With the potential to support many aspects of health, from immunity to brain health, pomegranates are worth adding to your healthy eating routine.
This article examines the many nutritional and health benefits of pomegranates.
1. Packed with nutrients
The small pink seeds inside a pomegranate, called the arils, are the edible portion of the fruit. While they can be labor-intensive to remove from the fruit’s inner flesh, their nutritional profile and flavor are well worth the investment.
Overall, pomegranates are low in calories and fat but high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They also contain some protein.
Below is the nutrition for the arils in one average (282-gram) pomegranate fruit:
Comparatively, a 1/2-cup (87-gram) serving of arils provides 72 calories, 16 grams of carbs, 3.5 grams of fiber, 1 gram of fat, and 1.5 grams of protein.
Keep in mind that the nutritional information for pomegranate and arils differs from that of pomegranate juice, which won’t provide much fiber or vitamin C. This applies to fruit in general — eating the whole form will provide more fiber.
2. Rich in antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds that help protect the cells of your body from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are always present in your body, but having too many of them can be harmful and contribute to a number of chronic diseases.
Pomegranates are rich in antioxidants and polyphenolic compounds that offer protection from this damage. The main bioactive compounds with antioxidant activity that are found in pomegranates are called punicalagins, anthocyanins, and hydrolysable tannins.
Getting antioxidants from vegetables and fruits such as pomegranates is a great way to support overall health and help prevent disease.
3. May help keep inflammation at bay
Short-term inflammation is a normal bodily response to infection and injury. However, chronic inflammation can be a problem if left untreated — and it’s common today, particularly in Westernized cultures.
When inflammation isn’t addressed, it can contribute to many chronic conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Eating pomegranates may help prevent the chronic inflammation associated with increased chronic disease risk.
This is largely attributed to compounds called punicalagins, which have been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in test-tube and animal studies.
Some human studies have also found that consuming pomegranate juice can reduce markers of inflammation in the body.
Still, more research is needed regarding how eating fresh pomegranate seeds affects inflammation in humans.
4. May have anticancer properties
Some test-tube studies have found that compounds in pomegranate fruit, juice, and oil can help kill cancer cells or slow their spread in the body.
Both test-tube and human studies indicate that pomegranate may help fight inflammation and slow cancer cell growth. In fact, the fruit has demonstrated anti-tumor effects in cancers of the lung, breast, prostate, skin, and colon.
Other animal research has found that pomegranate helps slow tumor growth in the early stages of liver cancer. It also helps suppress inflammatory responses and oxidative stress.
According to an older test-tube study, pomegranate extract may also be useful for slowing the growth, or even causing the death, of prostate cancer cells.
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a marker of prostate cancer in the blood. If PSA levels double in a short amount of time, it indicates a significantly higher risk of death from prostate cancer.
Two older trials found that giving men pomegranate juice or extract extended the PSA doubling time period significantly, reducing the risk of death from prostate cancer.
Nevertheless, more human trials are needed.
5. May offer heart health benefits
There is evidence that fruits rich in polyphenolic compounds, such as pomegranate, may benefit heart health.
Test-tube studies have found that pomegranate extract may reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the arteries, lower blood pressure, and help fight atherosclerosis — plaque buildup in the arteries that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
In one human study, people with heart disease were given 1 cup (220 mL) of pomegranate juice daily for 5 days. The juice significantly reduced the frequency and severity of chest pain, as well as certain biomarkers in the blood that suggest a protective effect on heart health.
Still, high quality research on pomegranate and heart health in humans is lacking.
6. Support urinary health
Test-tube and human studies have found that pomegranate extract may help reduce the formation of kidney stones, a benefit that’s largely attributed to its antioxidant activity.
In one study, adults ages 18–70 experiencing recurrent kidney stones were given 1,000 mg of pomegranate extract for 90 days. This was found to help inhibit the mechanism by which stones are formed in the body.
Additionally, animal studies have found that pomegranate extract can help regulate the concentration of oxalates, calcium, and phosphates in the blood, which are common components of kidney stones.
7. May have antimicrobial properties
Pomegranate compounds may help fight harmful microorganisms such as certain types of bacteria, fungi, and yeast.
For instance, both older and newer studies suggest that they may protect the health of your mouth by targeting unwanted oral germs that can become problematic when overgrown — such as ones that cause bad breath and promote tooth decay.
A test-tube study found that compounds from pomegranate also had antibacterial effects against Listeria monocytogenes, a bacteria found in moist environments that can cause severe illness if ingested.
8. May improve exercise endurance
The polyphenols in pomegranates may increase exercise endurance, the length of time you’re able to partake in a physical activity before getting tired.
One human study found that taking just 1 gram of pomegranate extract 30 minutes before running increased the time to exhaustion by 12%.
Other human research has found that pomegranate supplements have the potential to improve both exercise endurance and muscle recovery.
However, research using pomegranate juice has found no benefit for muscle recovery after exercise that targeted elbow flexors, indicating that more studies are needed on the topic of pomegranates and exercise performance and recovery.
9. Good for your brain
Pomegranates contain compounds called ellagitannins, which act as antioxidants and reduce inflammation in the body.
As such, they also offer protective benefits for your brain against conditions that are influenced by inflammation and oxidative stress.
Some studies have found that ellagitannins may help protect the brain from developing Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease by reducing oxidative damage and increasing the survival of brain cells.
They may also support recovery from hypoxic-ischemic brain injury.
The ellagitannins in pomegranate are believed to help produce a compound in the gut called urolithin A, which has been studied for its ability to reduce inflammation in the brain and delay the onset of cognitive diseases.
Nonetheless, more studies are needed to better understand the potential connection between pomegranate and brain health.
10. Supports digestive health
Older and newer research suggests that digestive health, determined largely by your gut bacteria, is strongly linked to overall health. As such, it’s important to support your digestive health, and pomegranate can be a part of that effort.
Some older and newer animal studies have found that pomegranate has anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects that require activity in the gut and largely involve its ellagic acid content.
Test-tube studies have also found that pomegranate can increase levels of beneficial gut bacteria, including Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, suggesting that it may have prebiotic effects.
Prebiotics are compounds, generally fibers, that serve as fuel for the good bacteria, or probiotics, in your digestive tract. Prebiotics allow these bacteria to thrive and support a healthier gut microbiome.
Additionally, pomegranate arils are rich in fiber, offering around 3.5 grams per 1/2-cup (87-gram) serving.
Fiber is essential for digestive health and may protect against some digestive conditions, such as constipation, hemorrhoids, colon cancer, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and diverticulitis.