Pomegranate (Punica granatum) is a fruit bearing shrub or small tree belonging to the family Lythraceae. Pomegranates are believed to have originated in Iran and have been cultivated for centuries in China, India, Middle East, tropical Africa, and parts of Southeast Asia.
The name “pomegranate” is derived from the French word “pomme garnete“, meaning “seeded apple”. The fruit is about the size and shape of an average apple, but its skin has a pinkish-red hue and a leathery texture. The inside of the pomegranate is filled with bitter, inedible tissue that holds hundreds of sacs containing red or pink pulp juice. The sacs taste both tart and sweet.
In Asia, Africa and Europe, pomegranate has been a primary ingredient in many dishes. It can be eaten raw or mixed with a variety of foods. You can make use of it in salads or desserts to add a flavor and enhance the visual appeal of the dish.
Nutritional Value of Pomegranate
According to the USDA, the nutritional value of one cup of raw pomegranate (175 g) are as listed below:
|Total fat||1.2 g||2%|
|Saturated Fat||0.1 g||1%|
|Polyunsaturated fat||0.1 g|
|Monounsaturated fat||0.1 g|
|Total Carbohydrate||19 g||6%|
|Dietary fiber||4 g||16%|
|Vitamin C||10.2 mg||17%|
|Vitamin K||16.4 mcg||21%|
In addition, pomegranate also contains antioxidants like anthocyanin and ellagic acid, and flavonoids like quercetin, which offer protection from heart diseases, osteoarthritis and several forms of cancer.
Health Benefits of Pomegranate
1. Fight cancer cells
Many studies have shown that pomegranate extracts have an ability to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells in the laboratory. The ellagitannins in pomegranates fight the growth of new blood vessels necessary for nourishing prostate cancer tumors . Pomegranates may also inhibit the development of breast cancer .
2. Acts as an anti-inflammatory
The flavonol compounds in pomegranates can acts as anti-inflammatory agents in the body. Laboratory studies have shown that pomegranate extract can block enzymes that are known to damage the joints in people with osteoarthritis. Another study found that the extract of pomegranate may help rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases by suppressing mast cells and basophils.
3. Lower blood pressure
Drinking pomegranate juice daily may also help lower blood pressure. A study published in Phytotherapy Research suggested that people with high blood pressure who drank 150 ml fresh pomegranate juice daily for two weeks had a significant reduction in their blood pressure .
A 2005 study found that drinking pomegranate juice daily may improve blood flow to the heart in patients with coronary heart disease .
4. Cures erectile dysfunction
There is a recent study shows that pomegranate juice can actually improve erectile dysfunction or impotence.
Scientists at The University of California in Los Angeles gave 53 men suffering mild-to-moderate impotence problems a daily dose of eight fluid ounces of pomegranate juice. After one month, they switched to another fruit juice.
The results showed that 47 percent of volunteers reported improvements in erectile function after drinking the pomegranate juice. With the other fruit juice, 31 percent also reported an improvement, which researchers believe may be due to the placebo effect.
Drinking pomegranate juice can also increase testosterone levels in men and women, one of the main hormones behind sex drive.
5. Improve cognitive function
Studies have suggested that pomegranate juice can be beneficial in improving cognitive function.
One study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that pomegranate polyphenols may provide long-lasting protection from heart surgery-induced memory retention deficits.
There was a clear pattern of postsurgical memory improvement in the pomegranate group across all of the memory domains tested, with an especially strong and long-lasting protective effect in the memory retention domain .
Studies have shown that pomegranate can help prevent osteoarthritis and other bone problems. There are certain enzymes that are directly responsible for joint inflammation and joint weakness. Pomegranate blocks those enzymes thus reducing osteoarthritis.
6. Support heart health
In addition to pomegranate’s benefits in lowering blood pressure, many studies show other ways this fruit is good for your heart. Both pomegranate juice and extract have the ability to inhibit platelet activity, which can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The journal Clinical Nutrition published the results of a research that studied the effect of pomegranate juice on carotid artery stenosis – the narrowing of two key arteries located in the neck that carry blood from the heart to the brain.
Participants with this disease reduced their blood pressure by over 12 percent and reduced their atherosclerotic plaque by 30 percent. Plaque in these two key arteries increased by 9 percent in individuals who did not consume pomegranate juice.
Overall, the study discovered that pomegranate juice significantly lowered plaque in the carotid arteries, reduced blood pressure, and lowered LDL oxidation .
7. Maintain bone health
Pomegranate is a good source of vitamin K, which is important for healthy bones as well as proper blood clotting. A 2013 study suggested that when consumed regularly, pomegranates help strengthen bones and prevent bone problems such as osteoporosis.
Pomegranate seeds give slightly more than 16 mcg of the vitamin K, or about 20 percent of the of the recommended daily value.
8. Aid digestion
Pomegranates contain a significant amount of dietary fiber, which helps aid digestion and prevents constipation. Eating a pomegranate every day is a good way to add fiber to your daily diet. One pomegranate can fulfill about 45% of your daily recommended intake of fiber, which is about 25 grams for women and 35 grams for men.
9. Slow down aging process
Pomegranate can help slow down aging due to its antioxidant properties. Pomegranate juice contains antioxidant such as polyphenols and punicalagins. These help fight the process of aging by regenerating cells and preventing their damage from free radicals.
10. Keep the skin healthy
The antioxidants and vitamins in pomegranates are great for keeping your skin looking young and healthy. Research shows that eating pomegranate promotes elastin and collagen production, which helps your skin fight off wrinkles, sun damage, and age spots. And since pomegranates also improve blood circulation to the skin, your body will be better at repairing damage and regenerating skin cells.
How to Choose and Eat a Pomegranate
When buying pomegranates, look for ones that are round, plump and heavy for their size as the heavier ones are juicer. The skin should be leathery in appearance, but not dry-looking. Dry skin signals the fruit is drying out, and will be mushy inside. Also be sure that there are no blemishes or bad spots.
To get the seeds out, cut your pomegranate in half, soak it in a bowl of water for about 2 minutes, break the fruit apart, and then dig out the seeds with your fingers while still underwater. The membranes will have loosened and the seeds will easily fall out.