housewives by the food industry. There is no official definition of a superfood. These are the outcome from research-funded academics. Many trials are going on without any concrete evidence. The superfood idea exploits well-founded health benefits from eating a healthy diet, having healthy lifestyle choices, which can reduce our risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, stroke and heart attacks.
The food industry is trying to persuade people that eating certain foods can slow down our aging process, lift depression, boost our physical ability, and even sharpen our intelligence. Superfoods are foods that are mostly vegetables with some fish and dairy. They are exactly similar to Meitei pescitarian diet. They are thought to be nutritionally dense. building immunity and extending life.
In Britain, to be a vegetarian was regarded as boring though that is no longer the case. London’s finest vegetarian restaurant is ‘Vanilla Black’ at Holborn, which highlights that ‘you don’t need to be vegetarian to enjoy eating meat-free food’ while cutting back on meat is an option. This year, in London’s central Soho near Piccadilly Circus, the centre for London’s best restaurants and theatres, a veggie restaurant has opened for a trial period, serving 45 new recipes of superfood, including an artichoke, olive baguette, a Mexican avocado flatbread and courgette pot. They are boring stuff and I won’t explain.
The health benefits of vegetarian diet, apart from saving a lot of money, could be a bit exaggerated, as vegetarian Indians including Meiteis perform at such low ebb at the Rio 2016 Olympics , in comparison to meat-eating nations. Eating meat with Superfoods – that is what they are talking about, perhaps accredited with building immunity, preventing cancer and extending life. Only last week, research discovered the superpower of pomegranates that contain a compound that could increase longevity.
There is only one drawback about Superfoods. They are expensive. Experts urge caution about replacing a bad diet by eating one or two superfoods, as the sum of what you eat containing the same nutrients is more important than any individual food. In Manipur we have no problems with the quantity, or pomegranates.
What exactly is superfood? There is no agreed definition in the UK. According to the American Heart Association, there are no set criteria for determining what is and what is not superfood. In 2011, the European Union (EU) banned the term superfood from food labels unless supported by scientific evidence. Britain is now out of EU that once ruled things like all the cucumbers in the supermarket must be straight, but many food brands are still called superfoods from funding academics who research the health benefits of their product.
Superfoods they say, are rich in antioxidants, such as vitamins A,C, E, flavanoids and selenium, as well as in omega-3 fatty acids. Antioxidants (substances such as vitamin C or E that mostly come from fresh fruits and vegetables we eat) remove potentially damaging oxidizing chemicals naturally produced in every living cell and are known to cause cell (tissue) damage. They thus, prevent heart diseases, stroke and cancer. It’s a bit like preventing food from being rotten by moulds that release chemicals to breakdown tissue for their use.
Flavanoids are photochemicals – a group of plant chemicals found in almost all fruits and vegetables that react to sunlight, which along with carotenoids (yellow, orange pigments), are responsible for vivid colours in fruits and vegetables. That’s how tomatoes become red or mangoes yellow in the Sun. They help in detoxification and prevention of cell damage in the body. They help in preventing cancer, heart damage, stroke, asthma, eczema etc. Selenium is a mineral involved in keeping people sane (cognitive functions) and fertility for both men and women. They are found in vegetables such as Brazil nuts and wheatgerm.
Superfoods are meant to improve your health. Therefore, these foods must have and provide certain amounts of good nutrient eg oats contain a substance that lower cholesterol and garlic contains allicin, which can help to improve your immunity.
These latest hypes about superfoods came from a few scientists who isolate the nutrients and then show links studies in animals, showing they prevents this disease and that, but not always supported by reliable evidence. Prof Tim Spector of Kings College, London, who wrote a book – ‘The Diet Myth: The Real Science behind it’, says “They might drop large amounts of these chemicals on cancer cells in a Petri dish and they slow the rate of cancer growing, they may say it could slow the rate of tumour growth, but you have to eat large amounts to get the same effects.”
There has been a recent study on pomegranate at Ecole polytechnique Federal de Lausanne, Switzerland, where researchers fed a molecule found in the fruit – urolithin A – to nematode worms and found it increased their average 10-day lifespan by up to 45%. There has been no research like that on humans.
Here are special assumed benefits from a few samples of fruit-based superfoods such as blueberries (only available imported in India), pomegranates, acai berries (of South American palm tree), dragon fruit and Kiwi, which are particularly dense in certain kinds of nutrients. For example: pomegranates contain ellagitanins (ellagic acid) which has anti-cancer properties. Raspberries also have some of this nutrient. Acai berry (anti-ageing) capsule and in powder forms are commercially available.
Fish-based superfoods, such as trout (ngatol in Manipuri), shrimps or other fatty fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to lower the risks of heart diseases and stroke; plant-based such as beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetables such as kale, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, squash, mustard and radish greens are rich in vitamins A,C and K, as well as fibre, calcium and other minerals. Kale is special as it contains huge amounts of vitamins A, K, and C while giving more calories per gram for gram from other green leafy vegetables.
Green tea, yogurt and olives are also superfoods for a variety of reasons. Blueberries tops the list of superfoods because they are rich in vitamins, soluble fibre, and photochemicals that can reduce the risks of certain heart conditions in young women.
Beans and whole grains are a source of low-fat protein. Beans contain insoluble fibre, which lowers cholesterol; soluble fibre, which make you feel full for longer time; and a lot of vitamins and minerals. Whole grains, unlike refined grains, are not stripped of their nutrient-containing bran and wheatgerm.
Nuts and seeds contain high levels of minerals and ‘healthy’ (monosaturated and polyunsaturated) fats found in vegetable oils such as olive oil, mustard oil, sunflower oil and rapeseed oil. They help to lower cholesterol levels that cause stroke and heart attacks.
We know some aspects of our health are governed by our genes, but our present lifestyle changes can alter our bad genes in a positive way for our future generations.