Pomegranates seem like an intimidating fruit. But breaking through that tough skin to get to the juicy, ruby-red seeds (known as arils, which include the seeds and the juice around it) is worth the effort because many health benefits lie within.
Those tart arils can help keep your body healthy and disease free. Plus, they may be just what you need to add a punch of flavor to everything from your salad to your seltzer.
Let’s explore the pomegranate — its history, what makes it so healthy, and how to add it to your diet.
How to Cut It: Pomegranate
What Is a Pomegranate? And How Did It Become a Superfood?
The pomegranate fruit is best known for the jewel-like arils stored inside its leathery red rind. (1) Pomegranates have been grown for centuries in India, Asia, the Mediterranean, and the tropical parts of Africa. In ancient times, pomegranates represented fertility, and the fruit has been depicted many times in art throughout history. (1,2)
A few centuries ago, the fruit was brought over to North America, and it’s now grown in California and Arizona. (3) Nearly every part of the pomegranate has been researched for potential health benefits, and thanks to promising results, it’s blown up in popularity. These days, you’ll easily find pomegranate in the form of supplements, juice, powders, extracts, and, of course, the fruit itself. (1)
Part of the pomegranate’s reputation as a trendy superfood can be traced to POM Wonderful’s arrival on the market in the early 2000s. (4) Before then, many people only thought to use pomegranates in holiday salads, but the creators of POM Wonderful popularized pomegranate juice by funding many studies that touted the fruit’s potential health benefits. Nowadays, it’s easy to find pomegranate juice in conventional grocery stores, not just health-specific ones.
The Nutrition Facts of the Pomegranate: Calories, Carbs, Sugar, and More
Pomegranate arils are packed with nutrients and antioxidants, substances that can help prevent or delay damage within the cells. (5) In fact, pomegranate juice has three times as many antioxidants as other antioxidant-rich beverages, such as green tea and red wine. (6)
The pomegranate arils have plenty of other nutrients, too, and are a great addition to your daily recommended serving of fruit, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate guidelines. A ½ cup serving offers: (7)
What Are the Potential Health Benefits of Pomegranates?
Research suggests the pomegranate in its various forms offers the following benefits:
- Helps protect against heart disease. There’s some evidence that pomegranates may help lower cholesterol, which in turn can lower the risk of heart disease. (13,14)
- Anti-inflammatory properties. The fruit’s vitamin C content has anti-inflammatory properties, which may protect against many common diseases, such as certain types of cancer and type 2 diabetes. (15,16)
- Lower high blood pressure. The antioxidants found in pomegranates may help lower high blood pressure, which can keep the arteries, heart, and brain functioning well. (17,18)
- Help with erectile dysfunction (ED). One study found that drinking 8 ounces (oz) of pomegranate juice each day helped nearly half the study participants see an improvement in their erections. (19)
- Protection against certain types of cancer, including prostate cancer. Some small studies suggest drinking pomegranate juice can help slow the spread of prostate cancer cells. (20)
- Help with rheumatoid arthritis. One 2021 review found that pomegranate could help manage rheumatoid arthritis complications by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. But there is a chance that pomegranate juice might affect medication absorption rates in a similar manner to grapefruit juice.
Although there are many touted benefits of pomegranates, stronger research is needed to confirm them. (1)
Are Pomegranates a Good Food for Weight Loss?
Significantly increasing your intake of pomegranates doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll slim down overnight. There hasn’t been much research showing that pomegranates contribute to weight loss, and the studies that hint there could be a link were very small or not significant enough to draw conclusions from.
That said, pomegranates are part of a healthy diet and may aid in weight loss efforts because they contain fiber, which contributes to feelings of fullness. You may end up eating less as a result and could therefore lose weight. They could be especially beneficial for weight loss when eaten instead of candy or dessert. (21)
How to Select and Store Pomegranates for the Best Taste
When you’re eyeing a pomegranate at the store, choose one with a deep red color that seems to weigh a lot for its size. Look for glossy, blemish-free skin and scratch it gently. If it’s soft and somewhat easy to scratch, it’s likely ripe.
