June 12, 2022/Nutrition

The Health Benefits of Pomegranates

Pomegranates and natural pomegranate juice have anti-cancer properties

opened pomegranate with seeds

No doubt, they’re beautiful. Whether whole or simply a container of fresh ruby-red arils, pomegranates tend to grab your eye as you’re walking through the produce aisle. But their appeal isn’t just skin deep when you consider all the benefits they offer.

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Registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, shares why these juicy, delectable fruits can be a great addition to your diet — and why the seeds are just as good as the juice.

Is there a difference between pomegranate juice and seeds?

Pomegranate seeds and juice directly from the fruit are always better than bottled juice, but both have their benefits. If you want to consume less sugar, instead of drinking bottled pomegranate juice, break the pomegranate open and eat the fruit on the inside. But be warned, there’s a trick to cutting the fruit open properly.

Here’s an easy way to peel a pomegranate:

  • Hold the pomegranate so the protruding stem end faces one side. Slice away a wide swath of the crown with the stem in the middle. Then turn the fruit so the cut edge is on top.
  • You’ll see a set of sections that radiate from the top; a second set radiates from the stem end. The two sets are divided by a ridge running around the pomegranate about two-thirds of the way down from the top.
  • Slice the pomegranate skin along the ridges that run from the top to the bottom and along the horizontal ridge. Try to score through the skin as deep as the white membrane and avoid slicing into the seeds.
  • Then, using your fingers, gently pull the pomegranate apart. It will fall into a star shape, like a blossom. Spoon out the juicy seeds to eat and discard the white membrane, which has a bitter taste.

Health benefits of pomegranates

Now that you know how to slice and dice pomegranates, here’s the rundown on some of their benefits.

They’re high in antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances that help protect cells from environmental toxins such as pollution and cigarette smoke. Antioxidants are known to help prevent and repair DNA damage that can lead to cancer. Pomegranate juice alone won’t keep cancer at bay, but studies suggest it may be a nutritious addition to a healthy, plant-based diet such as the Mediterranean diet.

They may benefit prostate health

Some research found that components in pomegranate juice helped inhibit the movement of cancer cells by weakening their attraction to a chemical signal that promotes the spread of cancer.

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Researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles found that pomegranate juice appeared to suppress the growth of cancer cells and decrease cancer cell death in men and those assigned male at birth who’ve had preliminary treatment for prostate cancer.

“There are some studies with pomegranate that suggest a role in slowing the growth of prostate cancer,” Zumpano says. “But it should be noted that the studies suggest pomegranate juice and pomegranate fruits should be part of a healthy plant-based diet.”

Other studies suggest pomegranate peel extract has anti-cancer properties and that pomegranate peels could be used for additional medicinal properties.

They promote heart health

Pomegranates have been used for thousands of years as an Ayurvedic medicinal food because of their antioxidant properties. Oxidative stress is related to many chronic diseases including diabetes and heart diseases. Because of its antioxidant properties, some studies have discovered pomegranates can improve oxidative stress factors and, therefore, positively impact these conditions.

In a 2022 comprehensive review of 10 of the most commonly available fruits and their effects on cardiovascular diseases, researchers noted pomegranates and pomegranate juice can have significant benefits for improving a number of heart conditions like high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis.

Another 2021 study conducted on rats showed that pomegranate juice reduced the concentration of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol that forms plaque, by 39%, and indicated that it increased the concentration of HDL, the “good” cholesterol, by 27%.

“There are some studies that show pomegranates may help to prevent plaque buildup in your arteries,” Zumpano says. “If heart disease runs in your family, it might make sense to add pomegranate to your diet.”

Are pomegranates healthy?

All signs point to yes: Pomegranates are healthy when incorporated into a heart-healthy diet. Consider sprinkling them atop your salads, oatmeal, quinoa or yogurt. Pomegranates also complement poultry such as chicken and turkey dishes.

Half of a pomegranate is considered one serving of the fruit, which is in season from October through January. So, you have plenty of time to create or try a recipe or two.

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