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Pomegranate (Punica granatum L.) is a fruit that’s native to Asia but cultivated in many areas of the world, including the U.S. and the Mediterranean region.
The seeds, or arils, and juice of the pomegranate have a sweet, slightly tart taste and provide a variety of nutrients and protective plant compounds that benefit health in several ways.
Here’s everything you need to know about pomegranates, including their nutrition, potential health benefits, and how to include them in your diet.
A Source of Powerful Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Compounds
Pomegranates are often categorised as a “superfood” due to their high concentration of protective plant compounds such as ellagitannins, anthocyanins, and organic acids.
These substances have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity and help protect cells against oxidative damage.
Based on these findings, drinking pomegranate juice may help reduce inflammatory markers in the body and protect against cellular damage.
May Support Post-Exercise Recovery
Pomegranate juice is high in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, which may benefit people who undergo high levels of physical stress, such as athletes.
A small 2017 study that included nine elite weightlifters found that the participants who consumed 250 ml of pomegranate juice three times per day for three days before Olympic weightlifting training sessions as well as an additional 500 ml of pomegranate juice one hour before the training sessions had reduced levels of a marker of oxidative stress called malondialdehyde (MDA) and increased activity levels of antioxidant enzymes including glutathione peroxidase (GpX) after weight training sessions compared to participants who consumed a placebo.
These findings suggest that drinking pomegranate juice may help decrease oxidative damage caused by exercise and promote antioxidant defenses after intense physical activity, thus promoting muscle recovery.
Although more research is needed, some evidence also suggests that drinking pomegranate juice may help increase athletic performance, promote recovery after exercise, and improve cardiovascular responses while exercising.
May Promote Heart Health
Regularly including pomegranate products, like pomegranate arils and pomegranate juice, into your diet may help protect your heart health. Study findings suggest that, thanks to their high concentration of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, consuming pomegranates may help reduce heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure and high blood lipid levels.
A 2019 study of 60 people with type 2 diabetes demonstrated that drinking 200 ml of pomegranate juice per day for six weeks resulted in significant reductions of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels compared to a control group.6
A 2020 study of people undergoing dialysis treatment found that the consumption of 100 ml of pomegranate juice immediately after dialysis sessions three times a week for eight weeks significantly decreased blood pressure levels and reduced levels of triglycerides, MDA, and IL-6 compared to no treatment. The juice treatment also increased blood antioxidant levels and levels of heart-protective HDL cholesterol.7
May Enhance Cognitive Health
Because they’re high in antioxidants, pomegranates may help prevent nerve cell damage caused by reactive compounds called free radicals. Some evidence suggests that drinking pomegranate juice may improve certain aspects of cognitive health, such as memory.
A 2020 study that included 261 middle-aged and older adults between the ages of 50 and 75 found that those who drank 8 ounces of pomegranate juice per day for one year maintained their visual memory performance, especially their ability to learn visual information over repeated learning trials, compared to the placebo group.
In addition to protecting nerve cells from oxidative damage, the compounds found in pomegranate juice may help increase activity in regions of the brain responsible for controlling visual memory functions.
Nutritional Facts of Pomegranate
Pomegranates are highly nutritious and provide a number of important nutrients.
Here’s the nutrition breakdown for a one-cup serving of pomegranate arils:
Carbohydrates: 32.6 grams (g)
Fiber: 6.96 g
Protein: 2.9 g
Fat: 2.04 g
Potassium: 410 milligrams (mg) or 9% of the Daily Value (DV)
Vitamin B5: .656 mg or 13% of the DV
Vitamin C: 17.74 mg or 20% of the DV
Vitamin E: 1.044 mg or 7% of the DV
Folate: 66.2 mg or 17% of the DV
Vitamin K: 18.6 micrograms (mcg) or 18% of the DV
Manganese: .208 mg or 9% of the DV
Pomegranate arils are a rich source of fiber, which is important for digestive health. Fiber helps fuel the beneficial bacteria that reside in your digestive tract and helps promote regular and comfortable bowel movements, protecting against constipation.
Pomegranate arils are also high in a number of essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, a nutrient that acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body and is necessary for immune function, collagen production, protein metabolism, and the production of neurotransmitters.
Additionally, pomegranates are a good source of folate, a nutrient that’s especially important during pregnancy as it plays important roles in fetal growth and development.
Pomegranates also provide other nutrients, including potassium, a mineral that’s low in most American’s diets. Potassium is needed for blood pressure regulation, nervous system function, and many other critical bodily processes, which is why including potassium-rich foods and drinks in your diet is so important.
A small 2018 study that included 12 healthy men found that the participants who drank 500 milliliters (ml) of pomegranate juice per day for 15 days experienced reductions in the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) and markers of muscle damage compared to a placebo treatment.
A 2023 study that included 48 people who were hospitalized with COVID-19 found that the participants who consumed 500 ml of pomegranate juice per day for 14 days experienced significant reductions in the inflammatory markers interleukin-6 (IL-6), CRP, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) compared to baseline.
By Jillian Kubala, RD. Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Barnes, RDN(health.com)