“Tis a tough season for your health . . . especially heart health.

Rich foods beckon . . . fitness routines fall to the wayside . . . and the stress of shopping, year-end to-do’s and socializing just adds to the mix.

But there are plenty of ways to give your heart that extra support it needs this month. And the beautiful, blood-red pomegranate is one.

A Heart Health Powerhouse

Researchers can’t help but get excited when it comes to pomegranate and heart health. In an article published in Alternative Therapies in 2008, noted herbalist, James Duke pointed out that pomegranate supports your heart in not just one – but ten different ways.

Among these is the way pomegranate helps you maintain a healthy blood flow. This is critical for heart health since the more easily blood moves around inside you, the less work for your heart.

So how does this lovely fruit keep the blood moving?

To find out, let’s go on a little kayak ride through your arteries…

Inside Your Arteries

Ideally, your blood should follow a nice smooth course. Like a river following a strong current. The consistent flow keeps the walls of your arteries smooth, the cells stretched out and relaxed. You can paddle along nicely here.

But in places where a turn in the path or obstruction hampers the flow, the blood gets a little turbulent and slows down. It even pools up a bit. These areas are where stuff tends to accumulate. Just like the silt and debris that build up along the curves and eddies of a river, gunk like cholesterol collects where the blood flow starts to creep.

And it gets worse.

When the cholesterol sitting there gets oxidized, it triggers a chain of events. The oxidized cholesterol signals an inflammation response. Immune cells like macrophages migrate to the trouble spot along with even more cholesterol.

And the cells in the artery wall change themselves. They become bulky and divide more frequently, making the artery wall even thicker.

Adding to the mess, the artery cells in these trouble spots stop producing an important molecule – nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps your artery wall cells to relax and protects them against oxidation.

With time, this area in your arteries thickens and accumulates materials to form a plaque.

Keeping The Blood Moving

Researchers have found pomegranate helps keeps your arteries healthy and blood flowing freely in four ways:

1.  Pomegranate keeps your cholesterol levels healthy.  Truth is, cholesterol has gotten a bad rap. Your body uses it for repair, building hormones, vitamin D and more. But still, you don’t want too much of it in your blood since it can add to the debris accumulation described above. In one study, within 8 weeks pomegranate helped the participants maintain healthy total cholesterol levels and low-density cholesterol levels.

2.  Pomegranate helps artery walls stay healthy and flexible.  The Journal of Clinical Nutrition published one study that tracked 19 people over the course of a year. The ten participants who took pomegranate juice regularly experienced a reduction of artery wall thickness by 30%. The group not taking pomegranate had an increased thickness of 9%.

3.  Pomegranate’s antioxidant power prevents cholesterol oxidation.  In this same study, participants ended up with 90% less oxidized cholesterol than they did when they started taking pomegranate juice a year earlier. Pomegranate offers more antioxidant protection than blueberries, green tea or red wine.

4.  Pomegranate seems to support healthy levels of nitric oxide in your arteries, allowing the arteries to relax.  In preliminary animal studies, researchers at the School of Medicine in Naples, Italy saw a 50% increase in nitric oxide levels in those slow-flow spots after the mice in the experiment had pomegranate juice or extract. Pomegranate seems to both protect nitric oxide from oxidation and increase its production.

While both pomegranate juice and pomegranate extract provided this healthy support, the extract with the polyphenol punicalagin seems to work especially well.

So keep up your healthy habits for this season strewn with heart hazards. Enjoy some treats . . . but in moderation. Try to squeeze in a little exercise. Keep your schedule as simple as possible.

And then add some pomegranate to this mix. It will help keep you and your heart healthy into the New Year.

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