8 Incredible Health Benefits of Pomegranates
Pomegranates are eye-catching due to their orange-red color. But beyond its beauty, this fruit has numerous health applications. Indeed, pomegranate is considered a “superfood” due to its rich nutrient profile and scientifically validated health benefits.
Have we piqued your curiosity? Read on to discover why pomegranate is valued for health and well-being.
What is a pomegranate?
Pomegranates are round, orange-red fruits. They have a white inner pulp jam-packed with about 600 crunchy and juicy ruby-red colored seeds called arils. (The exact number of seeds varies by variety and size.) The pulp and the seeds are the only edible part of the fruit. There is also a variety of pomegranates with white peel and white seeds.
A pomegranate (Punica granatum) is the fruit of a deciduous shrub or small tree. Pomegranates derive their name from Latin and literally mean "seeded apple." Pomegranates are also sometimes called Chinese apples owing to their resemblance to apples.
Although the pomegranate is considered native to Iran and its neighboring countries, the tree was cultivated long ago throughout the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf regions, Afghanistan, and India. These days, it is typically grown in warmer areas of North and South America.
The red arils tend to be tart. But if you don’t enjoy the tartness, no worries. The white seeds are less tart than the red ones and are sweeter. You can obtain them by purchasing white pomegranates. It is also possible for a red pomegranate to produce white seeds and a white pomegranate to produce red seeds.
Pomegranate seeds are usually eaten raw or turned into juice. However, pomegranate seed oil, also made from the seeds, has many health benefits.
You can also eat the white pulp surrounding the seeds, which is somewhat bitter in flavor. Pomegranates can be juiced easily, but the tough outer skin should not be consumed.
The pomegranate is a nutritional powerhouse rich in vitamins and minerals. They are also low in calories and high in heart-promoting fiber.
Below is the nutrient profile for 87 grams of pomegranate seeds and pulp, equivalent to about one-half cup (1).
- 72.2 calories
- 16.3 grams carbohydrates
- 1.5 grams protein
- 1 gram fat
- 3.5 grams fiber
- 14.3 micrograms vitamin K
- 8.9 milligrams vitamin C
- 33.1 micrograms folate
- 0.1 milligrams copper
- 205 milligrams potassium
- 0.1 milligrams manganese
Remember that the nutrient profile will differ somewhat if you're juicing pomegranate. For example, the juiced version will not have much fiber or vitamin C (2).
Health Benefits of Pomegranate Fruit
1. High in antioxidants
Antioxidants are substances that aid in protecting the body's cells from damage induced by free radicals. Although the body always contains free radicals, an excessive amount of these molecules can be harmful and lead to various chronic illnesses (3).
Pomegranates possess antioxidants and polyphenolic compounds that are crucial in safeguarding against damage. The fundamental bioactive compounds that exhibit antioxidant activity and are present in pomegranates include punicalagins, anthocyanins, and hydrolyzable tannins (4, 5, 6).
Incorporating various vegetables and fruits, such as pomegranates, into your daily dietary routine is imperative for acquiring an abundant supply of antioxidants that effectively enhance your overall well-being and shield you against potential diseases.
2. Relieves arthritis symptoms
Arthritis is a blanket term referring to joint inflammation and tenderness. However, it is a common condition that affects over 350 million people worldwide (8). More than 100 types of arthritis exist, though osteoarthritis is the most common.
If you're experiencing joint pain and stiffness due to arthritis, a natural solution may help alleviate your symptoms: pomegranates.
These delicious fruits contain flavonols, antioxidants that can act as anti-inflammatory agents in the body. Studies on animals have shown that pomegranate seed extract can reduce the incidence of collagen-induced arthritis. Additionally, research has found that consuming pomegranate extract can significantly reduce the severity of arthritis and joint inflammation (9).
However, it's important to note that if you're currently taking medication for arthritis, it's essential to consult with your doctor before incorporating pomegranate products into your daily routine.
