Riddle me this: What’s sweet, red, and only available three months out of the year? No, it’s not a new Fenty lipstick—it’s pomegranate.
A staple in arid regions of Iran, India, Turkey and Egypt, pomegranate hit the mainstream in the U.S. about a decade ago, when Kylie Jenner said she eats “three packs” per day. Still, the funky fruit feels a little mysterious. Is pomegranate’s superfood status really all its made out to be? How real is the hype?
“Since the increase in research and studies linking pomegranate’s antioxidants with several potential benefits, [they’ve] definitely seen a large increase in popularity,” says May Zhu, RDN, LDN.
Technically considered a berry, every pomegranate bulb contains upwards of 600 arils (a.k.a. seeds), which have a unique sweet-tart flavor. Good to know, considering the arils are the only part of a pomegranate you eat. Their holiday vibe is no accident, either. Pomegranates are considered in-season during the fall and winter, Zhu says.
“Combinations like pomegranate seeds with pistachios, goat cheese, and nuts are often popular in hearty winter salads that use grains like quinoa or couscous as a base,” says Zhu.
Delicious natural sweetness aside, these ruby-toned gems are certainly more than just a pretty face. In fact, their superfood status is pretty well-deserved.
Spoiler alert: When you break it down, pomegranate nutrition is really impressive.
Unlike other trendy foods (ahem, apple cider vinegar), pomegranate nutrition is just as legit as its reputation.
The winter fruit is packed with polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that help protect your body’s cells from free-radical damage (the stuff linked to inflammation, signs of aging, and certain cancers), says nutritionist Patricia Bannan, RDN, author of Eat Right When The Time Is Right. (Fun fact: It’s got more antioxidants than green tea, according to Zhu.)
Pomegranates are also a great source of potassium, an electrolyte important for muscle function, she adds.
Here’s the nutritional breakdown for a one cup serving of pomegranate arils:
- Calories: 144
- Fat: 2 g
- Saturated fat: 0.2 g
- Carbohydrates: 33 g
- Sodium: 5 mg
- Sugar: 24 g
- Fiber: 7 g
- Protein: 3 g
Admittedly, pomegranate is higher in sugar than other fruits (a cup of raspberries, for example, has only five grams). But it also has a LOT of fiber, which can help keep your blood sugar levels more balanced.
The health benefits of pomegranate are legit, too.
So, yeah, those pretty little pomegranate seeds are definitely healthy. In fact, a number of health benefits have been linked to the ruby-red fruit.
1. Pomegranate helps keep your heart healthy
While no food acts as a quick fix, pomegranates do a pretty good job of protecting your heart. “Some studies have suggested that pomegranate juice daily can help lower blood pressure by reducing LDL cholesterol and improving blood flow through the arteries,” says Zhu.
Pomegranate’s various antioxidants (polyphenols, tannins, and anthocyanins) all work together to promote heart health.
2. They might boost brain function
Pomegranates won’t singlehandedly give you a photographic memory, but they may do your noggin a solid.
In fact, research suggests the fruit can boost short-term cognitive performance in middle-aged and older people experiencing mild memory complaints. Again, you can thank those antioxidants here. “The antioxidants in pomegranates help reduce free radical damage, including damage to the cells in the brain, contributing to overall health and support for brain function,” Zhu explains.
3. It may also help with arthritis or joint pain
If your joints need some love, pomegranates can help there, too.
You guessed it: The anti-inflammatory effects of pomegranates’ antioxidants may support your joints by reducing swelling or pain, Zhu explains. While studies have been promising, though, there’s still more research to be done, she adds.
4. Pomegranate is good for your gut, too
Feeling a little backed up? Have a half cup of pomegranate seeds, which contains a solid four grams of fiber to help you stay regular, suggests Zhu. While more complicated digestive conditions, like Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome, require medical treatment, pomegranate juice might reduce inflammation in the gut, she says. (Thanks again, antioxidants!)
That doesn’t mean you should eat pomegranates all day every day, though.
