Snack on the crunchy seeds or drink its tart juice for powerful polyphenols and lots of fiber.
Pomegranates have a lot of redeeming qualities, but this fruit—mainly its seeds and its juice—is mostly known for being a rich source of antioxidants and high in fiber. This makes them great for supporting gut health and fighting off diseases, such as heart disease and even certain types of cancer. Here’s why pomegranates should be on your radar, and more importantly, on your plate.
What Are Pomegranates?
Pomegranates are round fruits that are in season from September to January. They originate from Africa and are thought to come from the countries along the Arabian Peninsula. The pomegranate’s medicinal properties have been harnessed throughout history, dating back thousands of years.
Though they look a bit like red apples, you don’t eat pomegranates by biting into them like an apple. Instead, to eat a pomegranate, you’ll open up the thick, hard rind to find the inside filled with juicy, red seeds called arils. These edible pomegranate seeds are crunchy, juicy, slightly tart, and absolutely delicious—they add pops of sweet-tart acidity to yogurt parfaits, fruit and savory salads, grain bowls, cocktails, and so much more. Pomegranate seeds are also quite good for you thanks to a number of impressive healthy nutrients and benefits.
Nutritional Profile of Pomegranate
Pomegranates are a great source of nutrients, especially fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins, and select minerals.
Here’s an overview of the nutrients found in one cup of pomegranate, according to USDA data:
Total fat: 2.05 grams (g)
Protein: 2.92 g
Total carbohydrates: 32.7 g
Fiber: 7 g
Sugar: 23.9 g
Vitamin C: 17.8 mg
Vitamin K: 28.7 mcg
Folate (Vitamin B9): 66.5 mcg
Potassium: 413 mg
Copper: 0.28 mg
A standard serving size of fruit is about half a cup, says Kim Kulp, RDN, a registered dietitian in San Francisco, so the above portion of pomegranate would satisfy two servings of fruit.
Top Benefits of Pomegranate
Pomegranates are a flavorful source of nutrients, and as such, they boast loads of health benefits. Aside from their versatile uses in the kitchen, here are some of the top reasons to eat them regularly.
1. Pomegranates (including the juice) are packed with antioxidants.
Fruits are generally rich sources of antioxidants, and pomegranates are a prime example of this. There are several different antioxidants found in pomegranates—some of its micronutrients, such as vitamin C, act as antioxidants, as do the anthocyanins, a plant compound that also gives pomegranate its vibrant hue.
“There are 700 mg of polyphenol antioxidants in every 8 oz serving of pomegranate juice,” says Roxana Ehsani, RD, CSSD, LDN, a Miami-based sports dietitian. “Past research has found that pomegranate juice has even more antioxidant potency than red wine, concord grape juice, or green tea on average.”
It’s important to eat (and drink) plenty of antioxidants because these compounds help fight free radicals, reduce cellular damage, and fend off disease, says Lexi Moriarty, RDN, CSSD, a sports dietitian in Westfield, New Jersey. In addition to its potential to reduce the risk of developing certain cancers and heart disease, antioxidant-rich foods like pomegranates could also contribute to skin, brain, and eye health, she adds.
2. Pomegranates are a good source of gut-friendly fiber and polyphenols.
Dietary fiber is one of the most potent nutrients found in pomegranates. Each cup provides 7 grams, making quite a dent in the average adult’s daily fiber needs (about 25 g per day for women and 38 g per day for men, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics).
“Most Americans don’t eat the recommended amount of fiber each day,” Ehsani says, adding that it’s an essential nutrient linked to digestive health and blood sugar control. “Half a cup [of pomegranate seeds] packs nearly 4 grams of fiber.”
The impressive fiber content isn’t the only gut-healthy reason to eat more pomegranate. The fruit is also a good source of polyphenols, which can work as prebiotics that feed good microbes, Kulp explains. “Beneficial microbes [in the gut] can feast on the polyphenols in pomegranates, which can improve the intestinal lining and decrease disease-causing inflammation,” Kulp says, pointing to a 2023 review. “As the beneficial microbes increase, the more harmful types decrease.”
3. Pomegranates can support a healthy heart.
Some say that certain foods resemble the organs whose functions they support. For example, walnuts are beneficial for brain health and somewhat resemble the human brain in appearance. Similarly, pomegranates, which loosely resemble the heart, support cardiovascular health.
