What Are Pomegranates?
A pomegranate is a sweet, tart fruit with thick, red skin. While the skin is not edible, it holds hundreds of juicy seeds that you can eat plain or sprinkle on salads, oatmeal, hummus, and other dishes.
People have enjoyed pomegranates since ancient times for their health benefits. Modern research has found that the antioxidants in pomegranates can help protect your heart. The anti-inflammatory and antitumor properties may have promising uses in cancer treatment and prevention, but more research is needed to prove this.
The most common way to enjoy a pomegranate is to cut it open and pull apart the skin to reveal the edible seeds and juice sacs, which are called arils.
Nutritional Profile of Pomegranate
Pomegranates are a great source of nutrients, especially fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins, and select minerals.
Here’s an overview of the nutrients found in one cup of pomegranate:
- Calories: 145
- Total fat: 2.05 grams (g)
- Protein: 2.92 g
- Total carbohydrates: 32.7 g
- Fiber: 7 g
- Sugar: 23.9 g
- Vitamin C: 17.8 mg
- Vitamin K: 28.7 mcg
- Folate (Vitamin B9): 66.5 mcg
- Potassium: 413 mg
- Copper: 0.28 mg
Top 6 Health Benefits of Pomegranate
Pomegranates are a flavorful source of nutrients, and as such, they boast loads of health benefits. Aside from their versatile uses in the kitchen, here are some of the top reasons to eat them regularly.
1. Pomegranates (including the juice) are packed with antioxidants.
Fruits are generally rich sources of antioxidants, and pomegranates are a prime example of this. There are several different antioxidants found in pomegranates—some of its micronutrients, such as vitamin C, act as antioxidants, as do the anthocyanins, a plant compound that also gives pomegranate its vibrant hue.
There are 700 mg of polyphenol antioxidants in every 8 oz serving of pomegranate juice. Past research has found that pomegranate juice has even more antioxidant potency than red wine, concord grape juice, or green tea on average.
In addition to its potential to reduce the risk of developing certain cancers and heart disease, antioxidant-rich foods like pomegranates could also contribute to skin, brain, and eye health.
2. May Promote Heart Health
Regularly including pomegranate products, like pomegranate arils and pomegranate juice, into your diet may help protect your heart health. Study findings suggest that thanks to their high concentration of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, consuming pomegranates may help reduce heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure and high blood lipid levels.
A 2019 study of 60 people with type 2 diabetes demonstrated that drinking 200 ml of pomegranate juice per day for six weeks resulted in significant reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels compared to a control group.
A 2020 study of people undergoing dialysis treatment found that the consumption of 100 ml of pomegranate juice immediately after dialysis sessions three times a week for eight weeks significantly decreased blood pressure levels and reduced levels of triglycerides, MDA, and IL-6 compared to no treatment. The juice treatment also increased blood antioxidant levels and levels of heart-protective HDL cholesterol.
3. Pomegranates may improve blood sugar control.
Fruits contain naturally occurring sugars, pomegranate included, though pomegranates definitely make the list of lower-sugar fruits. So can people with diabetes eat pomegranates? It’s always important to check with your healthcare team first and foremost, but in many cases, people with diabetes can eat—and benefit from—pomegranates. In fact, this fruit could help keep blood sugar levels under control.
Studies in both animals and humans have shown that pomegranate can improve fasting blood sugar in those who have diabetes.
4. Cancer Prevention
While research is ongoing, some studies propose that pomegranate could play a role in preventing certain types of cancer. The fruit’s natural compounds exhibit potential anticancer effects, making it a subject of interest in cancer research.
5. May Enhance Cognitive Health
Because they’re high in antioxidants, pomegranates may help prevent nerve cell damage caused by reactive compounds called free radicals. Some evidence suggests that drinking pomegranate juice may improve certain aspects of cognitive health, such as memory.
A 2020 study that included 261 middle-aged and older adults between the ages of 50 and 75 found that those who drank 8 ounces of pomegranate juice per day for one year maintained their visual memory performance, especially their ability to learn visual information over repeated learning trials, compared to the placebo group.
In addition to protecting nerve cells from oxidative damage, the compounds found in pomegranate juice may help increase activity in regions of the brain responsible for controlling visual memory functions.
6. They provide vitamin C.
Pomegranate arils are a good source of vitamin C per half-cup serving. That half cup provides around 9 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C, which is about 10% of our DV of the important micronutrient for adults.
Most animals can produce their own vitamin C, but humans cannot, making it a dietary necessity for us. Vitamin C is an antioxidant itself, which helps keep other antioxidants working well throughout the body. The vitamin is a key player in several essential body processes, like protein metabolism, collagen synthesis, and neurotransmitter production. It aids in immune system function and helps non-heme iron (found in plant-based sources of iron) absorption.
In conclusion, the health benefits of pomegranate are vast and diverse. From supporting heart health to potentially aiding in cancer prevention and offering a natural boost to cognitive function, this fruit is a nutritional powerhouse. However, it’s essential to approach dietary changes with balance and moderation. Including pomegranate as part of a varied and well-rounded diet can contribute to overall well-being.
Q: Can pomegranate prevent heart disease?
- A: While research suggests positive effects on heart health, it’s essential to maintain a balanced lifestyle for overall cardiovascular well-being.
Q: How does pomegranate benefit the skin?
- A: Pomegranate’s antioxidative properties may reduce oxidative stress on the skin, potentially slowing down the aging process.
Q: Is pomegranate suitable for diabetic individuals?
- A: Pomegranate may have benefits for individuals with diabetes, but consultation with a healthcare professional is advised.
Q: Are there any side effects of consuming pomegranate?
- A: In general, pomegranate is safe, but excessive consumption may lead to digestive issues for some individuals.
Q: What are creative ways to include pomegranate in meals?
- A: Pomegranate seeds can be added to salads, desserts, smoothies, or used as a garnish for various dishes. Experiment and enjoy the versatility of this fruit in your culinary adventures.