3. May help soothe inflammation
Inflammation is a typical bodily response to infection and injury, but if left untreated, it can lead to chronic conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. Unfortunately, chronic inflammation is widespread today, especially in Western cultures.
Fortunately, consuming pomegranates may help prevent chronic inflammation and lower the risk of chronic disease (10). This is due to the presence of punicalagins, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as revealed in multiple studies involving animals and in test tubes (11, 12, 13).
Some human studies have also found that drinking pomegranate juice can reduce inflammation markers in the body (14, 15, 16). However, further research is necessary to understand how consuming fresh pomegranate seeds affects human inflammation.
4. May help fight cancer
Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by abnormal and uncontrolled cell division, which can metastasize or break away from the primary tumor and enter the blood and lymphatic systems, thereby spreading to other parts of the body.
How prevalent is cancer in the United States?
Cancer is a prevalent disease in the U.S. and globally. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), “In 2023, there are projected to be 1,958,310 new cancer cases and 609,820 cancer deaths in the United States.” (17)
Cancer is incurable at this time, but there are treatment options that may slow the progression and may even send it into remission. There are also preventative measures that may help keep cancer from developing. Pomegranate seeds are on that list of cancer-treatment options.
Studies have proven that pomegranate seeds possess cancer-fighting properties. In vitro, research has demonstrated that pomegranate extracts are highly effective in inhibiting the growth and spread of breast cancer cells (18, 19).
It's worth noting that pomegranate seed oil has punicic acid, which is an omega-5 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid capable of preventing breast cancer cell growth (20).
Further studies have suggested that drinking pomegranate juice can slow the growth of prostate cancer, the most common cancer among men in the U.S. For example, in a study involving male subjects with recurrent prostate cancer and increasing prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, researchers observed that taking pomegranate juice extract substantially reduced the rate at which PSA was rising (21).
Other in vitro studies have also revealed that specific compounds in pomegranate juice exhibit potent antitumorigenic effects and can impede the growth of prostate cancer cells in the laboratory (22).
5. May boost heart health
Heart disease is a blanket term for a variety of conditions that affect the heart. It is the leading killer of men and women in the United States. In 2020, approximately 697,000 people in the U.S. died from heart disease. That’s equivalent to one in five deaths (23)
Incorporating fruits with high levels of polyphenolic compounds, such as pomegranates, into your diet is crucial for promoting heart health (24, 25).
Extensive research conducted in test tubes confirms that pomegranate extract can significantly decrease oxidative stress and inflammation in the arteries, as well as combat atherosclerosis, - a condition that leads to heart attacks and strokes due to plaque accumulation in the arteries (26).
In a study involving individuals with heart disease, consuming 1 cup (220 mL) of pomegranate juice daily for five days resulted in a substantial decrease in chest pains' frequency and severity and specific biomarkers in the blood, indicating a protective effect on heart health (27).
Nevertheless, more high-quality, in-depth research on the connection between pomegranates and human heart health needs to be conducted.
6. May lower blood pressure
Blood pressure (BP) refers to the force exerted by blood on the walls of arteries, which transport blood from the heart to various parts of the body.
Your BP typically rises and falls throughout the day. But consistently elevated blood pressure is dangerous. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common condition affecting an estimated 75 million U.S. adults. (That’s the equivalent of one in three American adults.) (28)
It is caused by the consistently high force of blood pushing against the artery walls, which makes the heart work harder to pump blood. Consequently, untreated hypertension can lead to heart attack, stroke, and heart failure.
Research suggests that fruits with polyphenolic compounds like pomegranate can positively affect heart health (29, 30).
Studies done in test tubes have found that pomegranate extract has the potential to lower blood pressure, reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the arteries, and fight atherosclerosis, which is plaque buildup in the arteries that can lead to heart attacks and strokes (31).
In a human study, people with heart disease consumed 1 cup (220 mL) of pomegranate juice daily for 5 days, resulting in a significant reduction in chest pain frequency and severity and specific biomarkers in the blood, indicating a protective effect on heart health (32).
