4 Health Benefits of Pomegranates
This juicy red fruit delivers antioxidants, fiber and more to help keep you healthy. Here's what the science says about why pomegranates are so good for you.
First things first: Pomegranates are delicious, and their dark red seeds are a beautiful addition to a recipe. And, while their popularity in America is relatively new, pomegranates have been a staple in other cultures for thousands of years. Native to Iran and North India, the sweet fruit has long been grown and eaten throughout the Mediterranean regions of Asia, Africa and Europe. They were featured in ancient Egyptian art and mythology, and they're even mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible!
As well as a rich history, pomegranates have some serious health benefits. If you need yet another reason to pick up a pomegranate (or a bottle of pomegranate juice) at the grocery store, here are 4 health benefits of pomegranate that you need to know about.
1. Digestive health
"Pomegranates are high in fiber," says Tejal Pathak, M.S. RD, a dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) recommend that adult women eat 25 grams of fiber per day and adult men eat 38 grams. A half-cup of pomegranate seeds (also called pomegranate arils) contains 3.5 grams of fiber, which means you can make a significant dent in your fiber goal by adding pomegranates to your morning yogurt bowl.
But perhaps the most immediate benefit of getting adequate fiber is digestive health. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, getting enough fiber helps improve digestion and prevent constipation—two benefits that you might notice pretty much right away. One thing to note is that you'll only get fiber from eating pomegranate seeds, not from drinking pomegranate juice.
2. Heart health
Getting enough fiber is also linked to improved heart health. Certain types of fiber, including the fiber found in pomegranate seeds, can help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol, reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke. Pathak also notes that pomegranates are high in potassium, which the American Heart Association says is an important nutrient when it comes to preventing high blood pressure, another risk factor for heart disease.
3. Diabetes management
Pomegranate juice might be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes, Pathak says. She points out that a small study of 40 adult type 2 diabetes patients found that drinking 50 grams of concentrated pomegranate juice per day was associated with lower levels of inflammatory compounds, and higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. All of this could lower the risk of heart disease in patients with type 2 diabetes, who are at a higher risk.
That might not be the only benefit of pomegranates for type 2 diabetes. A 2013 review of existing evidence found that certain compounds in pomegranates may be associated with better blood sugar numbers and may be protective against the oxidative stress and cell damage that can worsen health outcomes for people with type 2 diabetes.
4. Antioxidant properties
"Pomegranates are high in anthocyanins, which are strong antioxidants and also responsible for their beautiful ruby red color," says Sarah Pflugradt, M.S., RD, a dietitian and nutrition educator. She explains that these antioxidants are the main reason experts are looking into the potential health benefits of pomegranates.
"Low-grade chronic inflammation is known to be a root cause of many chronic conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes." Experts believe that the antioxidants found in pomegranates might help counteract that inflammation and thus reduce the risk of these health conditions. "Some recent studies have shown that drinking pomegranate juice has the potential to help lower blood pressure," Pflugradt says.
There are so many ways to use pomegranates.
Frankly, the easiest way to eat pomegranate is to just eat the seeds by themselves. "Me and my kids simply love the juicy and crunchy seeds (arils) and enjoy eating as is," Pathak says. She also recommends using them as a yogurt or salad topper, inside sandwich wraps, or as pie filling.
Pflugradt, on the other hand, likes sprinkling pomegranate seeds onto savory hummus, or drinking pomegranate juice post-workout. Need more inspiration? Check out our healthy recipes with pomegranates.
The bottom line
As with all foods, pomegranates don't have magical health properties, and they won't make or break a healthy diet. That said, they're delicious and versatile, and there's strong evidence that the fiber in pomegranate seeds can promote digestive health and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. And, although more research needs to be done, there's some evidence that certain compounds found in pomegranates (and in higher concentrations in pomegranate juice) might help reduce inflammation, promote better blood sugar control, and reduce your risk of several chronic health conditions.