The fruit itself should be a kind of squared off circle. A pomegranate with this shape means the seeds inside the fruit have reached their juiciest potential. (22)
When you get the pomegranate home, keep it away from direct sunlight. It’s best to keep it in a cool, dry place. Or you can store it in your refrigerator for up to two months.
Once you crack open the skin and extract the arils or juice, keep them in the refrigerator and enjoy within five days. (21) Or, if you’re not ready to eat them yet, you can store the arils in the freezer for up to one year.
The Best Way to Prepare and Eat a Pomegranate
The pomegranate isn’t something you’ll want to bite into. Rather, you’ll need to cut through the skin to extract the arils. Before you do that, though, put on a pair of gloves and an apron, because pomegranates are messy and can easily stain whatever you’re wearing. Trim off the crown end of the fruit, which is the end that sticks out more than the other.
Next, you’ll score the skin of the pomegranate a total of three or four times until you can easily break it into smaller pieces. Place the pieces of the fruit in a bowl of water and use your hands to release the arils from the rind. The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl. When you’ve extracted all the arils in the fruit, toss the rind, which should be floating at the top of the bowl, and strain the rest of the bowl’s contents until you’re left with only the arils. (21)
You can enjoy the arils as is, or you can place them in a blender to release their juices. After a few pulses (don’t blend too long or the juice will become cloudy), strain the juice from what’s left of the seeds, and enjoy. (23)
Can You Eat Pomegranate Seeds?
Yes, the pomegranate seeds are absolutely edible. In fact, the seeds and the juices surrounding the seeds (together called arils) are the parts of the fruit that you’re supposed to eat.
The arils are commonly found in salads. You can also add them on top of yogurt or to water for a little extra flavor. (21)
Is Pomegranate Juice Good for You? What About Pomegranate Extract?
Pomegranate juice is generally good for you, but you need to check the label first. You want to make sure you’re drinking a pure form of the juice and not something that’s been mixed with other juices or added sugars, which take away from the health benefits and can essentially turn the juice into another sugary beverage. (13)
Pomegranate extract is also good for you for all the same reasons that pomegranate juice is. It’s a concentrated version of the juice, so you can tap an even more concentrated dose of benefits. You’ll find pomegranate extract sold as a liquid or as a supplement. Just keep in mind that the majority of the fiber is removed when pomegranate juice or extract are made. As a result, you won’t reap quite the same filling benefits from either of these foods as you would from the fresh pomegranate.
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Side Effects of Eating Pomegranates and Potential Health Risks
Pomegranates and their various forms are generally very healthy and safe. There’s a chance, however, that some people may develop allergic reactions when they eat pomegranates. (1) They’ll usually display classic signs of an allergy, such as itchy eyes or difficulty breathing.
Pomegranate juice could interact negatively with some medications, including blood thinners and medications that treat high cholesterol and high blood pressure. (13) It’s smart to check with your doctor before deciding to take any form of pomegranate regularly so they can advise on safety. (1)
How to Cook With Pomegranates in Your Home Kitchen
Oftentimes pomegranates are a garnish added to a drink or a main dish. But they can also be the star of the show if they’re eaten in seed form. Or, they could be blended into a juice, sauce, or dip.
Here are some recipe ideas featuring pomegranates, pomegranate juice, and pomegranate molasses:
- Pomegranate Roasted Carrots
- Smoothies and smoothie bowls
- Champagne Punch
- Pomegranate Duck
- Chia Seed Pudding
FAQs About Pomegranates and the Answers You Want to Know
Q: Is it safe to eat pomegranate seeds?
A: Yes. In fact, the arils (which are the white pomegranate seeds plus the juice around them) are the only part of the pomegranate that most people eat.
