Pomegranate seeds, the edible insides of the pomegranate, are little ruby red bursts of sweet and tart deliciousness that pack a seriously big punch of health benefits.
That should come as no surprise, seeing as pomegranates are among the top 10 Bible foods that heal the body and the mind!
Research shows that pomegranates can help prevent or treat various disease risk factors, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, oxidative stress, hyperglycemia and inflammation. Pomegranates have even been shown to provide anticarcinogenic effects. (1) That’s right, pomegranate seeds can prevent and treat certain forms of cancer!
What about pomegranate nutrition? They’re loaded with fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium. Another list the pomegranate makes — the top 10 aphrodisiac foods.
Do you still need another reason to try pomegranate seeds? Pomegranate juice (made from pomegranate seeds) has been shown to have antioxidant activity three times higher than red wine and green tea! (2)
What Are Pomegranate Seeds?
Pomegranate seeds come from a pomegranate, which is a fruit about the size of a large orange, obscurely six-sided, with a smooth, thick skin that ranges in color from brownish yellow to deep red. The inside of a pomegranate is a sight to behold — separated by cream-colored membranes are chambers of hundreds of arils, which are the seed pods inside a pomegranate. These arils consist of juicy, brilliant-red fruit surrounding tiny, crisp, edible seeds.
These arils or seed pods are what we commonly refer to as “pomegranate seeds,” and they are eaten either raw or are processed into pomegranate juice. When I mention “pomegranate juice,” I mean 100 percent pure pomegranate juice because you must beware of pomegranate juices that are actually made from pomegranates plus other filler fruits — or worse, added sugar!
How to Eat a Pomegranate
Most people just eat the seeds or arils of a pomegranate. The juicy and nutritious seeds gust with flavor as you eat them, and one pomegranate can hold over 600 seeds! You can also eat the creamy white pithy part surrounding the seeds, but it’s quite bitter. Just in case you’re tempted to try to eat or juice the whole pomegranate (literally) — you definitely don’t want to try to consume the tough outer skin.
Pomegranate seeds are also used to make pomegranate seed oil, which has many positive health effects both internally and externally.
Pomegranate Seeds Nutrition Facts
- 72 calories
- 16.3 grams carbohydrates
- 1.5 grams protein
- 1 gram fat
- 3.5 grams fiber
- 11.9 grams sugar
- 14.3 micrograms vitamin K (17.9 percent DV)
- 8.9 milligrams vitamin C (14.8 percent DV)
- 33 micrograms folate (8.3 percent DV)
- 205 milligrams potassium (5.9 percent DV)
- 0.07 milligram vitamin B6 (3.5 percent DV)
- 31 milligrams phosphorus (3.1 percent DV)
7 Health Benefits and Uses of Pomegranate Seeds
1. Natural Aphrodisiac
In many cultures, pomegranates have been associated with fertility and abundance for centuries because of their many, many seeds, but in recent years, headlines are even raving about pomegranate’s viagra effect. A study by Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh found that consumption of pure pomegranate juice significantly increased salivary testosterone levels (average of 24 percent) in addition to positive effects on blood pressure and mood. Elevated testosterone can lead to heightened moods and increased sexual desire. (5)
Concerns about erectile dysfunction? Pomegranate juice has been shown to be beneficial in increasing blood flow and erectile response in animal studies so benefits of pomegranate as a natural remedy for impotence might soon be found for humans as well. (6)
2. Reduce Arthritis and Joint Pain
Arthritis is an inflammation of one or more joints, causing pain and stiffness that can worsen with age. There are more than 3 million cases of arthritis in the U.S. each year. Pomegranates make the list for natural arthritis treatments since they’re a source of antioxidants called flavonols, which act as anti-inflammatory agents in the body.
Animal testing demonstrates that pomegranate seed extract may reduce the onset and incidence of collagen-induced arthritis. Studies conducted with animal subjects also show that the severity of arthritis and joint inflammation were significantly reduced with consumption of pomegranate extract. (7)
If you’re already on medication for arthritis, check with your doctor before adding pomegranate products to your daily routine.
