Why should we care about demyelination?

This post is a summary of two recent posts:

  • Good News/Bad News about Multiple sclerosis Research (7/26/2018) 
  • Demyelination, continued. (7/28/2018) 

Why Care about Demyelination? 

We need to care about demyelination as a society because it may be a factor underlying many conditions that have been occurring at increasing rates. The high cost of health care is not just due to the cost of individual medications or the price of hospitalization but is due to the additive cost of increased numbers of individuals needing care. Autism care alone is estimated to likely reach $500 billion by 2025 for care in the U.S. alone, (link), demyelination or disordered myelin formation is thought to be involved. Our food supply may provide calories but it may no longer be supporting health due to imbalance in some nutrients and lack of sufficient amounts of other nutrients – in addition to personal choices for some people leaning toward convenient and tasty foods that provide very few nutrients besides calories.

The other reason to care about demyelination as a society is because the early symptoms can occur for years without clear reasons and may disrupt relationships or the ability to hold a job – personality changes including anxiety and anger, paranoia and a short temper – problems with impulse control and the ability to follow through on planned actions or with communication and the ability to tell the truth instead of substituting other statements that may seem illogical and obviously far from the truth. Problems with impulse control and a tendency toward mood problems may also include an increased risk for suicide or self injury or violence towards others.

The medical research is complex and I haven’t seen all the loose threads together yet, so I will summarize my summary points in a more concise list here and am working on a more organized document elsewhere. This list combines my tips from the previous post with the work of the other summary article (22) — I was also given the link to another summary article which also has tips which I have not incorporated here. It provides an excellent overview about myelin production and function –selfhacked/myelin – what I and the authors of (22) and {selfhacked} have in common is that we all got sick and sought information about regaining our health for ourselves and are sharing the information in case it might help others.

My personal goal is to not become paralyzed (post: ALS & CBD receptors), number of clicks on a website is not something I pay attention to. The loose threads that I’ve woven together in this series of posts which are not included in the excellent selfhacked article are that a) many of the herbs or phytonutrients found helpful for myelin regeneration are Nrf2 promoting which is also important for myelin regeneration and/or reducing oxidative stress that may lead to more degeneration of myelin. b) Foods that are good for promoting Nrf2 often are also good sources of cannabinoids or phospholipids which can be protective. c) And preventing excessive cell death or excess intracellular calcium may decrease the excess production of cytokines by decreasing release of cannabinoids from cell membrane storage and their breakdown into arachidonic acid and eventual transformation into cytokines and other inflammatory chemicals.}: 

Strategies to help prevent the breakdown of myelin or help promote regeneration of myelin:

{In the past at different points in time, I personally have experienced and improved with supplementation or diet changes physical and mental symptoms of vitamin B1, B5, B6, folate and B12 deficiencies; iodine, magnesium, calcium and zinc deficiencies; vitamin/hormone D and calcium excess at a different stage of health;  cannabinoid/phospholipid deficiency; inadequate protein and general malnutrition due to the zinc deficiency which can greatly reduce appetite at one stage and due to severe bowel mal-absorption more recently; omega 3 fatty acid/omega 6 fatty acid imbalance; and also lack of sleep/melatonin and lack of oxygen/excess toxins in the air; health requires all of the nutrients and adequate oxygen, exercise, sleep and stress coping.}

