It’s been heralded as the “jewel of winter,” and many believe it is the actual source of Eve’s temptation in the Garden of Eden.

Revered for its leathery skin, odd little seeds, and miraculous juice, this quirky fruit has been used medicinally in the Middle East, Iran, India, Egypt, and Greece for thousands of years to treat disease and infection, upper respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis, diarrhea, dysentery, periodontal disease, and other conditions.

Fast forward to modern day as research confirms what these other cultures have already known: the pomegranate is sweet medicine.

According to the May 2000 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,  pomegranate juice consumption decreased the accumulation of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in the arteries of healthy, nonsmoking men by 20 percent. In mice, pomegranate juice reduced oxidation of LDL by 90 percent, and shrank plaque-ridden lesions in the mice by 44 percent.

Similar studies at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology found that healthy subjects who drank two to three ounces of pomegranate juice a day for two weeks reduced the cholesterol oxidation process by as much as 40 percent. This is critical, as this process often creates plaque build up that narrows arteries and results in heart disease.

In addition to drinking pomegranate juice, there are other ways to enjoy this exotic fruit. You can toss the seeds into a salad, mix one cup of sparkling mineral water with 2 tablespoons pomegranate extract and drink, or simply take a pomegranate extract supplement.

No matter which form you choose, your heart will thank you, your body will thank you, and your taste buds will definitely thank you!