Reach for a Glass and Your Body May Benefit

August 12, 2014, 10:06am EDT

Top 5The benefits of eating fresh produce and drinking fruit and vegetable beverages are well-known. Now there's another item to add to your grocery list when you head to the supermarket. Pomegranate juice is chock full of newfound benefits for kidney patients. It doesn't take much to incorporate pomegranate juice into your diet—just reach for a glass.

So what does it do for you? According to a recent study, conducted by Dr. Batya Kristal of the Western Galilee Hospital in Israel, small amounts of pomegranate juice can positively impact the health of people on hemodialysis by improving blood pressure and lessening the number of blood pressure medications kidney patients need to take. The study demonstrated that drinking pomegranate juice can also lead to improvements in lipid and cholesterol levels, key indicators of cardiovascular health. Because of its high concentration of antioxidants, consuming pomegranate juice may decrease the risk of kidney patients developing cardiovascular disease.

Antioxidants are a category of nutrients, vitamins and minerals that help remove free radicals from the body. Free radicals are substances that can play a helpful biological role in the body, but can also cause damage if circulating throughout the body in excessive amounts. Fruits and vegetables, including pomegranates, contain different antioxidants that protect the body from the damage excess free radicals cause by repairing cells that have been damaged and protecting new cells from harm.

Pomegranate juice contains a mouthful of antioxidants, such as ascorbic acid and polyphenolic flavonoids and can be a heart-healthy addition to a diet intended to improve health and well-being. Heart-healthy diets aim to reduce the chance of developing heart and circulatory system diseases and include low salt diets, such as the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), and Mediterranean diets that are mostly plant based, high in fiber and low in saturated fats. According to Dr. Joseph Vassalotti, Chief Medical Officer at the National Kidney Foundation, "pomegranate juice is high in antioxidants and high in potassium, which can be problematic for people with kidney disease. Patients with moderate to severely impaired kidney function or filtering ability cannot properly regulate the levels of potassium in the blood and are at risk for high potassium levels."

Potassium is a mineral found in many foods and having the right level of potassium in your blood is critical to maintaining a regular heartbeat. Doctors may prescribe a low potassium diet as part of a treatment plan for a patient with chronic kidney disease who has high serum potassium levels (levels of potassium in the blood). This diet is usually most effective when the patient works with a dietitian to design an individual meal plan specific to the patient's nutritional and dietary needs. Patients with CKD who wish to incorporate pomegranate juice into their diets should discuss this addition with their clinician and may also use this as an opportunity to consult with a dietitian before starting treatment.