3. Fight Cancer
When it comes to cancer, more and more research shows that pomegranate seeds are a potent cancer-fighting food. Pomegranate has been shown to exert antitumor effects on various types of cancer cells.
Multiple studies show that pomegranate extracts inhibit the proliferation of breast cancer cells and even stimulate the programmed cell death of breast cancer cells. (8, 9, 10) Pomegranate seed oil contains punicic acid, an omega-5 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid that has been shown to inhibit breast cancer proliferation. (11)
Further research suggests that drinking pomegranate juice may also slow the growth of prostate cancer, the leading cancer for men in the U.S. In a study of male subjects with recurrent prostate cancer and rising prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, researchers found that taking pomegranate juice extract significantly slowed the rate at which PSA was rising. Other studies have found that certain compounds in pomegranate juice show potent antitumorigenic effects and inhibited the growth of prostate cancer cells in the laboratory. (12, 13)
4. Lower Blood Pressure
The juice of pomegranate seeds contains different types of antioxidants and bioactive polyphenols that have been reported to promote cardiovascular health, including healthy blood pressure levels, through several mechanisms.
A 2013 study concluded that consumption of pomegranate juice should be considered in the context of both dietary and pharmacological interventions for hypertension (high blood pressure). (14) Another study published in Phytotherapy Research also found that pomegranate juice is a beneficial cardioprotective supplement for hypertensive subjects and lowered blood pressure naturally after just two weeks of daily intake. (15)
5. Fight Bacterial Infections
Pomegranates contain hundreds of different bioactive compounds, including ellagic acid, ellagitannins, punicic acid, flavonoids, anthocyanidins, anthocyanins, estrogenic flavonols and flavones, which appear to be the most therapeutically beneficial pomegranate components. Pomegranate extracts have been used since ancient times to treat several conditions, including parasitic and microbial infections, diarrhea, ulcers, aphthae, hemorrhage and respiratory complications.
Not surprisingly, pomegranates have been suggested to stimulate probiotic bacteria, thus enhancing their beneficial effects at fighting bacterial infections, according to research published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (16)
6. Improve Heart Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and also associated with cognitive decline. The juice made from pomegranate seeds contains antioxidants at higher levels than many other fruit juices, and pomegranate juice may block or slow the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries of people who are at higher risk of heart disease.
Research published in Clinical Nutrition studied pomegranate juice consumption by patients with carotid artery stenosis, which is a narrowing of either of the two key arteries located in the front of the neck, through which blood from the heart goes to the brain. Participants who consumed pomegranate juice lowered their blood pressure by over 12 percent and had a 30 percent reduction in atherosclerotic plaque.
Participants who did not take the pomegranate juice actually saw their atherosclerotic plaque increase by 9 percent. Overall, the study found that pomegranate juice consumption reduced plaque in the carotid artery as well as lowered blood pressure and LDL oxidation. (17, 18)
7. Improve Memory
Studies have reported memory and other cognitive benefits of polyphenols, which are found abundantly in pomegranate seeds and their juice. One study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine generated intriguing data suggesting 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. (19)
Another study had elderly individuals with memory complaints drink eight ounces of either pomegranate juice or a flavor-matched placebo drink for four weeks. The subjects who drank pomegranate juice had significantly improved markers of verbal and visual memory. (20)
In addition, animal studies conducted by the Department of Psychology at Loma Linda University have shown the neuroprotective benefits of pomegranates and that incorporating pomegranates into your diet might help delay the onset or slow progression of Alzheimer’s disease, showcasing pomegranate’s ability as an Alzheimer’s natural treatment. (21) Another animal study also showed that pomegranate seed extract exhibited therapeutic potential for memory and muscular coordination, which was most likely related to the extract’s antioxidative and free radical-scavenging actions. (22)
Pomegranate Seeds History and Origin
Pomegranate seeds come from pomegranates (Punica granatum), which are the product of a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub or small tree. The name for the pomegranate fruit is derived from Latin and literally means “seeded apple.” Pomegranates are sometimes called Chinese apples.
