What are pomegranates?
Pomegranates are round fruits with hard, shiny red-yellow skins. Split one open and you’ll reveal the jewel-like inner seeds, known as arils, which can be eaten raw or juiced.
Pomegranate health benefits may include:
1. Rich in antioxidants, which may protect against heart disease
2. Appear to have a preventative effect on bone loss
3. May soothe muscle soreness and improve recovery after heavy training sessions
4. Support good gut health
5. Improve memory
Nutritional profile of pomegranate
An 80g portion provides:
- 41 Kcal / 174 KJ
- 1.0g Protein
- 0.2g Fat
- 9.4g Carbohydrate
- 3.6g Fibre
- 192mg Potassium
- 10mg Vitamin C
An 80g serving counts as one of your five-a-day. Check out our printable infographic to find out what else counts towards your 5-a-day.
What are the top health benefits of pomegranate?
1. May reduce the risk of heart disease
Pomegranate is rich in protective compounds which have antioxidant properties, these are beneficial for health as they protect not only our cells, from damage but also compounds like cholesterol. This means including pomegranate regularly may be effective at reducing the risk of atherosclerosis.
In 2013 a study considered the effect of consuming 150ml of pomegranate juice every day for two weeks on patients with high blood pressure (hypertension), and found that it may help lower blood pressure. Another study from 2005 found that drinking pomegranate juice may improve blood flow to the heart in patients with coronary heart disease. However, these were small studies and the findings would need to be replicated with larger sample sizes before researchers can confirm a direct link.
2. May improve bone health
Two studies from 2014 and 2015 have demonstrated how pomegranate consumption appears to have a preventative effect on bone loss in mice but, to date, this has not been replicated in human trials. The findings suggest that both the juice and seed extract of pomegranates may be of potential benefit especially for mid-life, menopausal women.
3. May improve athletic performance
A 2016 study suggests that the antioxidant content of pomegranates and pomegranate juice may delay muscle soreness and improve recovery after weight training sessions. Another study also demonstrated that pomegranate extract improved performance within 30 minutes of ingestion for sports involving intermittent running.
4. May have anti-inflammatory properties
Pomegranates have an antioxidant activity three times higher than that of red wine and green tea so it would be fair to expect beneficial anti-inflammatory properties. There have been various studies examining the potential anti-inflammatory properties of pomegranate. Initial research has indicated that the fruit may help fight inflammation in the gut, while other studies have looked into the potential anti-inflammatory effects of one antioxidant compound, called punicic acid, which is found in pomegranate seed oil on breast cancer cells. A paper in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences also reported a small trial in which patients with type 2 diabetes consumed pomegranate juice each day and showed fewer markers of inflammation in their blood after 12 weeks.
Current studies are underway to examine the effects of pomegranate juice on inflammatory markers of patients hospitalised with covid-19. Although all these studies are promising, more research is required before pomegranate can be claimed to have specific anti-inflammatory effects.
5. May improve memory
Research into how pomegranates and their juice may affect cognitive function is still in the early stages. One small trial asked participants with mild age-associated memory complaints to drink 225ml of pomegranate juice daily, and found an improvement in verbal and visual tasks after four weeks. Other research has suggested that pomegranate juice may have cognitive benefits in mice. Again, more robust research is needed before a health claim can be made for pomegranates and memory.
Are pomegranates safe for everyone?
Some people may have an allergy to pomegranate fruit, this may be due to a cross reactivity, for example, if you are allergic to birch tree pollen you may experience an allergy to certain fruit, including pomegranate.
There are some reports of pomegranate and pomegranate juice interacting with prescription medication, including medication prescribed for high blood pressure and cholesterol management.
If you are taking prescribed medication, always check with your GP before making any dietary changes.
Overall, are pomegranates good for you?
Pomegranates and their juice bring some great benefits to your health. The high level of antioxidants they provide is thought to reduce your risk of heart disease and promote a healthy, happy gut. While more studies are needed, pomegranates appear to improve sports performance, boost memory and help women during menopause.
Healthy pomegranate recipes
Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a registered nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in personalised nutrition & nutritional therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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