  1. Vitamin B1, thiamin deficiency, chronic, severe – Wernicke’s encephalopathy may be more of a risk for severe alcoholics and people with anorexia – severe lack of appetite or the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. 
  2. Vitamin B12 deficiency – may be more of a risk for people with low stomach acidity, due to older age or chronic use of calcium type antacids; or due to genetic reasons limiting production of Intrinsic Factor; or due to a vegan diet without supplementation of vitamin B12 or inclusion of Nutritional yeast flakes in the diet. 
  3. Zinc deficiency (22) or copper  excess (link). 
  4. Adequate but not excessive lithium may increase myelin production. (22) 
  5. Adequate but not excessive iron intake is needed for production of myelin. 
  6. Magnesium deficiency or poor intestinal absorption of magnesium, or lack of adequate protein and phospholipids in the diet for the body to be able to store magnesium in the normal manner within the intracellular fluid. 
  7. Inadequate calcium or vitamin D can be a factor but excessive intake of either can also be a factor in cell breakdown and risk of demyelination. If taking vitamin D as a supplement the vitamin D3 form may be most bioactive and taking vitamin K2 with it may help with myelin production (22) and protect against osteoporosis. Green leafy vegetables are good sources of vitamin K. 
  8. Adequate intake of cholesterol is needed as a building block for our own production of vitamin D and other steroid hormones and as a building block for myelin. (22) Pregnenolone is a steroid hormone precursor that may benefit some people when used as a supplement. It and other steroid hormones are involved in signaling increased production of myelin. Testosterone insufficiency may also negatively affect myelin production. (22) 
  9. Excessive intake of free glutamate or aspartate – excitatory amino acids that are commonly used as flavoring or sweetening agents in foods or may occur naturally in fermented foods or alcoholic beverages. 
  10. Adequate protein is needed to support a variety of body functions in addition to supporting magnesium levels. Uridine is a nucleotide base (part of DNA that is a combination of a type of sugar and an amino acid) that is also is involved in energy metabolism, fasting occasionally may increase our own production (more info). Insufficient amounts may negatively affect myelin production and use as a supplement may help some people. (22) 
  11. Insufficient calories to provide the body enough glucose to support mitochondrial health. They can use protein or fats for energy but it shifts the metabolism more towards oxidative stress. 
  12. Occasional fasting and/or a low carbohydrate diet may help promote autophagy due to increased use of ketones for energy (22) but may cause health problems due to excess oxidative stress or an increased burden of nitrogen waste removal for the kidneys when followed long term. 
  13. Lack of antioxidants due to lack of Nrf2 within the body to promote our own production of antioxidants internally; and/or lack of antioxidants within the diet, including vitamin C, (22), would decrease our ability to detoxify the reactive oxidative chemicals produced during normal metabolism or which are produced at increased rates when protein or fats are being used for energy instead of glucose. 
  14. Use of the herb ashwagandha or Gingko biloba (22) may help protect against oxidative stress and protect against demyelination by promoting Nrf2. (ashwagandha & Nrf2) (an overview of Nrf2 metabolism, its potential benefits for conditions such as Multiple sclerosis, and Gingko biloba and pomegranate are mentioned as promoters of Nrf2: nutricology/newsletter, see first article) (other Nrf2 promoting phytonutrients/foods and menu ideas: G10: Nrf2 Promoting Foods.) Flavonoids are one of the groups of phytonutrients that helps promote Nrf2; and also may help protect myelin production. (22) Medicinal mushrooms, including Hericium Erinaceus, Lion’s Mane Mushroom,(22), may also help protect myelin production and prevent breakdown by reducing oxidative stress (link) and promoting Nrf2. (link) 
  15. Having a healthy balance of omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids in the diet helps reduce risk of inflammation/oxidative stress and also helps us build healthy membranes which are necessary to control flow of minerals and other chemicals from the exterior to interior of cells and organelles such as the mitochondria. 
  16. Inadequate iodine for healthy thyroid hormone production, (22); may be a combined problem of excess presence of bromide, fluoride and perchlorate in the diet or environment. 
  17. Lack of oxygen due to poor air quality, or smoking, or health problems causing inadequate breathing function. Emotional or physical stress may also increase the need for oxygen or increase the tendency to hold our breath; Take ten deep breaths and think before you speak is good advice for any emotionally stressful situation because oxygen is needed to think rationally and we tend to hold our breath when we are upset. 
  18. Avoid extreme physical and emotional stress. 
  19. Avoid toxins. 
  20. Get adequate sleep at night, and a brief nap during the day may be beneficial for some people. Melatonin helps promote myelin production and inadequate sleep and having lights on at night can disrupt our production of melatonin. (22) 
  21. Adequate exercise (22) and stretching regularly helps move nutrients throughout the body and remove toxins in the lymphatic fluid for further detoxification and eventual removal from the body. 
  22. Wear a helmet for any activity that may cause head trauma and avoid sports which may cause frequent closed head trauma and especially when helmets are not used (sorry soccer, football, hockey, (link), and boxing fans). 
  23. Adequate phospholipid and other phosphonutrients or cannabinoids may be necessary to include from external sources if genetic differences or other health problems or age interferes with the body’s internal production capability. Dark cocoa products, cardamom powder, pomegranate and pumpkin seeds are a few legal dietary sources. 
  24. Use of ibuprofen and/or ginger (approximately 1/2 teaspoon per day) may help prevent breakdown of our body’s supply of cannabinoids, breakdown of which may then lead to increased breakdown of cells and may then lead to increased degeneration of myelin. 
  25. Lack of any B vitamins or genetic differences in the ability to remethylate folate and vitamin B12 may disrupt the ability of mitochondria to generate usable energy from glucose or proteins and fats, and may reduce production of myelin. (22) Inositol and choline may be particularly important for myelin production. They are considered to be in the B vitamin group but was discovered more recently than the numbered series of B vitamins. (22) 
  26. Low Level Laser Therapy – I am not familiar with this, see #10: (22), but I have read elsewhere that certain types of light can stimulate activity levels. (Haier) 
  27. Practice, practice, practice – new things. (22) Myelin is produced in response to learning [45] so remaining mentally stimulated with new experiences and learning new topics or techniques keeps signalling the body to produce myelin.  
  28. Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor, (BDNF), the brain’s growth factor, may help increase production of myelin by increasing production of brain cells, which include oligodendrocytes. (22) Ways to promote BDNF (link, from within 22) fortunately overlap with the strategies for protecting against demyelination already mentioned above or included in the list of Nrf2 promoting foods. 
  29. Reducing exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) – energy leakage from laptops, smartphones, WiFi, televisions, and other strong sources of electicity may help protect against myelin degeneration. (22) 

