When it comes to tasty yet messy fruits, pomegranates are at the top of the list. While eating this fruit can be a bit challenging, it's worth the effort.
Pomegranates are one of the healthiest foods around, offering tons of tangible benefits. Best of all, the flavor is sweet and tangy, making pomegranates all the more desirable.
Because this fruit is so beneficial, we decided to take a closer look at it. This article will dive deep into the pomegranate, exploring its history, health advantages, and how you can start to incorporate more pomegranates into your diet. If you're not already a huge fan of this fruit, you will be by the end. Let's see what makes pomegranates so awesome.
Table of Contents
A Brief History of Pomegranates
The humble pomegranate has had a long and luxurious history, dating back to ancient times and civilizations. Every empire in the Mediterranean, from Greece to Egypt, all had a love affair with this fruit. When browsing ancient art and texts, you'll notice that the pomegranate pops up all over the place. The fruit originated in the Persian empire, but its deliciousness made it a hot commodity, spreading quickly throughout the ancient world.
The secret to the pomegranate's success in these times was its abundance of fruit seeds. Whereas an apple or orange may yield a few seeds, a pomegranate does not leave you wanting more. In fact, the name itself reveals this origin, as it's a blend of the Latin words pomum granatum, or apple of many seeds. Its official name is the punica granatum. In China, the pomegranate was originally called the Chinese apple (a creative title). For centuries, people would hold up the pomegranate as a symbol of fertility, abundance, and rebirth.
The pomegranate is also the inspiration for a few names. First is grenadine, which is made from the fruit, and another is the Spanish province Grenada. Throughout history, everyone who has come into contact with the pomegranate seems to be better for it.
In the modern era, pomegranate is known as a superfood, thanks to its many health benefits. Tons of health-conscious recipes include pomegranates, from salads to dressings to smoothies to juice. Just as the past has been kind to this fruit, the future continues to look bright.
The Top Health Benefits of Pomegranates
As scientists continue to probe into the pomegranate's health profile, they discover more and more reasons to incorporate this fruit into your daily diet. With so many nutrients like vitamin C, folic acid, and potassium, the saying should go, "a pomegranate a day keeps the doctor away." However, it's not quite as catchy. Nonetheless, let's explore some of the top medicinal properties that pomegranates can yield.
High Fiber Content
One cup of pomegranate seeds (called arils) has about seven grams of fiber. Many fruits have fiber, which helps keep your body regular. Since dietary fiber is indigestible, it can move waste through your digestive system more efficiently than other ingredients. Better yet, fiber can collect some harmful materials, such as cholesterol and blood sugar. So, high-fiber diets can help prevent high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
High Antioxidant Count
Oxidants, aka free radicals, can damage your cells. This process is called oxidative stress. While we're exposed to free radicals all the time, our exposure spikes when doing certain activities, such as smoking or staying out in the sun for too long. Over time, this damage can cause cell mutation, which leads to cancer. Our bodies have natural defenses to prevent cancer from developing and spreading, but prolonged and repeated exposure can weaken those systems.
So, eating foods with antioxidant properties can help restore your cells and ward off free radical damage. Although we're not saying that foods like pomegranates can effectively prevent cancer, they do help even the odds in your favor.
The reason why pomegranates are so potent is the presence of a substance called punicalagin. This one ingredient is a much better antioxidant activity than other options, such as red wine, grapes, or blueberries. So, if you only had to pick one high-antioxidant fruit for your diet, pomegranate might be the best choice. The other name for punicalagin is pomegranate polyphenol.
However, one point to keep in mind is that most of the punicalagin is in the pomegranate's tough, inedible peel. If you want to extract as many antioxidants as possible from your fruit, we suggest grinding the pomegranate peel into a paste then letting it dry out so that it can become a powder. Or, you can purchase pre-made pomegranate supplements, which use pomegranate peel extract already.
Inhibits Cancer Cell Growth
While antioxidants can help prevent cancer from developing, most of them can actually increase cancer's spread once it's in the body. Fortunately, pomegranates don't have that problem. Instead, compounds within the fruit work to keep cancer from getting out of control. A recent study showed that pomegranates helped reduce prostate cancer cells by limiting their movement and disrupting a chemical reaction that attracts the cells to bones.
Prostate cancer isn't the only disease affected by pomegranates. Multiple studies have shown that the antioxidants in pomegranates can inhibit breast cancer growth and even kill some cells. Again, we're not saying that pomegranates can cure or prevent cancer. They can only help mitigate its potential effects. Don't assume that eating a fistful of pomegranate seeds will keep you cancer-free.
Inflammation is one of the leading triggers for various health conditions and diseases. In fact, one could argue that reducing inflammation could make you much healthier, even if nothing else changed. While you want to utilize as many health benefits as possible (particularly as you age), anti-inflammatory foods can be pretty potent. The pomegranate has excellent anti-inflammatory properties, making it an ideal choice for daily consumption.
