Winter is the season of the pomegranate. The pomegranate has had a symbolic place in ancient cultures around the globe, and is associated with fertility, prosperity, and health. Hades, God of the Underworld, gave a ripe red pomegranate to Persephone to eat before returning to earth and the spring, and it’s the fruit that bounds her to return to the Underworld every winter, as the land goes barren and the cold and frost settle in. But pomegranate isn’t just the stuff of myth. It’s a nutritional powerhouse that packs an antioxidant punch and satisfies with a succulently sweet taste.
A pomegranate is filled on average with 600 juicy seed sacs called arils. Just one cup of arils delivers:
- 7 grams of fiber
- 3 grams of protein
- 30% RDA of vitamin C
- 36% RDA of vitamin K
- 16% RDA of folate
- 12% RDA of potassium
…and B vitamins, copper, manganese, phosphorus, and antioxidant polyphenols and flavonoids to boot!
The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published a study that compared 10 fruit-based beverages and found that of all of them, including acai and blueberry juice, pomegranate juice had 20% greater antioxidant benefit. It ranked the healthiest because it had the most of every type of antioxidant.
A Heart Healthy Berry
Scientists believe that pomegranate juice protects heart health by:
- Lowering systolic blood pressure (the top number)
- Slowing the growth of plaque on your arteries
- Improving blood flow so that your arteries remain pliable and healthy
Patients with atherosclerosis (a disease in which plaque forms on your arteries) drank pomegranate juice for one year, and reduced plaque on their carotid arteries by up to 30% versus the control group who experienced increased plaque formation by as much as 9%.
A Cancer Controller
A pomegranate’s antioxidant activity is so potent that it’s been shown to help suppress cancer cell proliferation and induce cell death in cancer cells, such as prostate cancer cells. A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food showed that pomegranate extract inhibited the spread and growth of breast cancer cells by promoting cell death (apoptosis).
Clinical Cancer Research: an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research reports that pomegranate juice significantly lengthened the amount of time it took PSA levels to double (from 15 to 54 months) in prostate cancer patients. Those with PSA levels that double quickly are more at risk for death from prostate cancer.
An Anti-Inflammation Agent
Studies have shown that pomegranate possesses active anti-inflammation powers. There is evidence that pomegranate can help soothe inflammation in the gut and alleviate gastrointestinal disturbance. Other studies have shown that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of pomegranate help promote bone health. An animal-based study published in the European Journal of Nutrition showed that all parts of the pomegranate up-regulated the activity of osteoblasts, which are cells that activate bone activity, and reduced the expression of osteoclasts, which are cells that break down bone.
An analysis of 8 studies published in the journal Current Drug Targets substantiated the “positive effects of pomegranate extract or juice on osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.”
A Booster for Brain Health
Pomegranate’s anti-inflammatory effects extend to brain health, as some studies have found that supplementation with pomegranate may help slow the progression of neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. And flavonoids in pomegranates have even been shown to enhance memory. A pilot study showed that when people supplemented with pomegranates after undergoing heart surgery they didn’t suffer from memory dysfunction. Those in the control group, however, exhibited impaired memory for up to 6 weeks after surgery.
Pomegranates have also been shown to help fight depression, improve erectile dysfunction, alleviate joint pain, and reduce arthritis symptoms.
The Best Way to Eat a Pomegranate
Experts recommend eating a whole pomegranate instead of drinking pomegranate juice, which is high in sugar. To best eat, cut off the crown end of the pomegranate. After cutting the pomegranate into sections, soak the sections in a bowl of water. Remove the seeds with your fingers and throw out the rest of the pomegranate. Strain the water and enjoy! You can also just pick out the seeds one by one if you’d rather. It makes a great replacement for popcorn during movie time!