They say good things come in small packages, but as for pomegranates, we’d like to add that good things come in small-but-tough-to-open packages. If you’ve ever tried mastering the art of pomegranate peeling, you know what an endeavor it can be (not to mention that the red juice all over your hands makes it look like you just slaughtered a wildebeest).
But despite the challenge of wresting edible nibs from this round red fruit, once you do so, you’re in for some awesome advantages for health — as well as tart, tangy flavor and delightful crunch. We’re all about adding them to salads, smoothies, and even guacamole to soak up the juicy benefits below. (And don’t worry, we’ve got tips for extracting pomegranate nibs without making a giant mess!)
Fiber? Vitamin C? Vitamin K? Check, check, check! Pomegranates are packed with nutrients. Here’s what you’ll find in 1/2 cup (87 grams) of arils — aka seeds, nibs, pieces, jewels, or whatever creative name you like to call them.
Protein: 1.5 grams
Fat: 1 gram
Carbs: 16 grams
Fiber: 3.5 grams.
Potassium: 205 milligrams (8% RDI)
Folate: 33 micrograms (8% RDI)
Vitamin C: 9 milligrams (12% RDI)
Vitamin K: 14 micrograms (19% RDI)
Fortunately, that’s where antioxidants come to the rescue. These compounds in foods get to work to prevent or slow the damage caused by oxidants (also called free radicals). Pomegranates just so happen to be full of these helpful cell cleansers.
Not only do the sweet little arils contain vitamin C, an antioxidant in its own right, they’re also rich in other important substances.
Punicic acid, an antioxidant found only in pomegranates and a couple of other foods, might have uses in the treatment of obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. And then there’s tannins, flavonoids, and anthocyanins, oh my! According to an older 2014 study, the antioxidant potential of pomegranate juice is even higher than red wine. (We’ll drink to that.)
People who eat a diet high in fruits and veggies have reduced risk of developing a whole host of cancers. But pomegranate might be an especially smart fruit to load into your grocery cart.
Research shows that the fruits and their juice could potentially inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the prostate, breast, lungs, colon, and skin. More in-depth investigation is needed to pick apart how pomegranate could join the fight against cancer, but it’s certainly food for thought.
Ever notice how, with its red color and pointy round shape, a pomegranate vaguely resembles a heart? Coincidence? We think not.
Pomegranates are uber-heart healthy for a variety of reasons. For one, their antioxidants can help prevent fatty deposits from building up around our arteries. This buildup may lead to heart attacks and other heart problems.
And the fruits aren’t just special in juice form. Whole pomegranate seeds contain a decent amount of fiber, too. Fiber has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol, a significant factor in the development of heart disease.
So get peeling! At 3.5 grams per half cup, a serving of pomegranate will get you all the closer to the daily fiber goal of 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women.
Pomegranates might have a role to play in helping you recover post-workout (much like their crimson-colored compatriots, beets). A small 2016 study found that weightlifters who drank pomegranate juice before an Olympic lifting session experienced better athletic recovery and reduced muscle soreness afterward, compared to a placebo.
Another study from 2014 had athletes drink pomegranate extract or a placebo in tandem with running on a treadmill. You guessed it: Those who partook of the pom had increased dilation of blood vessels, leading to better blood flow and delayed fatigue. This is likely due to pomegranates’ content of nitric oxide, a compound known for keeping blood vessels nice and wide.
Half a cup of pomegranate nibs delivers nearly 20 percent of your daily vitamin K. That’s cool, you may be thinking, but what does vitamin K do again? This fat-soluble micronutrient keeps your blood klotting — er, clotting — properly. This way, when you get injured, your body can seal up your wounds, rather than bleed indefinitely. (Hooray for K!)
If you’re on anticoagulant meds, you’ll need to be careful about how much vitamin K you get from foods. Talk with your doctor or dietitian about how you can incorporate pomegranate in your diet while taking this type of medication.
Keep in mind, too, that since K is fat-soluble, you can boost absorption by eating your pom nibs with a source of fat. Combine the juicy gems with full fat Greek yogurt in a smoothie, serve on a salad with olive oil-based dressing, or serve them in a tangy sauce to drizzle on meats.
While pomegranate juice sounds pretty awesome, make sure to check with your doctor before consuming it regularly as a health supplement. Also, read the labels on your pomegranate juice very carefully (and make sure what you’re getting is actually 100 percent juice).
Here’s a not-so-fun fact: Companies are allowed to post health claims about their products without proving them, as long as there’s some sort of disclaimer on the package acknowledging the claims’ uncertainty. Read the fine print!
And while pomegranates definitely have some excellent assets, they’re also pretty high in naturally-occurring sugar — 12 grams per half cup, to be exact. If your doc has you on a diet that limits sugar and/or carbs, you’ll want to be careful about your pom intake. The good news, though, is that a small dash of juice in a glass of regular or seltzer water goes a long way toward adding flavor.
Finally, as much as we might wish pomegranates could be an easy peel-and-eat fruit like bananas, they’re obviously a bit more… thick-skinned (to put it nicely). Cracking open their tough exterior shell definitely takes some effort, while a webbing of interior membranes presents another barrier to mining the seeds inside. But don’t let all that stop you. There are a few ways to get the juicy arils out of the fruit (and into your belly).
How to open a pomegranate
- Quarter the pomegranate with a knife and place the pieces in a bowl of water. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl while the rest of the fruit’s pith floats. Cool!
- Cut open the top of the fruit (like you would before carving a pumpkin) and then cut the fruit into slices, scooping out the seeds and putting them in a strainer for rinsing.
- Try your hand at peeling. Starting from the pointy end, try your best to peel back the sides. (You can use a knife to get the process started.) Once you’ve peeled back some of the skin, use your fingers to gently loosen the kernels. Peel back the white pithy membranes as you go, and discard.
Pom-tastic ways to eat ’em
- Fancify your hydration with a pomegranate-tarragon-infused water.
- Pop some nibs into a pomegranate citrus smoothie.
- Dig into pomegranate and passion fruit yogurt.
- Toss them in a protein-packed mint pomegranate grain salad.
- Guac this way: Add pomegranates’ flavor (and color!) to guacamole.
- Upgrade a green salad with pomegranates and roasted delicata squash.
- Finish off Moroccan stuffed sweet potatoes with some ruby-red seeds.