References and more details for some of this information were included in the last two posts:  

  • Good News/Bad News about Multiple sclerosis Research (7/26/2018) 
  • Demyelination, continued. (7/28/2018) 

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./  

Make every day Kidney Appreciation Day

In case you missed World Kidney Day (March 8) today is a good day to appreciate kidney health. The pair of kidneys or single kidney clean the body of daily acidic waste from metabolism and dietary sources and remove other excess minerals and toxins. Adequate water is essential for kidney health as dehydration can cause damage that may not be reversible.

The amount of water a person needs per day varies with the size of the person and the amount of heat, humidity and exercise they experience throughout their day. The eight cups per day for an average person is just an estimate based on typical conditions and average size. Dr. Batmanghelidj specialized in water needs for chronic illness or general health and his rough guideline for adults was to aim to drink ounces of water per day equal to half your body weight (in pounds), so a 150 pound adult might benefit from drinking 75 ounces of water per day ~ about 9 cups of water. The fluid content of herbal tea, juice, milk, or soup would be helping reach the goal, while a diuretic type fluid like coffee or caffeinated black or green teas, or alcoholic beverages would not. His book is older and the validity of some of his theories have been questioned but as a fairly easy to follow overview of the importance of water to health, it is helpful. (Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, pdf)

For more information on the chemistry of water see the collected work on the topic by Martin Chaplin (Water Structure Science), a review of inorganic, organic and biochemistry and physics will be helpful first –  I’ve only read a few sections and it is fascinating but slow going. The author explains with enough detail and graphs that even lacking the review of the college courses some of the information can be understood.

For more information on healthy diet for general health or aging and the prevention of chronic kidney or vascular disease see the recently published article about nutrition for health written by a nephrologist. A recent review of organic and biochemistry will be helpful but again some of the basic concepts can be picked up from the thorough description of the issues that may be causing chronic illness and chronic kidney disease.

The summary points – excess protein and sodium and acid producing foods is tasking on the kidneys and may increase risk of chronic illness while adequate to plentiful amounts of potassium rich vegetables and fruit is protective.

How much is considered excess protein?: “The average American consumes 1.2 gm protein/kg/day [23], exceeding the recommended intake (~0.8–1.0 gm/kg/day) for a healthy adult.” (1)

Math – the 150 pound average person is about 68 kilograms (kg) and is averaging an intake of 82 grams of protein per day (1.2 gm/kg/day) instead of the recommended range of 54.4-68 grams per day. For perspective to daily meals – 8 ounces of milk contains about 8 grams of protein, one ounce of meat or one egg or a half cup of beans, about 7 grams, one piece of bread, about 2-3 grams. (Protein content of foods, Today’s Dietitian)

Second only to anyone who doesn’t keep children in cages – nephrologists (kidney/renal health specialists) are my favorite people. The author of the article is saying with a lot of detail that prevention is the best medicine. Treat yourself to healthy habits and you may be lucky enough to never need to meet a nephrologist as a patient. Diets for kidney dialysis patients are extremely restrictive.