However, more high-quality research is needed to understand the impact of pomegranates on human heart health.
7. May boost memory
Recent studies have shown that consuming polyphenols, which are abundant in pomegranate seeds and juice, can positively affect cognitive function. For instance, one study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine revealed that pomegranate polyphenols could protect against memory dysfunction caused by heart surgery (33).
Another study involved elderly individuals with memory issues who drank either eight ounces of pomegranate juice or a flavor-matched placebo drink for four weeks. Those who consumed the pomegranate juice had significantly better verbal and visual memory markers than the control group (34).
Additionally, the Department of Psychology at Loma Linda University conducted an animal model that suggested incorporating pomegranates into one's diet could help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, making it a potential natural treatment for this condition (36).
8. May support the gastrointestinal system
Recent research has shown that maintaining good digestive health is crucial for overall well-being, and gut bacteria primarily influence this. Surprisingly, studies suggest that pomegranates can help (37, 38, 39).
Pomegranate has been found to have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties that are linked to its ellagic acid content, and animal studies have shown that it can positively impact the gut (40, 41).
In particular, pomegranate has been found to increase the levels of beneficial gut bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, indicating prebiotic effects (42).
Prebiotics are compounds that play an essential role in the growth and maintenance of probiotics, which are good bacteria in the digestive tract (43).
Pomegranate is also a good source of fiber, providing 3.5 grams per half-cup serving, which is essential for digestive health and can help prevent conditions like constipation (44).
Incorporating fiber into your diet can be a helpful step in supporting your digestive health, and studies show a high-fiber diet may defend against a host of health conditions, such as colon cancer, constipation, and gastroesophageal reflux disease.
The Best Time to Buy Pomegranate
The best time to buy pomegranates is from late summer into early winter when the fruit is in season.
When a pomegranate is ripe, it should feel heavy. Its skin should be firm and have a bright red to deep red color with a leathery appearance. Pomegranates that have turned brown signal that they are no longer fresh and may be past their prime. But you don’t necessarily have to throw away the fruit if you see abrasions on the skin because that part of the fruit cannot be eaten.
Some grocery stores' refrigerated or frozen sections offer pomegranate arils (seeds) separately, but they are often more costly than purchasing the whole fruit.
Potential Side Effects and Drug Interactions
Consuming pomegranate seeds or juice as part of a healthy diet is generally safe for most healthy adults. However, it is crucial to stop immediately and seek medical advice if you experience signs of a food allergy while eating the fruit.
If you have blood pressure issues or take medication for it, it is essential to consult your doctor before consuming pomegranate seeds since the fruit can affect blood pressure.
Additionally, pomegranate juice can cause dangerous side effects when interacting with certain prescription medications, such as the blood thinner warfarin and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors like captopril, enalapril, and lisinopril. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you consult a trustworthy healthcare practitioner before consuming any products containing pomegranate if you take any of these medications.
To preserve the freshness of your pomegranates, it's best to keep the whole fruit intact until you're ready to consume the arils. You can store the pomegranate at room temperature or in the fridge, as long as it's in a plastic bag. The whole fruit can last up to three months. However, once the arils are extracted from the fruit, they're only good for about three days.
It's recommended to refrigerate fresh arils to maintain their quality. If you purchase pre-packaged pomegranate arils, make sure to store them in the refrigerator as well.
Pomegranates are not only sweet and juicy but also incredibly nutritious.
These fruits are filled with edible seeds known as arils that are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and even some protein. Furthermore, pomegranates are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds like punicalagins, which have been shown to protect heart, brain, and digestive health.
Evidence suggests that pomegranate may have anticancer benefits, boost memory, reduce blood pressure, and relieve arthritis symptoms.
While more research is still needed to confirm some of these benefits, adding pomegranates to your diet is a delicious and healthy choice.