Bright, ruby-red pomegranates are not just strikingly beautiful to look at (and snap an Instagram photo of), the vibrant fruit packs a nutritional punch. The magic lies in its juicy seeds called arils, although the peel is also pretty nutritious.
“One cup of pomegranate arils contains about 7 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein,” says nutritionist Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, of Real Nutrition. “Additionally, one cup offers 30 percent of the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for vitamin C and over 35 percent of the RDI for vitamin K. Pomegranates also contain folate and potassium, which can both help maintain healthy blood pressure.”
So although pomegranates are notorious for staining your clothes when you seed them (there’s a trick for avoiding that, btw), there’s no denying they deserve a spot in your fruit bowl. Below, seven pomegranate benefits, plus tips and ideas on how to incorporate it into your diet.
Improves exercise capacity
Need a pre-workout snack to fuel you? Nosh on some pomegranate seeds. “Pomegranates are precursors to nitric oxide, a molecule in blood that helps open up blood vessels and enhance blood flow to tissues in the body,” says licensed naturopathic doctor and founder of Los Angeles Integrative Health Kate Denniston, ND. “This increase in blood flow helps bring oxygen and other nutrients to muscles while working out. One study showed that ingestion of pomegranate before workouts decreased running fatigue.”
Helps reduce PMS
The pomegranate’s seeds aren’t the only nutritious part. “The white part around the seeds contains lignans, a type of polyphenol found in plants, which have weak estrogenic activity and can modulate or normalize the effects of estrogen in our bodies,” Dr. Denniston says. “Lignans can help reduce symptoms of PMS and help normalize irregular periods.”
Pomegranates support mood and mental health
If you’re not a fan of yogurt, eating pomegranates is another excellent way to get your dose of healthy gut bacteria. “Studies have shown that polyphenols in pomegranate increase the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, Bifidobacterium, and Lactobacillus, two very important strains for mood and mental health,” Dr. Denniston says.
pomegranates Improve memory
Pomegranates may also support your memory. Steven Gundry, MD, heart surgeon and author of The Plant Paradox, notes a study done with heart surgery patients at Loma Linda University showed that taking pomegranate capsules prevented memory loss after heart surgery. Patients in the trial experienced an improvement in their memory retention compared to before the surgery.
Pomegranates are high in antioxidants
Many of the health benefits of pomegranates are due to a compound it contains called punicalagin, which are potent antioxidants primarily found in the juice and peel. “Antioxidants help to combat free radicals, which are unstable molecules that damage healthy molecules by stealing their electrons,” says certified nutritionist and author of Almost Keto Aimee Aristotelous. Shapiro adds that thanks to punicalagin, pomegranate juice contains more antioxidant activity than red wine and green tea.
Pomegranates reduce inflammation and fight disease
Thanks to the punicalagin mentioned above, Aristotelous says pomegranates are also highly anti-inflammatory. “Chronic inflammation can be the culprit of many serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease, type II diabetes, and Alzheimer’s,” she says. So getting your dose of the vibrant fruit can help protect you from these diseases.
Pomegranates keep blood vessels healthy
Dr. Denniston notes that punicalagin’s anti-inflammatory effects also aids blood vessels and protects them from damage. “Pomegranate seeds also support the synthesis and activity of nitric oxide, which is a substance that helps protect the blood vessel lining against atherosclerosis or ‘plaque’ and inhibits proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells or stiffening of arteries,” she says.
How to incorporate pomegranates into your diet
Half the battle of eating pomegranates is cracking the baby open and not getting crimson stains all over yourself, but its health benefits make it worth the effort. Like with most foods, fresh is best, but if you can’t bother with trying to open it, you can also buy the arils (aka seeds) on their own pre-packaged at the grocery store. Here are ways to squeeze more pomegranates into your diet.
Eat the seeds as a snack
Although drinking pomegranate juice is an easy way to get your pomegranates in, Dr. Gundry recommends eating the raw seeds instead to get the more nutritional bang. “One cup of pomegranate juice contains 33 grams of sugar or about 8 teaspoons of sugar,” he says. “In contrast, a cup of pomegranate seeds has 7 grams of fiber.”
Sprinkle them into dishes
You can incorporate pomegranate seeds into a variety of dishes, both sweet and savory. Use them to top your morning bowl of oatmeal or yogurt. Throw them in a salad for a burst of color and sweetness. Aristotelous adds that they make an excellent addition to hummus or guacamole. You can even toss into gluten-free leftover pasta with veggies that will last you all week. Can you say versatile?
Consume it as a supplement
Supplementing with pomegranate extract capsules is another option, which is said to have the same effect as drinking straight-up pomegranate juice. “Pomegranate extract capsules deliver equal amounts of the polyphenols gallic acid, ellagic acid, punicalagin A&B, and punicalin A&B, all of which reduce inflammation, reduce cholesterol oxidation, and even reduce plaque in teeth,” Dr. Gundry says.
Aristotelous says, supplements that come in powder or extract form also reap the benefits of the non-edible parts of the pomegranate, such as the peel, which is also rife with antioxidants.