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.
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We chatted with registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, about why these juicy, ruby-red fruits can be a great addition to your autumn eating. Here’s what she had to say:
1. High in antioxidants
Antioxidants are substances that help to 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.
2. May benefit prostate health
Some research has found that components in pomegranate juice helped to inhibit the movement of cancer cells by weakening their attraction to a chemical signal that promotes the spread of cancer.
Researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles found that pomegranate juice appeared to suppress the growth of cancer cells and the increase in cancer cell death in men who have 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 examined pomegranate juice in the context of a healthy plant-based diet.”
3. Promote heart health
The antioxidants in pomegranate juice may help to keep cholesterol in a form that is less damaging and also may reduce plaque that already has built up in vessels, some research shows.
In a study of healthy men, researchers from Israel concluded that pomegranate juice decreases the likelihood of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol that forms plaque and indicated that it improves HDL, the “good” cholesterol. Another Israeli study showed a decrease in the development of atherosclerosis in mice whose diets were supplemented with pomegranate juice. Atherosclerosis is the buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and on the artery walls, which can restrict blood flow.
“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.”
How to cut open and eat a pomegranate
Rather than drinking a bottled pomegranate juice, break the pomegranate open and eat the fruit on the inside. That way, you’ll consume less sugar.
Be warned, however, there is 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 too. The two sets are divided by a ridge running around the pomegranate about two thirds of 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.
If you don’t want to eat pomegranate seeds with a spoon, 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.