Ever tried a pomegranate? These days, pomegranates are a fruit most everyone has heard about, but few may have actually tried.
Pomegranates are a native Middle Eastern fruit that contain crunchy seeds surrounded by juicy pulp. Not only are they loaded with vitamins, but they're packed with certain nutrients that may help fight diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
According to the USDA, pomegranates are a great source of vitamins C and E, folic acid and potassium. In fact, pomegranates are one of the richest sources of polyphenols, a group of strong antioxidants. The purpose of antioxidants is to slow or prevent the cell damage that is linked to many diseases.
The antioxidant powers of pomegranates may be nearly three times more than the amount in green tea or red wine. Other fruits containing polyphenols include blueberries, cranberries and red grapes.
Because of the pomegranate's rich antioxidant status, more and more research is being done on this fruit and its juice for disease prevention. Some studies have shown that eating pomegranates and/or their juice may help to:
- Lower blood pressure
- Decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke by reducing plaque build up in the arteries
- Slow the progression of breast, colon and prostate cancer
- Block enzymes that contribute to osteoarthritis
Thus far, most studies have been done on animals. Further research with humans is underway.
Shopping and eating tips
A pomegranate, when opened, reveals a dense collection of seeds that sit in a spongy pulp. Though the pulp is edible, the seeds provide the real treat. Each seed is surrounded by a crimson colored sac. The juice of this sac is what provides the tart taste and the deep red color of the pomegranate juice.
What to look for: When shopping for pomegranates, pick one up and feel its weight. If it feels too light for its size, choose a heavier one. The skin should be tight, shiny and thin, with no cracking or splitting. Store pomegranates in a cool, dark place for up to a month. They can be refrigerated for up to two months.
Taste: Depending on the variety and degree of ripeness, the seeds of the pomegranate can vary in taste from only a little sour (similar to ripe cherries) to fairly sharp (similar to uncooked cranberries).
Juice or fruit? Though the seeds can be enjoyed straight from the fruit, pomegranate season is only from September to December. Since the fruit is not available at other times of the year, pomegranate juice can be a practical alternative.
- Some brands can be found at your local supermarket, while others may only be sold in health and gourmet food stores. Some of these are sold as concentrate and water needs to be added.
- Always look for 100 percent juice. Some brands will blend the pomegranate juice with other juices, offering a milder taste. Straight pomegranate juice can be fairly tart.
As with any "superfood," pomegranates won't perform any miracles. Though they can be a healthy addition to your meal plan, remember that no one food can be the cure-all for any ailment. An overall healthy diet, regular exercise and stress reduction all work together to play a role in long-term health and wellness.
Created on 06/16/2005
Updated on 12/09/2009
- Seeram NP, Aronson WJ, Zhang Y et al. Pomegranate ellagitannin-derived metabolites inhibit prostate cancer growth and localize to the mouse prostate gland. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2007;55(19):7732-7737.
- Summer MD, Elliott-Eller M, Weidner G, et al. Effects of pomegranate juice consumption on myocardial infusion in patients with coronary heart disease. American Journal of Cardiology. 2005;96(6):810-814.
- de Nigris F, Williams-Ignarro S, Lerman LO, et al. Beneficial effects of pomegranate juice on oxidation-sensitive genes and endothelial nitric oxide synthase activity at sites of perturbed shear stress. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2005;102(13):4896-4901.