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Pomegranate: An Antioxidant-Rich Superfood That Trumps Green Tea

Antioxidants in Pomegranate vs Green Tea

When we think of antioxidants, we often think of green tea antioxidants like the famous catechins, or anthocyanins which give superfoods like acai berries their strong antioxidant properties. But the catechins in green tea and the anthocyanins in berries are just a few of the different types of antioxidant compounds found in foods. The pomegranate, for example, is one of the best sources of ellagic acid derivatives, in addition to being a good source of a number of other antioxidants such as anthocyanins and vitamin C. Considering the broad antioxidant profile of the pomegranate, it is not surprising that this bright crimson superfood ranks as one of the best natural sources of antioxidants.

Pomegranate Juice vs Green Tea

In an intriguing study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a group of researchers evaluated the antioxidant activity of pomegranate juice using four different methods (ABTS, DPPH, DMPD, and FRAP) and compared it to the antioxidant activity of green tea and red wine. What they found was that commercial pomegranate juices had antioxidant activity three times higher than that of green tea and red wine. Also experimental juices extracted from pomegranate arils in a laboratory showed significantly higher antioxidant activity than green tea and red wine. However, the experimental juices did not quite reach the level of antioxidant activity of the commercial juices extracted from whole pomegranates, probably due to the higher levels of the ellagitannin punicalagin found in pomegranate rind.

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Also Cell Culture Studies Support the Status of Pomegranate as an Antioxidant-Rich Food

The chemical assays ABTS, DPPH, DMPD and FRAP that were used in the above-described study to measure the antioxidant capacity of pomegranate juice and green tea are among the most common assays used to evaluate the antioxidant capacity of foods and drinks; however, they do have some limitations. The main problem with these chemical assays is that they are not reliable in predicting to what extent an antioxidant substance can attenuate free radical production or cope with oxidative stress in living cells. By contrast, cell-based assays, such as the cellular antioxidant activity (CAA) assay, take into account the ability of the substance to neutralize free radicals in cell cultures, and as such, they provide an excellent complement to chemical assays.

So, the question is: how does the pomegranate fare against other so-called superfoods in terms of CAA?

In a groundbreaking study published in the September 2008 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a group of researchers measured the CAA values of 25 fruits commonly consumed in the United States and found that wild blueberries and pomegranate had the strongest antioxidant activity as measured by the CAA assay, whereas banana and melons had the lowest CAA values among the tested fruits.

And, those who have been drinking green tea in an effort to increase their antioxidant intake, don't need to worry, either: an Italian study published in the June 2015 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Nutrafoods found that green, white and black tea extracts are successfully absorbed into human cells, with green tea having the highest CAA value, followed by white and black teas.

Studies cited:
S. Ozgen and S. Sekerci (2011). Effect of leaf position on the distribution of phytochemicals and antioxidant capacity among green and red lettuce cultivars. Spanish Journal of Agricultural Research, 9(3), 801-809.
B. Mou (2009). Nutrient Content of Lettuce and its Improvement. Current Nutrition & Food Science, 5(4), 242-248(7).

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