Since prolonged inflammation can lead to issues like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and cancer, it's safe to say that fruits like pomegranate can help reduce your chances of developing those problems. When it comes to diabetes, consuming pomegranate can also give you a dose of punicic acid, which helps regulate your blood sugar. You can also get punicic acid from pomegranate seed oil, which is more potent.
High blood pressure is a problem that many Americans experience (nearly half of all adults, according to the CDC). Thankfully, a single glass of pomegranate fruit juice seems to help counteract this problem, as evidenced by various studies. As we've seen, pomegranates have an anti-inflammatory effect and powerful antioxidant properties, which, when coupled with the fiber content, can make your blood flow work more efficiently.
Reduces Heart Disease
One of the driving factors of heart disease is the buildup of fat in the blood vessels. This buildup is evidenced by high cholesterol and high blood pressure, as it shows that your heart has to work much harder to pump blood through your system. In addition to the other benefits we've discussed with pomegranates, the fruit also helps reduce triglycerides in your blood. Triglycerides are responsible for your LDL cholesterol, so lowering them can help ward off cardiovascular disease.
Improves Oral Health
When it comes to pomegranates and oral hygiene, the fruit is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it contains a lot of sugar, which can rot your teeth if you don't brush them regularly. On the other hand, though, pomegranates can help combat bacterial and viral infections in your mouth (and the rest of your body). To get the full effect, though, you have to use the peel. As we mentioned, most pomegranate powder has a lot of peel inside, so you don't have to chew it for those benefits.
Improves Exercise Recovery
While your diet can affect your body significantly, exercise does a lot more to keep your internal systems working correctly. For example, if you want to manage your blood sugar and fat levels, exercising regularly can help flush excess waste from your system. We're not saying that a diet of junk food is okay if you work out every day, only that you should exercise as much as possible to maintain optimal health.
Fortunately, pomegranates can help you on both fronts, as the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties help move your blood more efficiently as you work out. Because your heart doesn't have to strain as hard and because your muscles get more blood, you don't feel as sore the next day. A study looked at the effects of pomegranate juice on athletes who drank a glass 30 minutes before a workout. The results were pretty significant.
Potential Drawbacks to Pomegranates
For the most part, eating this fruit will yield a substantial net positive effect. However, before you start munching on pomegranate seeds every chance you get, keep these potential downsides in mind.
- Excess Sugar - Compared to other fruits, pomegranates have quite a bit of sugar (14 grams per 100 grams of fruit). So, if you already have diabetes or high blood sugar, you need to consume pomegranates in moderation.
- Reactions With Sensitive Stomachs - It's rare, but those with sensitive stomachs have reported adverse side effects after eating a pomegranate. That said, if you eat the fruit (or drink a glass of juice) without any problems, you don't have to worry.
- Medication Interference - Since pomegranates have such potent effects on your body, they could potentially interfere with some medications. For example, if you're already taking pills for high blood pressure or cholesterol, adding pomegranates to the mix could lower your blood pressure a little too much.
How to Consume Pomegranates
Now that we know the advantages of eating pomegranates, let's dive into the various ways that you can incorporate this fruit into your diet. There are three primary options - eating the seeds raw, juicing the seeds, and adding them to a smoothie. Let's break each option down.
Peeling and Eating
If you've tried to peel and eat a pomegranate before, you know that it's easier said than done. However, you don't have to struggle to get the seeds out, nor do you need to look like you just murdered someone afterward. Follow these steps to peel your fruit more efficiently:
- Step One: Cut Off the Top - Remove a generous section (about an inch or so) until you can see the seeds inside. You should also notice built-in units within the pomegranate.
- Step Two: Score the Fruit - Cut along the outside of the pomegranate, following the lines of the interior sections. Cut about a half-inch into the fruit.
- Step Three: Peel - Remove the sections as you would an orange. Ideally, you'll do this over a bowl or something that can catch the seeds. From there, you can either eat the seeds directly from the fruit or scrape them off into your container.
While eating pomegranate fruit can be tasty and refreshing, it's not exactly neat and clean. The seeds can tumble and fall all over the place if you're not careful. To avoid making a huge mess, you can start drinking pomegranate juice instead. Using an electric juicer saves time and offers an incredible juice yield. You do lose some of the fiber in the process, but you get a delicious beverage that you can drink on the go.
A centrifugal juicer is the easiest to use for pomegranate, but you won't get as much juice as you would with a masticating model. That said, you will have to squeeze the seeds afterward, either way, to ensure that you get more fresh pomegranate juice.
If you want to retain all the fiber from your pomegranate arils, we recommend tossing them into a smoothie. Since you don't remove any pulp, you get all the nutrients with the same convenience as a juicer. Yes, your beverage will be a bit crunchy, but that's a small price to pay for so much nutrition.
Bottom Line: Start Adding Pomegranates to Your Diet
While no food can allow you to "hack" your way to a healthier body, pomegranates do offer more benefits than other fruits. By adding some seeds to your daily routine, you can improve your health and get some tasty recipes in the process.