Mark your calendars – World Kidney Day 2019 is planned for March 14th. (World Kidney Day)

  1. Qi Qian, Dietary Influence on Body Fluid Acid-Base and Volume Balance: The Deleterious “Norm” Furthers and Cloaks Subclinical Pathophysiology, Nutrients 2018, 10(6), 778; Open Access, http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/6/778/htm  (1)
  2. Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, M.D., Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, Global Health Solutions, Inc.; Third Ed. (November 1, 2008), https://www.amazon.com/Your-Bodys-Many-Cries-Water/dp/0970245882/ (2), http://www.cci-coral-club.okis.ru/file/cci-coral-club/knigi/FereydoonBatmanghelidj_Your_Bodys_Many_Cries_for_Water_eng.pdf (pdf)
  3. Martin Chaplin, BSc, PhD, CChem, FRSC, Water Structure Science: a website concerned with the physical, chemical and biological properties of water., London South Bank University, (Water Structure Science)   http://www1.lsbu.ac.uk/water/water_structure_science.html (3
  4. Protein Content of Foods, webinar pdf, Today’s Dietitian, (Protein content of foods, Today’s Dietitian)   http://www.todaysdietitian.com/pdf/webinars/ProteinContentofFoods.pdf (4)
  5. World Kidney Day 2019, cute-calendar.com, (World Kidney Dayhttps://www.cute-calendar.com/event/world-kidney-day/33701.html (5)

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes. Thanks.

Pomegranate health benefits, serving size and extract recipe summary

For ease of use, a summary of the links and information available about health benefits of pomegranate seeds, juice and peel; serving size information that is based on animal based research studies and my own use of different pomegranate ingredients; and a concise recipe for the pomegranate peel extract recipe that I’ve developed.

Health benefits of pomegranate:

Pomegranate extract has been studied in animal based research to examine in more detail how it helps hypertensive blood pressure problems and reduce oxidative stress. The mechanism was found to involve increasing Nrf2. The formation of mitochondria increased, and their function improved. Before treatment the hypertensive animals had fewer of the specialized proteins that are involved in production of mitochondria. Mitochondria are the cellular organelles primarily responsible for turning blood sugar/glucose into usable energy. (5)

This study uses a pomegranate extract that incorporates the peel, seeds and juice as all contain the bioactive phytonutrient, punicalagin, thought to be most helpful for anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and anti-diabetic effects. The animals who received the extract were found to have better blood pressure, reduced heart hypertrophy ( a sign of worse heart health) and a lower heart rate. Neuronal/nerve cell activity and oxidative stress markers were decreased in the experimental treatment group compared to the control group which received a saline solution and no pomegranate extract. Angiotensin converting enzyme which is involved in blood pressure control was lower in the experimental group  that received pomegranate extract and may be the mechanism for the lower blood pressure. Pro-inflammatory cytokines were reduced in the experimental group after treatment, an indication that hypertensive inflammation was reduced. The pomegranate extract treatment led to increased levels of phosphorylated AMPK which then leads to an increase in Nrf2 and its resulting increases in antioxidant proteins which protect against injury and inflammation from oxidative stress chemicals. (5)

Serving size that might be needed for general health or for special health needs:

Animal based research used a range  of 1 – 10 grams/kilogram for 8 weeks was found to be beneficial for treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (6); which for a human sized person might be equivalent to a  a quarter to a half cup to a couple cups per day. (See this post for more details) The larger dose would likely be most beneficial used in smaller amounts throughout the day or in a couple portions. For example: Half a cup per day might be used for someone who is less ill and someone with more severe illness or genetic needs such as myself (I can’t make phospholipids and the pomegranate seeds and peel are a source) might use up to a half a cup every three to four hours throughout the hours spent awake – or whatever helped the symptoms. If every cell of the body needs the substances, every hour of the twenty-four, then one dose one time per day might leave the body under-treated for most of the 24 hours and only relieve symptoms for a few hours. The peel extract has a diuretic effect so using it earlier in the day and having a few extra glasses of water is mentioned in more detail later in this section.

I have found 1/3 to 1/2 cup of fresh seeds or pomegranate juice per day to help relieve my symptoms of anxiety and finger numbness (similar to Raynaud’s Disease but no diagnosis). Other patient forum feedback suggests one capsule of commercially available pomegranate juice concentrate was also helpful for Raynaud’s disease finger numbness or pain. (Avoiding letting the hands get too cold also can help prevent the condition from feeling as painful rather than just being a constant numbness in the fingertips.)

