The glistening seeds of the pomegranate are an irresistible treat for many of us, and that includes diabetics. Typically, diabetics are advised to avoid consuming fruits and juices in high quantities to prevent blood sugar spikes. But several studies now show that diabetics certainly shouldn’t have to resist pomegranates. Both the seeds and the juice of pomegranates can greatly reduce blood sugar, an especially vital function for those with type 2 diabetes. Ayurvedic and Unani practitioners have long been using pomegranates to treat diabetes, and they’re now finding support from breakthrough scientific research. So why are pomegranates good for diabetics?
1. Lower Blood Glucose Levels
Though pomegranates contain sugar, the sugars are attached to antioxidants that lower the blood glucose levels and fight cell damage.
Given that pomegranates, like all other fruits contain sugar, how can they lower blood glucose? Unlike many other fruits that contain sugars in free form, pomegranate sugars are attached to antioxidants. Of these, about 4 antioxidant compounds belonging to the ellagitannin class are believed to help reduce blood sugar.
One particular study tested participants 3 hours after they consumed 1.5 ml pomegranate juice per kg of their body weight. These participants exhibited a significant drop in fasting blood glucose levels.1
Commercially available pomegranate juices that are extracted from the whole fruit and not just the seeds have 3 times as much antioxidants as red wine and green tea.2
Pomegranate antioxidants help your body fight cellular damage caused by reactive molecules called free radicals.
As a diabetic, if your body cannot combat or cope with the reactive free radicals that damage the cells and cause inflammation, it suffers from oxidative stress. Pomegranate antioxidants also reduce the high oxidative stress.3
[Also Read: Is Jaggery Good for Diabetics]
2. Reduce Insulin Resistance
Pomegranates have plant chemicals like tannin and gallic acid that control type 2 diabetes symptoms.
Fresh pomegranate juice increases the function of the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. It also reduces insulin resistance and makes the cells use up insulin more efficiently. As a result, glucose is used up well. This effect, however, is more pronounced in younger patients and those with a low fasting blood glucose level.4 By lowering insulin resistance, pomegranate can also reduce diabetes-induced obesity.
A study attributes these anti-diabetic effects of pomegranates to compounds like punicalagin and gallic, ellagic, oleanolic, uallic, and ursolic acids. Antioxidant polyphenols such as anthocyanins, which give the fruit its rich red color, and tannins in the fruit were also found to be effective in controlling type 2 diabetes.5
[Also Read: Ways Turmeric Can Help Control Your Diabetes]
3. Reduce Bad Cholesterol
There’s another positive angle to eating pomegranates: their antioxidants help prevent the hardening of arteries, a disease known as atherosclerosis.6 One of the causes of atherosclerosis is the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins or LDL cholesterols. So high levels of LDL cholesterol in blood is a risk factor for diabetic patients.
Pomegranate reduces the bad LDL cholesterol significantly. LDLs are linked with the hardening of arteries or atherosclerosis, which lead to heart disease, one of the leading causes of death in diabetics.
This is why atherosclerosis, as well as associated conditions such as heart disease and stroke, is one of the leading causes of death in diabetics. In a study on diabetics with high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in blood, pomegranate juice lowered the amount of LDL cholesterol without affecting the good HDL cholesterol levels.7
4. Reduce Cell Damage By Free Radicals
Because diabetes has become such a major epidemic, it’s crucial to consider alternative treatments. As proven here, pomegranates are a wonderful addition to any diabetic’s diet.
Various other plants and plant derivatives – including tulsi, fenugreek, garlic, and jamun – have been used for centuries to control diabetes and are only now getting the research and support they deserve.8
Pomegranates treat diabetes by reducing cell damage in the body rather than by slowing down the digestion of carbs. Pomegranate juice can raise the natural antioxidant levels in the body of diabetic patients by 141%.