Given its potent anti-inflammatory properties, pomegranates might sound like the ultimate panacea. But that isn’t quite the case. While pomegranates contain natural sugars and provide fiber to help slow down digestion and prevent blood sugar spikes, those with diabetes should monitor their sugar and carbohydrate intake closely, no matter what form that intake takes—pomegranates included.
You may also want to chat with your doctor before going ham on pomegranate if you take medications, Zhu says. Why? Like grapefruit, pomegranates inhibit the intestinal enzymes CYP3A4 + CYP2C9. This could spell trouble for the absorption of certain statin and blood pressure-lowering drugs, she explains.
Pomegranates can be weight loss-friendly, in case you’re wondering.
Quick math refresh: You lose weight when you are in an overall calorie deficit over time, says Zhu. If weight loss is your goal, pomegranates can definitely be a part of the plan, as long as you expend more calories than you consume.
What makes them the ~pom~ dot com, exactly, though? A half-cup of the stuff is under 100 calories and low in fat, and provides fiber to help you feel fuller for longer, thus helping reduce your overall caloric intake, Zhu says.
So while it’s no magic weight-loss bullet, incorporating the fruit into your diet can certainly support your efforts. In fact, one small Nutrition study found that overweight women who included three servings of fruit per day shed more pounds in 12 weeks than those who noshed on less.
Looking for more fun fruit inspo? Check out model Alexis Ren’s fridge:
Pomegranate juice can be healthy, too.
Even though juice gets lots of side-eye, pomegranate juice packs some serious perks. “Both the whole pomegranate and the juice can provide several benefits due to their high antioxidant levels,” Zhu says.
While pomegranate seeds contain extra fiber to stabilize your blood sugar and promote digestion and satiety, one serving of pomegranate juice a day can definitely do your body good by providing you those same glorious nutrients like vitamins C and K, Zhu says. If you do opt for the juice, though, just be sure to look for brands without any added sugars.
So, how should you shop for and store pomegranates, exactly?
Since pomegranates are typically in season from September to December, look for them in the fall and winter, says Zhu. Opt for a fruit that feels heavy for its size, which indicates its juice has not dried out. Avoid ones with bruises or cuts.
Store your pomegranate on the countertop for up to two weeks or refrigerate it for up to a month, says Zhu. (After you’ve de-seeded your fruit, its arils will stay fresh in and airtight container in the fridge up to a week.)
Great. But how do I get those freaking seeds out?
That’s the million dollar question. After all, you can’t really eat pomegranate skin or its white pith (the bitter white skin on the inside).
There are two ways to de-seed a pomegranate to get at the antioxidant-packed morsels inside:
- Cut your pomegranate in half horizontally, then hold one of the halves upside down over a bowl. Smack the uncut side hard with a wooden spoon repeatedly to force those arils to fall out of the bowl. Repeat with the other half of the pomegranate. Drain and enjoy. Bonus: This method is a great stress reliever.
- Or, cut through the pomegranate about an inch from the crown and discard the top, recommends celebrity chef Akasha Richmond. You’ll see an “aerial view” of the pomegranate, with arils divided into groups. Cut between each group of arils. Above a bowl of water, pull the sections apart. With your thumbs, gently nudge the arils out of the rind. The arils will drop to the bottom of the bowl. Discard fibers that float to the top. Then, drain and eat.
What should I do with pomegranate seeds to make the most of that sweet, sweet nutrition?
Whether you’re pounding pom seeds by the fistful or incorporating them into dishes, they’re the ultimate palate pleaser.
Try out a few of these ideas, courtesy of Bannan:
- Blend them into a smoothie like you would any berry.
- Toss them into salads to add crunch, texture, and color.
- Sprinkle them over yogurt or oatmeal.
- Use them as garnish for festive holiday cocktails or mocktails.
The bottom line: Pomegranate is a totally healthy fruit to incorporate into your diet. The fruit’s high antioxidant content offers anti-inflammatory benefits, while a solid fiber content does your gut good.
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