If I have pomegranate extract on hand I use a few tablespoons to about  1/3 cup per day and find it even more beneficial for relieving symptoms of anxiety or nerve numbness. However it has a diuretic effect so it is better to use it earlier in the day rather than at dinnertime and to have plenty of water or other water based beverages early in the day so sleep isn’t interrupted with a need to relieve the bladder. It is important to drink a little extra water or the urge to urinate can be painful and produce little flow. The body removes acidity by making a more concentrated urine – so add water yourself or a dilute juice or herbal tea and the kidneys will also be removing other toxins too which may increase health benefits.

Dried powdered pomegranate seeds are available at some India food grocery stores or websites look for a small box labeled Anardana. It seems to be a dried powder of the whole seeds and it is gritty and tart with a fruit flavor. I added a couple tablespoons to a batch of soup and that seemed to soften the gritty effect. It was good added after cooking, giving a nice tartness but there was a slight gritty texture occasionally, not too noticeable though. Anardana Powder, dried pomegranate seed powder – an example of the product is available online:

  • Yogijis.co.nz      Phone:  (03) 390 3434      Email: orders@yogijis.nz
  • Anardana Powder, Powder of Dried Pomegranate Seeds: net Wt. 100 g//3.5 oz for $3.99

An organic pomegranate juice concentrate is also available in the same quantity for a larger price. That seems like a lot of money for a 3.5 oz package which is slightly less than a half cup amount, unless you were comparing it to prepared capsules of a pomegranate product which might cost 20 to 30 dollars for one bottle of capsules:

  • Matakanasuperfoods.com, PO Box 18, Matakana 0948 New Zealand / Physical address: 108 Omaha Flats Rd. Auckland, New Zealand, Phone: 09 422 9618    Outside New Zealand:  +64 9 422 9618
  • Organic Pomegranate Juice Powder, 100g, $NZ 29,95

Sumac and Za’atar

A spice commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking and readily available at Middle Eastern grocery market may provide some similar health benefits to pomegranate. It is a dried powdered form of Sumac that has a lemony flavor. it is typically sprinkled on food individually at the table alone or in a mix with salt or with a few other spices and sesame seeds in a mixture called za’atar (link). I have found that using more than a half teaspoon  can cause the diuretic effect similar to the pomegranate extract’s effects. Studies on health benefits of Sumac have found benefit for a number of inflammatory conditions so using some in small amounts daily may have preventative health benefits against oxidative stress.

Pomegranate Extract Recipe  and Spicy variation:

Pomegranate Extract, basic recipe:

  • Peel and inner membrane of two pomegranates
  • Two to three cups of water
  • Two Tablespoons of Coconut oil
  1. Rinse the pomegranates before separating the seeds from the peel. Cutting the rind about a quarter inch deep in six sections can make it easier to open and remove the seeds. Save the juicy seeds for use fresh or place in a freezer container and store in the freezer for later use. Trim the peel to remove any spoiled or discolored spots on the outer peel or inner membranes. Discard. Rinse the remaining peel and chop into quarter to half inch sections.
  2. In a soup or stock pot place the chopped peel, water and coconut oil and bring to a gentle simmer and turn down the heat to continue at a gentle simmer. Try not to reach a vigorous boiling point. Simmer the mixture for 20-30 minutes while stirring occasionally to prevent the fibrous slightly sweet membrane particles from sticking to the pan.
  3. Remove from heat and strain the liquid into another large pan or bowl. The peel and membrane fiber is pulpy and can be rinsed with additional water to increase yield of the pulpy extract. Add one cup warm water and stir and strain the pulp and then add another one cup warm water, stir and strain, and maybe one or two more cups until the liquid seems more water like instead of a slightly thickened pale pinkish or creamy yellow color.
  4. Store the pomegranate extract in the refridgerator if it will be used in other recipes within a few days or freeze the excess in small containers for gradual use.
  5. It is very acidic and using a couple spoonfuls per day added to a soup or salad in place of lemon juice or vinegar can be a tasty way to use it. Diluting a few spoonfuls to 1/3 cup with an additional 2/3 cup of water or regular juice of some sort and adding a pinch of baking soda  can make it tolerable as a beverage. One third cup per day should provide adequate health benefits for someone using it for that purpose.

Pomegranate Extract made with dehydrated pomegranate peel

Repeat the above steps using pomegranate peel and membrane that had been prepared and diced into 1/4-1/2 inch sections and dehydrated for long term storage – planning ahead for when pomegranates were no longer in season. One pomegranate peel/membrane produced approximately 30 grams of dried peel and which measured at slightly less than a 1/2 cup of dried pieces loosely packed. Per one pomegranate amount of peel, add one tablespoon of coconut oil and 2 cups of water, and  simmer for 20-30 minutes on low heat. After straining the heated peel I rinsed the peel with two cups of water poured over it gradually while stirring. The yield was three cups of pomegranate extract.

