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Pomegranates – Protector of your health

Published by Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD on Dec 2, 2023

The fruit’s seeds and natural juice are a wealth of nutrients beneficial for your health.

Right about now, you may be overlooking an extraordinarily nutritious fruit. And it’s not the usual apples, oranges, or bananas.  While all fruits are good for us, the “jewel of the winter,” better known as pomegranates, protects your health.  Usually in season from October through February, pomegranates have an outstanding nutritional portfolio, making them a true dietary gem, and are one of the world’s most popular fruits.

Overview of pomegranates

Pomegranates have a lengthy and rich history dating back to biblical times, with even a mention in the Old Testament, and were often used for medicinal purposes.  Believed to have originated in Iran, pomegranate trees do well in hot, dry climates such as California, Afghanistan, India, Israel, Spain, and the Mediterranean.  The name pomegranate comes from the Latin words ‘pomum” (apple) and “granatum” (seeded), literally meaning “seeded apple.”  Pomegranates have a botanical name, “Punica Granatum,” meaning “apple with many seeds.”  The average pomegranate contains about 600 seeds, known as arils.  Arils are the only edible part of a pomegranate, along with pomegranate juice, obtained by squeezing the whole fruit.

Nutritional profile of pomegranates

If you’ve never eaten the arils of a pomegranate, you really must try them.  The tart yet sweet taste is an enjoyable combination, and with their unique blend of phytochemicals, pomegranates should be a fruit eaten frequently.  Here is a nutritional profile of pomegranate arils and juice:

1/2 cup Pomegranate seeds or arils1 cup (8 oz) of Pomegranate Juice
Calories72134
Fat1 gram 0 grams
Saturated/Trans Fat0 grams0 grams
Fiber7 grams0.2 grams
Vitamin C14 milligrams0.2 milligrams
Vitamin K23 micrograms25.9 micrograms
Potassium205 milligrams 533 milligrams

 

Pomegranates have impressive nutritional power

What makes pomegranates such a nutritional powerhouse is their generous abundance of plant chemicals – a total of 124 – also called phytochemicals or polyphenols.  The polyphenols found in pomegranates – flavonoids, quercetin, ellagitannins, and anthocyanins – help decrease oxidation in the body, protecting cells from free radicals while reducing inflammation and may have anti-aging effects.

Here’s how pomegranates and their juice appear to have promising health benefits:

They help increase our fiber intake

Did you know that pomegranate arils can give us seven grams of fiber per serving? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this is nearly 25% of our daily recommended value of fiber for adults in just half a cup of arils.

Most of the fiber in pomegranates is insoluble, which is crucial in maintaining our digestive system and keeping us healthy and satisfied. Insoluble fiber helps keep things moving through our digestive tracts, supporting stable blood sugar levels, and providing a feeling of fullness during mealtimes.

They may help reduce inflammation 

Regular consumption of pomegranates and pomegranate juice can provide various benefits due to the presence of antioxidants. One of these benefits is the potential reduction of inflammation in the body. Studies have shown that regularly drinking pomegranate juice can lower markers of inflammation such as Interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein.

Chronic inflammation is a precursor to several diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes. Therefore, it is essential to incorporate various nutritious foods like pomegranates and other fruits into your diet. However, it should be noted that inflammation can be caused by various factors apart from diet, such as stress, alcohol intake, exercise, and autoimmune conditions.

They may improve kidney health by reducing kidney stones

Kidney stones can be a challenging and painful experience, affecting a significant portion of the population in the United States. However, there is hope for prevention and management of this condition through the power of natural remedies. One study has shown that pomegranates, with their antioxidant-rich dietary phytophenols, may be a valuable ally in the fight against kidney stones. By incorporating this fruit into our diets, we can take proactive steps towards better kidney health and overall well-being.

They are an excellent source of potassium

Pomegranate juice is an excellent way to boost potassium – an essential electrolyte that supports healthy muscle function, nerve function, and heart rate regulation. With nearly 533 milligrams of potassium per cup, and 205 milligrams in a half-cup serving of arils, pomegranate juice is a delicious way to nourish your body and help it function at its best.

They help promote a healthy heart

Inflammation is known to be a common marker in heart disease, which is why it comes as no surprise that pomegranates have been associated with improved heart health. Studies have shown that the consumption of pomegranate juice may help in lowering blood pressure, making it a great addition to a heart-healthy diet.

It has also been found that pomegranates and pomegranate juice may offer protective effects for those with heart disease. In fact, one clinical trial found that heart patients who drank one cup of pomegranate juice daily experienced significantly reduced intensity, occurrence, and duration of chest pain compared to the placebo group. This is an incredibly promising finding and suggests that pomegranates may be an effective tool in managing heart disease.

Moreover, there is evidence to support the notion that consuming fruits that are high in polyphenols, including pomegranates, may be helpful in controlling heart disease.

They provide a bevy of antioxidants 

Pomegranate arils are a powerhouse of antioxidants that can help combat cell-damaging free radicals. The anthocyanins present in these arils are known for their potential health benefits, including fighting cancer and reducing blood pressure. The rich ruby color of pomegranates is a natural indication of the high antioxidant content, making them an excellent choice for anyone looking to take care of their health.

Your athletic performance may improve

Pomegranates contain antioxidants that have several benefits, including improving exercise performance. These antioxidants protect nitric oxide from breaking down in the body, leading to increased nitric oxide bioavailability. Nitric oxide widens blood vessels, causing vasodilation, which enhances blood flow during physical activity. By improving blood flow, nitric oxide helps the body to receive more oxygen and nutrients during exercise, ultimately boosting exercise performance.

A pomegranate precautionary note: Be aware of possible interaction with prescription medications

Pomegranates’ diverse nutritional resume makes it a unique fruit to add to your dietary routine.  Drinking one to two cups of pomegranate juice a day is considered safe.

Pomegranate juice, like grapefruit juice, however, may interact with several medications.  Always consult with your physician for their advice on drinking pomegranate juice. Some medications that can be affected by pomegranate juice include:

  • ACE inhibitors – Pomegranate juice may have the same effects as ACE inhibitors, possibly making the drug too strong.
  • Blood pressure medications – Blood pressure may be lowered by pomegranate juice. If you’re already taking a blood pressure medication, it could increase the risk of causing too-low blood pressure.
  • Statins used to lower cholesterol – Pomegranate juice contains substances that may inhibit liver enzymes, possibly causing statin medications to accumulate in the body, increasing the risk of serious side effects. One such risk is a condition called rhabdomyolysis, a condition that breaks down muscle tissue and leads to kidney damage.
  • Warfarin (Coumadin) – Pomegranate juice has a good amount of vitamin K that may interact with warfarin, increasing the risk of bleeding.

Use pomegranates to boost your health

The power of pomegranates can make a positive impact on your health.  Choosing this unique fruit as a mainstay of your diet will help you achieve the many health benefits pomegranates possess.

Not sure how to incorporate pomegranates into your diet or need recipe ideas?  Check out this article of recipes by Martha Stewart using pomegranates.

 

 

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Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD

Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Institutional Management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City; an adjunct professor for Allen Community College, Burlingame, KS where she teaches Basic Nutrition; and is a freelance writer and blog contributor for Dr. David Samadi, Urologic Oncologist Expert and World Renowned Robotic Surgeon in New York City. Cheryl is also the author of The Nourished Brain, The Latest Science on Food’s Power for Protecting the Brain from Alzheimers and Dementia and The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook, both available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.

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