There are several ways pomegranates can protect your heart, Kulp says. This could help explain why pomegranates were highlighted as one of the top cardioprotective fruits in a 2021 review. They may increase “good” HDL cholesterol while lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol levels as well as reducing blood pressure, she says, citing a 2023 review. Drinking pomegranate juice could also improve blood flow and reduce angina, she adds.
It’s also said to improve artery health by preventing the buildup of plaque. Pomegranates may also help reverse narrowing of the arteries known as atherosclerosis, older research suggests.
Since pomegranates are linked to improving some of the risk factors for heart disease, the fruit could reduce the risk of one of the leading causes of death, says Cindy Chou, RDN, a registered dietitian in Santa Monica, California. Pomegranates may also combat inflammation, further reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease.
4. Pomegranates may boost athletic performance.
Both sports dietitians, Ehsani and Moriarty, are big fans of pomegranates’ potential to increase exercise performance.
“Pomegranate juice may assist with athletic performance and help expedite the recovery from exercise, research shows,” Ehsani says. “It may also help improve nitric oxide bioavailability, which helps your body get the nutrients it needs for exercise.”
5. Pomegranates may improve blood sugar control.
Fruits contain naturally occurring sugars, pomegranate included, though pomegranates definitely make the list of lower-sugar fruits. So can people with diabetes eat pomegranates? It’s always important to check with your health care team first and foremost, but in many cases, Kulp says, people with diabetes can eat—and benefit from—pomegranates. In fact, this fruit could help keep blood sugar levels under control.
“Studies in both animals and humans have shown that pomegranate can improve fasting blood sugar in those who have diabetes,” Kulp explains. “It could also reduce hemoglobin A1C, which is the measure of blood sugar control over the past three months.”
Do Pomegranates Have Any Side Effects?
It’s safe to eat pomegranate seeds and drink pomegranate juice, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Side effects are unlikely, but some may have allergic reactions or experience digestive discomfort.
If you’re sensitive to fructans, a type of carbohydrate, Kulp says you’re more likely to get digestive side effects from pomegranate like gas, bloating, and diarrhea. This typically happens if someone eats a large portion of pomegranate, so Kulp recommends sticking to a quarter cup at a time.
Those taking certain medications should also check with their doctor to make sure they don’t interact with pomegranates. “Pomegranates may interact with certain medications such as blood thinners, so it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider,” Chou advises.
The Best Way to Eat Pomegranates
When you eat a pomegranate, you mainly eat the seeds, called arils. The white piths and tough outer skin both have a bitter taste, so even though they’re technically edible, you can eat around those if you’d like.
Incorporating pomegranate into your regular meal plan is easy and the options are close to endless. The simplest way: Snack on pomegranate seeds by themselves. This is easiest and most delicious when pomegranates are in season during the fall and winter months.
Before the pomegranate season ends, you can freeze the seeds for later and blend them in smoothies.
When they’re not in season, you can typically buy pre-made pomegranate juice from most supermarkets. Keep in mind that juicing fruit removes most of the fiber, but you will still benefit from its antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.
The seeds are the best-tasting part of the pomegranate and have the most culinary applications, Chou says. She recommends sprinkling them over salads or serving them alongside vegetables to incorporate them into savory recipes. Other ways to eat pomegranate include adding the seeds to yogurt, oatmeal, or chia pudding, Kulp says.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it more beneficial to eat pomegranate seeds or drink pomegranate juice?
Eating whole fruit tends to be more beneficial than drinking fruit juice in general. This is because juicing any fruit removes most of its fiber, which is an essential nutrient. That said, many of the studies on the benefits of pomegranate use pomegranate juice. Both the seeds and juice can be beneficial.
If you spit out the hard inner part of pomegranate seeds do you still get the health benefits?
The entire pomegranate has beneficial properties—even the less desirable parts, such as the skin or peel, white piths, and hard inner seeds. The crunchy interior of the seeds is where most of the fiber is housed, so you’ll technically forfeit some nutrients if you spit them out. According to the American Heart Association, it’s OK if you spit out the small seeds inside and just enjoy the juicier outer part of the seed.
Farro Bowl With Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad With Pomegranate Seeds
Pomegranate Stuffing (or Dressing)
Pomegranate Royale Champagne Cocktail
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