Spicy Pomegranate Extract, Slightly less acidic and slightly thickened and emulsified Spicy:

  • 6 cups of pomegranate extract  (previous post)
  • 2 Tablespoons Cardamom powdered spice
  • 1 teaspoon Gumbo File powdered spice (Sassafras Leaves, powdered and used in Gumbo soups or stews in Creole style cooking)
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
  1. Add the Cardamom and Gumbo File to the Pomegranate Extract and stir well to break apart any dry lumps of the powdered spices. The Gumbo File acts as an emulsifier and is a digestive aid and the Cardamom adds flavor, phytonutrients and would help alkalize the mixture in addition to the alkalizing power of the Baking Soda.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Add the Baking Soda and stir. Remove the mixture from the heat and keep stirring. It will froth up and stirring helps keep it from frothing over the top of the pan. The color changes from pinkish to brown from the Cardamom spice.
  4. To drink as a beverage dilute with equal parts water to Pomegranate Extract.

 

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

References:

  • Claude Prigent, Editor, Protein Phosphorylation, Publisher: InTech, Chapters published November 29, 2017 under CC BY 3.0 licenseInTechOpen.com, https://www.intechopen.com/books/protein-phosphorylation (4)
  • Wenyan Sun, Chunhong Yan, Bess Frost, Xin Wang, Chen Hou, Mengqi Zeng, Hongli Gao, Yuming Kang,and Jiankang Liu,

    Pomegranate extract decreases oxidative stress and alleviates mitochondrial impairment by activating AMPK-Nrf2 in hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus of spontaneously hypertensive rats., Sci Rep. 2016; 6: 34246.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5054377/ (5)

  • Anupam Bishayee, Deepak Bhatia, Roslin J. Thoppil, Altaf S. Darvesh, Eviatar Nevo, and Ephraim P. Lansky.,  Pomegranate-mediated chemoprevention of experimental hepatocarcinogenesis involves Nrf2-regulated antioxidant mechanisms., Carcinogenesis. 2011 Jun; 32(6): 888–896. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3314278/ (6)

Master Chef Challenge – Pomegranate Peel

Eight pomegranates later I’m glad to report that making pomegranate extract in the home kitchen is possible and the product can be used in a variety ways. Whether or not it has health benefits would need to be determined by clinical trials and chemical analysis and/or by the individual user at their own risk. But someone needs to be patient number one and being a professionally trained quantity foods and individual diet planner and producer helped give me the knowledge base I needed to turn the animal based research into a home kitchen recipe.

Background info – “an extract” of a food could be considered in Master Chef terms as either a raw, fresh squeezed juice or as a heated/simmered tea or soup stock.

Tea: A tea is generally made from dried herbs or dried fruit or flowers and is usually steeped for about 15-20 minutes for herbal tea or for one and half to four or five minutes for a green tea or black tea. Over steeping tea leaves can release an excess amount of the more bitter tannins which can have negative health effects of blood clotting for some people, (more on tannins in different types of tea: livestrong.com), and less healthy oxalic acid which can be a problem for people with kidney stones. (Rooibus, red tea, does not have oxalic acid. (beliefnet.com)) (Cold brewing (tching.com) may release less tannin content; although some tannins can have health benefits and some people get used to stronger more bitter black tea.

Soup stock: Soup stock may be made from washed and trimmed parts of vegetables that are not being used or are too fibrous for use in a food being prepared for direct consumption. A bone stock is simmered or roasted for a couple hours to release as much nutrient content as possible from the bone marrow (inner part of the bones) and cartilage and other trim that isn’t pure fats. A vegetable stock is simmered for less time as the nutrients from vegetables are released in a shorter amount of time, twenty to thirty minutes usually is adequate to release full flavor without destroying nutrients and flavor from over heating.

Juice: A good quality juicer is needed which the average home kitchen typically does not have. And a juicer can only handle soft fruits or vegetables of a consistent quality, carrots are generally possible but tougher seeds or peels need to be removed from other vegetables or fruits. Orange peel can not be juiced and would likely taste too bitter for making a quantity of juice. I use a sprinkle, 1/8 th teaspoon of minced dried lemon peel in soup which I add at the table rather than to the soup pot to retain more of the aroma and redcue risk of break down of the flavor or phytonutrients during the cooktime of a soup.