Q: Is it good to drink pomegranate juice every day?
A: Can’t get enough of pomegranate juice? Don’t hold back. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy a serving (8 oz) each day. Just check the label on the juice you’re buying to make sure it doesn’t contain added sugars, which drive up the calorie count and can make the beverage unhealthy, possibly leading to weight gain.
Q: Why are pomegranates good for you?
A: Pomegranates are jam-packed with antioxidants, which help prevent or delay cell damage and could be the reason that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables helps ward off health issues. (5) Pomegranates also are a good source of fiber and vitamin C.
Q: What are some of the benefits of pomegranates?
A: Pomegranate in its various forms has been linked to several health benefits, including improvement in heart health, minimizing the risk of certain cancers such as prostate cancer, and helping people with erectile dysfunction.
Q: Is pomegranate juice healthy?
A: It sure is — as long as it’s fresh or pure pomegranate juice and does not contain extra sugar. One cup has about 135 calories and counts toward your fruit intake for the day.
Q: What is pomegranate extract and is it safe?
A: Pomegranate extract is a concentrated version of pomegranate juice. You may find it in liquid form, but you can also find it in the form of a supplement or powder.
Note that the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate supplements (not just pomegranate extract supplements but supplements across the board), so there isn’t any oversight on the quality and safety of the product. Some companies have gotten in trouble for overstating the health benefits of the products they’re selling. Keep that in mind and approach juices and supplements with caution. (1)
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Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Pomegranate. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. August 2020.
- Schneider H. On the Pomegranate. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. December 1945.
- Pomegranate. California Rare Fruit Growers.
- Pomegranate Juice Uncorked in Major Marketing Success. Convenience Store News. May 31, 2005.
- Antioxidants. MedlinePlus. March 1, 2018.
- Gil MI, Tomás-Barberán FA, Hess-Pierce B, et al. Antioxidant Activity of Pomegranate Juice and Its Relationship With Phenolic Composition and Processing. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. October 2000.
- Basic Report: 09286, Pomegranates, Raw [PDF]. U.S. Department of Agriculture. April 2018.
- Daily Value on the New Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. February 25, 2022.
- Deleted, August 2, 2022.
- Deleted, August 2, 2022.
- Deleted, August 2, 2022.
- Deleted, August 2, 2022.
- Pomegranate Juice: Can It Lower Cholesterol? Mayo Clinic. November 25, 2020.
- Understand Your Risk for Heart Disease. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. March 24, 2022.
- Ellulu MS, Rahmat A, Patimah I, et al. Effect of Vitamin C on Inflammation and Metabolic Markers in Hypertensive and/or Diabetic Obese Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Drug Design, Development and Therapy. July 1, 2015.
- Foods That Fight Inflammation. Harvard Health Publishing. November 16, 2021.
- High Blood Pressure Dangers: Hypertension’s Effects on Your Body. Mayo Clinic. January 14, 2022.
- Aviram M, Rosenblat M. Pomegranate for Your Cardiovascular Health. Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal. April 30, 2013.
- Forest CP, Padma-Nathan H, Liker HR. Efficacy and Safety of Pomegranate Juice on Improvement of Erectile Dysfunction in Male Patients With Mild to Moderate Erectile Dysfunction: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Double-Blind, Crossover Study. International Journal of Impotence Research. June 14, 2007.
- Pomegranate Juice: A Cure for Prostate Cancer? Mayo Clinic. June 24, 2021.
- Questions and Answers on Dietary Fiber. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. December 17, 2021.
- Pomegranate Fruit Uses, Recipes, and Storage. UF/IFAS Citrus Extension. June 4, 2018.
- How to Seed and Juice a Pomegranate. Tori Avey. January 30, 2019.
- Malek Mahdavi A, Seyedsadjadi N, Javadivala Z. Potential Effects of Pomegranate (Punica Granatum) on Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Clinical Practice. August 2021.
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