The pomegranate (Punica granatum) is a genuinely healthy fruit, full of antioxidant polyphenols with blood pressure-lowering action, cholesterol-lowering dietary fiber and a source of vitamins B9, C and K as well as important dietary minerals. The fruit has a long tradition of cultivation and dates back to ancient times. Numerous cultures regard the pomegranate as a symbol of fertility due to its high number of seeds, ranging from 150-200 to up to 1000, but also praise its tonic and reinvigorating properties.
Regular consumption of the fruit is highly beneficial for one’s health providing antioxidant protection against harmful free radicals that produce cell and DNA damage through oxidative stress. Preventing free radical damage translates into cardiovascular and gastrointestinal benefits as well as offers antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-hemorrhagic protection. Overall, a diet rich in natural products such as pomegranate provides important amounts of antioxidants which contribute to lower risks of chronic disease in general.
What does pomegranate look like? The pomegranate tree is a beautiful 6-10 meters tall tree with tiny, elongated deep green leaves and gorgeous deep red (sometimes red-pink) flowers. The fruit, also called a pomegranate, is round, with a thick, usually reddish peel and about the size of a big orange. When cut open, pomegranate fruit reveal an abundance of closely-knit bright-red, rarely whitish or purplish seeds wrapped in a spongy white inedible membrane, often tinged with color. These so-called seeds are actually made of a sort of tegument or juicy, soft seed coat (the colored part) and the real seeds, which the tegument covers.
What do pomegranate fruit taste like? The bright-red juicy seed coat wrapped around tiny, hard pomegranate seeds which we simply call pomegranate seeds are the edible parts of the fruit. While the sweetest and juiciest fruits are the preferred, pomegranate seeds actually vary in taste from sweet, sweet-tart to more acidic. Depending on the cultivar, the fruit may possess harder or softer seeds and be more or less juicy.
But what is the fruit good for? Here are the most impressive 5 nutrition facts and health benefits of pomegranate:
1) Rich source of antioxidants. Pomegranates offer excellent antioxidant protection as a result of their high antioxidant content. Research has found the fruit seeds to be rich in ellagitannins (responsible for the sightly tart taste of the seeds) and red anthocyanins such as delphinidin, pelargonidin and cyanidin (responsible for the bright red color of the seeds and juice which will stain clothes beyond fix).
Antioxidants not only protect against harmful free radicals and carcinogens, but also prevent existing cell and DNA damage from altering basic cellular processes and causing cells to mutate and become cancerous. Cyanidin, for example, is a highly potent anthocyanidin believed to protect against oxidative stress caused by extensive cell damage due to free radical action and thus plays a significant role in lowering obesity, heart disease and cancer risks. Cyanidin is also present in grapes, red cabbage and most berries.
2) Cholesterol and blood pressure-lowering properties. Pomegranate seeds are a rich source of dietary fiber (4 g/100 g of fruit). Dietary fiber is indigestible plant material which binds to part of the fat ingested along with various foods, partially preventing its intestinal absorption. By not adding to the fat that already is in our blood, which is cholesterol, dietary fiber indirectly reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, contributing to cardiovascular health.
As for high blood pressure, pomegranates are a source of potassium, a dietary mineral which regulates body fluids, counteracting the side effects of sodium and lowers blood pressure (read more about hypertension here). Interesting enough, drinking pomegranate juice can maximize the beneficial effects on the circulatory system because the juice concentrates significantly more nutrients than the seeds. To make sure that what you are drinking is pure pomegranate juice, it might be best to make it yourself at home from fresh fruit.
3) Relieves constipation and regulates transit time. As a result of its high fiber content (4 g/100 g of fruit), the pomegranate works as a natural laxative because it regulates intestinal motility and efficiently relieves constipation. The dietary fiber in the seeds adds bulk to stools, stimulating the intestinal muscles to contract and push them out. Having a generous daily intake of dietary fiber means more frequent and more regular bowel movements which are a sign of gastrointestinal health. Furthermore, pomegranate can be a good food to eat for hemorrhoids because of its constipation-relieving effect.
Similarly, preparations made from pomegranate seeds, rind and even the bark of the tree were traditionally recommended for the treatment of intestinal disorders such as diarrhea, constipation and even dysentery or intestinal worms. Fortunately, nowadays there are highly efficient treatments for intestinal disorders and parasitic infections, so there is no need to resort to old folk tale remedies with unknown side effects and interactions.
4) Possesses strong antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Pomegranates were shown to possess a strong antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activity which might explain the fruit’s use as a natural treatment for intestinal worms such as tapeworm or as a heart tonic. Indeed, the fruit contains good amounts of antioxidants with a powerful anti-inflammatory and cleansing action on blood vessels, such as vitamin C.
Vitamin C is known to help remove cholesterol plaque buildup from artery walls and stimulate the production of a protein called collagen which helps maintain blood vessel integrity and flexibility. Collagen is also responsible for skin structure so a generous intake of the vitamin can help delay the onset of wrinkles and make skin look healthier, younger and more beautiful.
5) Boast anti-hemorrhagic and tonic action. While green leafy vegetables such as kale, endives, curly endives, chard or spinach are richest in vitamin K, pomegranate seeds are a decent source of the vitamin as well, hence the fruit’s use for preventing and treating small blood losses associated with hemorrhoids, nosebleeds or bleeding gums.
Also, pomegranates are an overall good source of dietary minerals such as copper (18%), potassium (5%), manganese (5%), phosphorus (5%), iron, magnesium and zinc as well as B vitamins, all of which make the seed juice an excellent tonic, great for restoring energy and reinvigorating the body and mind.
Pomegranate seed oil is quite a healthy option, having a high unsaturated fatty acid content. The oil made from the seeds of the fruit contains about 65% punicic acid and 6% linoleic acid (an Omega-6 also found in olives and olive oil). Punicic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid having exhibited impressive anticancer properties against prostate cancer cells.
Also read about the Properties and Benefits of Pomegranate Seeds.
Conclusion. Pomegranates exhibit a highly beneficial action on the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems, possess tonic and antibacterial effects and display anti-inflammatory and protective properties at cellular level. Considering the wide range of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds occurring naturally in the fruit, the scientific community has taken a serious interest in the potential health benefits of pomegranate and, as a result, trials targeting its use for cancer, diabetes, infertility, heart and kidney disease are in progress.