Pomegranate peel is very tough and is fairly dry. The soft whitish inner membrane could be run through a juicer but the brilliantly colored reddish peel also likely contains healthy phytonutrients and makes up more of the volume of the trim leftover after removing the juicy seeds.  Research on pumpkin seed kernels revealed that toasting them increases phospholipid content and that is a nutrient that can have health benefits for promoting Nrf2 and other health promoting needs for the body. So my kitchen trials focused on making a soup stock type of pomegranate peel/membrane extract. I tried batches simmered for 20 minutes which retained more color and for 30 minutes which broke down more of the pulp and resulted in a thicker, creamier extract. Both products seem to help my health symptoms and improve my energy level and mood.

Two large pomegranates.

Eight pomegranates later:

  1. For a concentrated product meant for frequent use I would recommend using organically grown pomegranates as the commercial growers may use glyphosate for weed control between the rows of pomegranate trees/shrubs. (Pomegranate trees/shrubs can survive 200 years – invest now – they can take 5-6 years to become fully producing but can have multiple trunks which resprout regularly and can be divided easily to create more rows of trees or should be pruned to reduce energy lost to the fruiting branches. they need a fairly dry climate but with some regular ground water or irrigation, excessive rainy or humid seasons increase risk of infection in the blossoms and tend to produce less quality fruit. So pomegranates are a good crop to consider investing in as we head into a drier, hotter planet, regions that are less ideal right now may become ideal in a decade or two. (Pomegranate growing tips: California, Georgia))
  2. The fruit is likely coated in a food grade wax to help it remain fresh longer. Washing the outer surface before cutting is a good idea, I just rinsed mine rather than using any special produce washing chemical. (Example of a product designed to remove food grade waxes. TraderJoe’s Fruit and Vegetable Wash) Glyphosate may be a chemical that is actually taken up into the produce or animal product so washing the exterior would not remove hypothetical risk from produce grown with it. (The chemical, glyphosate,is very similar to an amino acid, glycine, and it may be incorporated directly into protein structures in place of molecules of glycine, hypothetically. This theory needs more research; which wouldn’t be difficult for professional chemists with access to radioactive marking chemicals – radioactive label the glyposate; grow the product with the standard application rate of glyphosate/Roundup; and then test the produce, or animals that were fed with the produce, for presence of the radioactively labeled glyphosate – not a task for the home kitchen chef).
  3. Remove the juicy seeds and trim the peel and membrane of any discolored spots. It is not uncommon to have some brownish areas and a few bad seeds. Just trim away the discolored areas and discard. Cut away the discolored inner part that would be white from areas of the tougher rind that is still colorful rather than brownish to preserve more of the fruit. (math to add later, I measured yield to get an average, * see the end of the post for the details.)
  4. If a larger quantity of pomegranates are available to make a big batch of extract then any excess seeds that won’t be able to be used fresh can simply be put in a freezer bag or container and frozen for later thawing to use fresh on salad or as a snack or dessert fruit. I rinsed the seeds before freezing to remove any residue left from the occasional bad/rotten seeds. The pomegranate tips I read suggested a simple method to trim many pomegranates was to score the rind in half and then sixths or eighths; and fill a clean sink or large container with water and remove the seeds under water. Good seeds tend to be heavy and sink and bad seeds and the membrane and rind tend to float. Skim off the top layer of floating seeds and membrane and separate and trim the good parts of the inner membrane and rind and discard any decayed rind or seeds. Drain the bowl or sink and remove the seeds and sort for any bits of membrane. I didn’t try this method. I sorted god and bad seeds into separate bowls and trimmed the pile of peel/membrane of discolored areas afterward. Using food safe gloves might help protect the skin if prepping a large batch. The juice is acidic and can be a little drying to the skin. Put the seeds in a refrigerator container to use fresh or a freezer container to store for later use.
  5. I chopped the trimmed peel and inner membrane into roughly a quarter inch dice to try to maximize how much phospholipid and other phytonutrients might be released during the simmering phase. The extract might be as potent with a larger chop or no extra chopping. I didn’t experiment with that aspect – all batches were made with a quarter inch dice.
  6. I tried varying amounts of water with the chopped membrane and found it was easiest to work with when more was used, about one cup of water per one cup of diced peel worked fairly well for draining afterwards. One large pomegranate produced about two cups of diced membrane. I added one teaspoon of cold pressed organic coconut oil to the water/peel mixture in a large nonstick stockpot (or saucepan depending on the amount I was making). A little extra oil can help some phytonutrients be released from produce – (tomato sauce made with a little oil has more available lycopene content then tomato products made without oil or the fresh tomato.)
  7. Bring the peel/water/coconut oil mixture to a simmer at medium high heat ( a few minutes) and promptly turn down the heat to medium or low, cover with a lid, and continue at a gentle simmer (barely bubbling) for 20-30 minutes. Try not to overheat which might be noticed as a caramelized sugary smell or membrane fiber sticking to the bottom of the pan. Stirring occasionally can help.
  8. Drain the extract in a metal colander or soup stock wire mesh skimmer (example). Store in glass or metal until cooled as hot liquids can interact with some types of plastic and cause plastic molecules to enter the food. I rinsed the leftover peel with a few additional cups of water and got a second and third batch of more dilute extract that also had flavor and some health symptom relief effects. Master Chef challenge – there’s probably easier ways to do this. I did try running one batch of the softened membranes through a juicer and it didn’t really work, turned it to pulp, a blender would have done that, but the taste is very bitter, the extract is bitter enough without adding the actual peel (I sampled a little, sugar can’t help everything taste better.)
  9. Use the extract fresh or freeze the excess. It is quite acidic and fairly concentrated. To drink it as a juice I diluted with water, doubling roughly the volume and adding an ounce of 100% cherry juice and a spoonful of sugar helped the flavor, but pH strips and my stomach told me the acidity is the main issue with making it tolerable to drink. It is more acidic than coffee. I started adding baking soda as I do to my coffee but instead of one pinch per cup of coffee I ended up needing four pinches to get the pH adjusted to around a 6.0 it started at 4 or less (water is ~ a 7.0) (I happened to have pH strips on hand).
  10. I also tried the extract in a thick bean/rice vegetable soup, adding about an 1/8 to 1/4 cup of the more concentrated extract per couple bowls of soup to thin it for reheating and a little addition of something acidic can help with digestion, especially for older people (about 3 cups of soup). I regularly add a spoonful or two of lemon/lime juice to my bowls of bean soup or one spoonful of apple cider vinegar Iit is slightly more acidic). I tried a slightly smaller amount in the same soup for a group of people and while they all weren’t regular bean soup eaters they all found it okay and a couple of them liked it. (The chocolate chip cookies were more popular.)