While all these plants function a little differently, most of them work by inhibiting the action of enzymes that aid in the quick digestion of carbohydrates.9 This is in contrast to pomegranates, which actually work by inhibiting the oxidative stress caused by diabetes. In diabetic patients, pomegranate antioxidants can reduce oxidization significantly and increase the levels of glutathione, a natural antioxidant in the body, by 141%.10
Diabetics Can Have 1 Pomegranate A Day
[expert_opinion expertname=’kimberlylackey’ opinion=”This exotic fruit packs a power punch of benefits. Diabetics have long been told to avoid fruits due to the sugar content. However, we know fruits in general are vital for overall health and maintenance of your body. By choosing to eat a pomegranate, patients can avoid insulin issues and gain so much more! Supplements can provide vitamins and minerals as well as the antioxidants found in fruits. When you can eat the real thing — that is a win-win for your body and your taste buds.”]
Keep the intake moderate with 1 pomegranate or a cup of juice a day. It’s always best to have fresh juice, but commercial varieties that use the whole fruit and not just the seeds are good too.
While the study on the effect of pomegranate juice to prevent atherosclerosis used a dose of 50 ml daily, University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that 8–10 oz, that is a 1 cup or a little more than that is safe.11 We recommend 1 pomegranate a day, best mixed into a salad with other fruits suitable for diabetics.
Of course, anytime you’re looking at natural alternatives like pomegranates, it’s important to discuss these options with your health practitioner first, especially if you are on glucose-lowering or blood-thinning medication. Also remember that a healthy diet must be accompanied by yoga asanas and exercises to combat diabetes effectively.
|↑1, ↑4||Banihani, S. A., S. M. Makahleh, Z. El-Akawi, R. A. Al-Fashtaki, O. F. Khabour, M. Y. Gharibeh, N. A. Saadah, F. H. Al-Hashimi, and N. J. Al-Khasieb. “Fresh pomegranate juice ameliorates insulin resistance, enhances β-cell function, and decreases fasting serum glucose in type 2 diabetic patients.” Nutrition Research 34, no. 10 (2014): 862-867.|
|↑2||Gil, Maria I., Francisco A. Tomás-Barberán, Betty Hess-Pierce, Deirdre M. Holcroft, and Adel A. Kader. “Antioxidant activity of pomegranate juice and its relationship with phenolic composition and processing.” Journal of Agricultural and Food chemistry 48, no. 10 (2000): 4581-4589.|
|↑3, ↑10||Rosenblat, Mira, Tony Hayek, and Michael Aviram. “Anti-oxidative effects of pomegranate juice (PJ) consumption by diabetic patients on serum and on macrophages.” Atherosclerosis 187, no. 2 (2006): 363-371.|
|↑5||Banihani, Saleem, Samer Swedan, and Ziyad Alguraan. “Pomegranate and type 2 diabetes.” Nutrition research 33, no. 5 (2013): 341-348.|
|↑6||Aviram, Michael, and Leslie Dornfeld. “Pomegranate juice consumption inhibits serum angiotensin converting enzyme activity and reduces systolic blood pressure.” Atherosclerosis 158, no. 1 (2001): 195-198.|
|↑7||Esmaillzadeh, Ahmad, Farideh Tahbaz, Iraj Gaieni, Hamid Alavi-Majd, and Leila Azadbakht. “Cholesterol-lowering effect of concentrated pomegranate juice consumption in type II diabetic patients with hyperlipidemia.” International journal for vitamin and nutrition research 76, no. 3 (2006): 147-151.|
|↑8||Modak, Manisha, Priyanjali Dixit, Jayant Londhe, Saroj Ghaskadbi, and Thomas Paul A. Devasagayam. “Indian herbs and herbal drugs used for the treatment of diabetes.” Journal of clinical biochemistry and nutrition 40, no. 3 (2007): 163-173.|
|↑9||Tundis, R., M. R. Loizzo, and F. Menichini. “Natural products as α-amylase and α-glucosidase inhibitors and their hypoglycaemic potential in the treatment of diabetes: an update.” Mini reviews in medicinal chemistry 10, no. 4 (2010): 315-331.|
|↑11||Pomegranate. University of Maryland School of Medicine|