Although the pomegranate craze began a few years ago, just walk into a grocery store to notice that the obsession is still going strong — and rightfully so. That juicy, tart red fruit is a powerhouse of antioxidants and anti-inflammation that seems beneficial for just about everyone.
What’s so special about pomegranates? A handy rule of thumb is that the deeper the color of a fruit or vegetable, the more phytonutrients it has (plant nutrients aside from vitamins and minerals that have health benefits). When you open up a pomegranate, the first thing you notice is the plethora of edible, little sacs filled with deep-red juice. The amount of flavonoids (an antioxidant) in pomegranate is even higher than red wine and possibly green tea.
Anti-Cancer: Researchers at the University of Wisconson reviewed numerous studies on pomegranates for cancer prevention or treatment. It’s not an absolute guarantee, but the results were overwhelmingly in favor of pomegranate, in the form of juice, extract or seed oil. The studies suggest pomegranate to potentially slow the initiation and development of cancer of the breast, prostate, lung and colon. Applying pomegranate extract or seed oil to the skin might also help slow skin cancer. But that doesn”t mean to stop using sunscreen.
Heart Health: Similar to how a moderate intake (less than 5 oz per day for women and less than 10 oz per day for men) of red wine might benefit heart health, might also help. This could be especially good news for those who choose not to drink or are concerned about alcohol’s adverse effects.
Diabetes: might also help people with Type 2 diabetes, although the mechanism isn’t well understood. Note though: a whole, fresh pomegranate or cup of pomegranate juice each has 30 grams of carbohydrates, so make sure to include that in your carb counting.
Juice, Whole Fruit or Supplements? While most studies have used pomegranate juice, seed oil, or extract, that doesn’t mean that the whole fruit isn’t also beneficial. In fact, when you have the whole fruit versus 1 cup of juice, you’ll also get fiber (6 grams), more vitamin C (16 vs 0.2 mg) and more protein (2.5 vs 0.4 g). In either you’ll benefit from calcium, potassium, folate, and vitamin K. To include pomegranates regularly in your diet, you might need to resort to the juice between February and September when the fruit is not in season. Most studies indicate that you can glean the health benefits from just 1/4 cup per day. And don’t forget your calories. Adding juice is an easy way to add more calories because it doesn’t fill you up like whole fruit does (due to the lack of fiber). Juice can be healthy – but watch overdoing it. If you choose a supplement, you may not get what you’re paying for. A study of various supplements showed that the phytonutrients did not match the amount indicated on their label.
Eat up, drink up, rub it on your skin. Whichever way you decide – here’s to pomegranates for your health!