Eating Pomegranates for Optimal Gut Health
Pomegranates for Optimal Gut Health
November is National Pomegranate Month, so it’s a perfect time to reflect on why this fruit is so valuable to support gut health. When we think about health, we must consider the health of the gut. We cannot create a healthy environment if the gut health is impaired in any way.
These bright red, juicy pomegranate seeds are full of flavour and work just as well in savoury and sweet dishes. Yes, they can be tricky to prize away from their shell, but the effort is well worth it!
Pomegranate seeds are rich in fibre essential for bowel regularity and generally keeping the gut healthy. They are predominantly rich in insoluble fibre due to the high cellulose content adding bulk to the stools and helping to maintain good transit time. A typical serving (80g) provides 4.5g fibre.
We know that most adults do not achieve anywhere near the amount of fibre required for the gut and overall health. The average UK fibre intake is 18g, which is just 60% of the recommended 30g!
But pomegranate seeds also contain other plant compounds that scientists are discovering are extremely valuable to our gut in different ways.
Pomegranate seeds are rich in polyphenols, including anthocyanins. These are metabolites which are produced by plants in response to a pathogenic attack or ultraviolet light. In other words, they act as a protective mechanism to the plant. Scientists are discovering that these compounds also have a very protective role in humans too.
How do polyphenols help protect the gut against disease?
Most human diseases are driven by excess inflammation and oxidative stress.
Too much oxidation damages our cells and can create inflammation too. Together this inflammation damages the cells lining the gut which can lead to intestinal permeability or a weakened gut mucosal barrier making it harder for beneficial bacteria to thrive and grow.
Pomegranate seeds are anti-oxidant rich, protecting the gut from excess oxidation and inflammation.
Polyphenols and the Gut Microbiome
Research has shown how polyphenol compounds feed the good bacteria, which in turn create beneficial metabolites like butyrate (a short chain fatty acid). Polyphenols pass through the digestive tract unaltered by digestive enzymes and reach the colon intact, where they can selectively act as prebiotics – fuel to certain bacterial species.
They produce metabolites like butyrate which are necessary to keep the gut barrier robust, reduce gut inflammation and create an environment to nourish and support the growth of the bacteria population as a whole.
Our role as humans is to actively feed these beneficial bacteria (that in turn actively work to keep us healthy) and eating a diet rich in polyphenols is an excellent place to start.
Where else can I find these polyphenols?
Polyphenols are naturally rich in bright-coloured fruit and vegetables. Some of the best sources other than pomegranates are: blueberries, cherries, apples, dark chocolate (in moderation), green tea, red wine (in moderation of course!), plums and black rice.
Aim to eat a selection of these every day. These fruits and vegetables are key components of my gut protocols, and you’ll usually find a pot of pomegranate in my fridge. I add it to coconut yogurt and nuts and seeds as one of my breakfast choices, or often to my salads.
Do make sure you add these to your shopping basket too.
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