While the pomegranate is considered indigenous to Iran and its neighbouring countries, cultivation of the pomegranate long ago encircled the Mediterranean and extended through the Arabian Peninsula, Afghanistan and India. Today, it’s commonly cultivated in the warmer parts North and South America.
The juice of pomegranate seeds is the source of grenadine syrup, which is famous for its use in the classic nonalcoholic beverage known as a Shirley Temple. Grenadine is also used in other flavorings and liquors. (23)
Where and How to Obtain Pomegranate Seeds
When it comes to how to open a pomegranate, it does take a little work to get to the tasty pomegranate seeds. Some might describe the effort as tedious, but once you get a hang of how to do it (see below), the payoff is really worth it. Plus, a lot of companies have started offering pomegranate seeds solo in a ready-to-be-eaten state so there are no excuses for not incorporating these little gems into your diet regularly!
If you want the freshest seeds possible, then definitely opt to obtain them from the fruit itself. When choosing a pomegranate, you want to make sure that you pick one that feels heavy (all the juice in those seeds adds up) and has a leathery skin that’s firm and taut with no soft spots. Pomegranates can typically be found in your local grocery store between September and January.
To open a pomegranate, you need a knife, bowl and wooden spoon:
- Roll the pomegranate around to loosen the seeds.
- Score around the middle of the fruit with a sharp knife, and tear it open into two halves. Try your best to only score the skin and not to cut through into the seeds.
- Hold half of the pomegranate with the seeds facing down over a clean bowl, and tap the skin with a wooden spoon while slightly squeezing to encourage the release of the seeds.
- Do the same thing with the other half.
- If there are a few stragglers among the white pith, you can simply remove them with your fingers or a spoon.
- Enjoy the product of your labor — delicious pomegranate seeds and a bit of pomegranate juice too!
Warning: It can be a bit messy to open a pomegranate and the juice does stain surfaces, so I wouldn’t advise wearing your nicest or whitest shirt, especially if this is your first time opening a pomegranate.
Whole pomegranates can be stored unopened at room temperature for about one week, or they can be stored in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic for up to two months. Fresh pomegranate seeds can be refrigerated for up to three days. They can also be frozen in a single layer on a tray and then stored in the freezer for up to six months in an airtight container. The seeds are often shriveled when thawed, but they still taste great in whatever you add them to!
Pomegranate Seeds Recipes
Pomegranate seeds are simply perfect and delicious on their own, but if you’re looking to incorporate them into your next meal, there are lots of options. Pomegranate seeds make a perfect addition to your next smoothie, pudding, salsa, salad or main course. I love how they taste with beets and goat cheese in this Beet and Pomegranate Salad Recipe.
Need a healthy dessert idea? Try No. 13 on our list of “21 Chia Seed Recipes You’re Going to Crave”: Chia Spiced Chia Seed Pudding with Pomegranate Seeds.
Want to turn the seeds into juice? Simply put the seeds into a blender and then strain the resulting juice with a cheesecloth.
Side Effects of Pomegranate Seeds
There is no standard recommended dose for pomegranate. Eating pomegranate seeds and drinking pomegranate juice as part of a healthy diet are both considered safe. If you show signs of a food allergy when eating pomegranate seeds, immediately stop consumption of the seeds and consult a doctor.
If you have blood pressure issues or take blood pressure medication, check with your doctor regarding your intake of pomegranate seeds. Since pomegranate can affect blood pressure (by lowering it), check with your doctor before consuming pomegranate products before or after your surgery.
Pomegranate juice may cause dangerous side effects when it interacts with certain prescription medications, such as the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven) and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, including captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec) and lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril). Consult your doctor before consuming pomegranate products if you take any of these medications.
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