My health symptoms seem to be more stable with the addition of extract  to my diet than they were with the 1/3 to 2/3 cup of pomegranate seeds each day. The other advantage is that freezing extract and seeds could help make it easier to have a reliable year round source for something that is needed for a daily health need.

The unchopped peel in the scale, a large bowl of good seeds and a small bowl of a few discolored seeds. This pomegranate didn’t really have many bad spots.
The chopped, 1/4 inch dice, raw peel and inner membrane.
The raw chopped peel and water before heating.
A large batch of the extract with peel and membrane after cooking 30 minutes.
A pan with drained extract and a colander with the leftover larger peel – this batch was cooked for 20 minutes.
A little chilled coconut oil is floating on top of the containers prepped to freeze.

Math yield:

The large pomegranate averaged more seeds but the total peel/membrane ended up being only a little more than from the small size. However the small ones I had were fresher and had fewer bad spots to trim so less waste may have been the major difference. The size difference isn’t type, it depends on when the blossom was pollinated. The pomegranate can have a few blossom setting times during the spring and blossoms that pollinate early produce large fruit and later ones produce smaller fruit. Or a shorter or drier growing season or less fertilizer applied to the rows may also result in smaller fruit. Pomegranate are usually sold by unit price rather than by pound so a larger fruit averaged about twice the size of the small size and would be a better deal if the price was per unit/ per fruit rather than by weight.

The large fruit, (six), averaged 18 1/4 ounces, 510 grams. And provided an average of 11 1/4 ounces, 306 grams, good seeds, and 7 ounces good peel/membrane, 195 grams, and 3 1/4 ounces bad seed/peel, 106 grams.

The small fruit, (two), averaged 9 3/4 ounces, 270 grams. And provided an average of 4 ounces good seeds, 110 grams, and 4 3/4 ounces good peel/membrane, 123 grams, and 1/4 ounce bad seed/peel, 6 grams.

The total extract made depended on how much water I used and the concentration varied so it would be difficult to give any accurate yield but roughly the amount of water used resulted in a similar amount of extract produced. Each pomegranate roughly produced two to three cups of concentrated extract which needs to be diluted with another two t three cups of water or soup to be palatable.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.