2007-09-14 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

By Dr. Nancy Gahles

DR. NANCY GAHLES DR. NANCY GAHLES The only information "byte" that I had stored about pomegranates was that they were called Chinese apples. Why? I had no clue. I had never eaten a pomegranate in my life 1) because they were never served in my culinary world and 2) what do you do with all those seeds?

As I was preparing my menu for Rosh Hashanah, I read that pomegranates are traditionally eaten on the second night of Rosh Hashanah, as they serve as the "new fruit" - a fruit not yet eaten this season. Not having grown up in a Jewish household, I would have never known this, but for the Internet. The article further explained the seeds. Pomegranates supposedly contain 613 seeds. Jews display their desire to fulfill God's 613 mitzvah (commandments from the Torah) by eating the pomegranate.

Apart from their lore and the feasting on them, pomegranates do have a host of health benefits. According to research reported in the September 2005 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, eight ounces of pomegranate juice, daily for three months, improved the outcomes of patients with coronary heart disease by increasing the amount of oxygen to the heart muscle. The Journal of Urology, July 2005, reported some positive effects on erectile dysfunction with long-term consumption of pomegranate juice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 26, 2005, found improved survival and tumor decrease in mice treated with pomegranate extract. These findings offer promise in the treatment and possible prevention of prostate and breast cancers. Scientists at Case Western Reserve University observed reduction in inflammation in human tissue cultures, along with decreased activity in the enzymes that break down cartilage, thus offering hope for arthritis sufferers. Pomegranate juice can interfere with some medications, in the same way that grapefruit juice does, and so caution is advised when you are on prescription medication. Always discuss possible interactions with your physician.

One of pomegranate's many health benefits is the properties of the oils in the seeds of the fruit. They contain punic acid, an omega-5 that hydrates and prevents moisture loss. Ann Marie Fine, N.M.D., writes in Natural Health magazine, October 2007, that "pomegranate is a great antioxidant. It can help prevent hyperpigmentation and wrinkles and promote elasticity." Now THAT is a mitzvah!

Several products that Dr. Fine recommends for skin care are Origins Pomegranate Wash ($16.50; origins. com); Olay Firming Reviver Body Lotion ($11 at drugstores).

There is evidence that combining pomegranate extract with common sunscreen ingredients may increase the effectiveness of the sunscreen as much as 20 percent, according to Howard Murad, M.D. Some products are Murad Oil-Free Sunblock SPF 30 ($30;murad.com) and Juice Beauty SPF 30 Sheer Moisturizer ($29;juicebeauty. com).

Products that reduce wrinkles are Desert Essence Age Reversal Pomegranate Eye Serum ($15; desertessence. com) and Naturopathica Environmental Defense Mask ($56.;nat uropathica.com).

It is a breath of fresh air to read magazines such as Natural Health that provide us with quality information about natural plant and food sources that prevent and reverse disease. It is in direct counterpoint to the continual bombardment by the media that we need a drug for every "condition" that the pharmaceutical company manufactures and provides a catchy acronym for.

Eating consciously, planning menus that contain foods that are known to have health-giving properties that enhance your particular physical state, is what is known as using common sense. It is also called creating health, when you apprise yourself of the issues that you are susceptible to and address them with diet, exercise and stress reduction techniques that fit your lifestyle. It is generally accepted that most chronic diseases can be managed by diet and exercise.

Proactive, folks. That is always my watchword. Look, listen and learn about alternatives in healthcare. Be a co-creator of your health by assembling a team of like-minded professionals to assist you in your journey of healing. In this New Year, I am grateful that I came upon the gifts of the pomegranate, simply by picking up a magazine. I then became proactive and researched it further and on the second day of Rosh Hashana, the pomegranate will grace my table.

One of the blessings, the Shehechiyanu, ends with this:

May it be your will, Lord our God, God of our forebears, that our merits increase like the seeds of a pomegranate.

May The Blessings Be!!

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