The mega-superfood seeds of pomegranates can help you fight off colds, boost your heart health, and even give you more energy at the gym.
Admittedly, pomegranates are a bit of an unconventional fruit—you can’t just munch on them casually on your walk back from the gym. But whether you go for the juice or seeds (or arils, that pop out of the husk of the fruit), you’re getting a full blast of vitamins like B, C and K, and antioxidants, so it’s definitely worth cracking one open. All year round, but especially during cold and flu season, we need some pom in our diet to give our health, and even our energy, a bit of a lift, and here's why.
1. Can reduce the risk of cancer.
“Pomegranate packs a lot of nutrition in its seeds. It has a unique plant compound called Punicalagin, which is what we refer to as ‘chemoprotective,’ as it may help reduce carcinogens from binding to cells,” says Ashley Koff, RD and CEO of The Better Nutrition Program. “In more general terms, it’s safe to say it may help reduce risk of certain cancers,” she explains. Antioxidants are what can protect you from free radical damage, or the leftover waste products from the body’s processes of oxidation—the replenishing of new cells. (Learn more about antioxidants and the fruits, veggies, and grain they can be found in).
2. Gives your heart health a boost.
The antioxidants, specifically the plant compound Punicalagin, strike again when it comes to preventing heart disease, says Stephanie Middleberg, MS, RD, a New York City-based nutritionist and wellness coach.
An extra heart health bonus that comes from antioxidant activity in pomegranates is the potential prevention of bad cholesterol solidifying in your bloodstream, Koff adds. Besides pomegranate, you should check out more artery-cleansing foods like persimmon and avocado.
3. Fiber to keep you fuller.
While pom juice actually has more antioxidants than the individual seeds, (the husk is more concentrated than the seeds are), “eating the whole fruit offers the benefit of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. With the addition of the crunch factor, it will be much more satisfying in whole fruit form vs. the juice,” says Middleberg.
The fiber in the seeds, even if you toss them in oatmeal or on a salad, is what satiates hunger—it’s about 4g fiber per 3/4 cup arils, Koff estimates. “Four grams is a good source of fiber and a delicious way to get to your daily recommendation of 25-30g, she says. (Sneak even more fiber into your diet with these foods too.)
4. Keep your immune system up
It circles back to free radicals again—antioxidants help the immune system regulate itself and fight off harmful free radicals. In addition, the Vitamins B, C, and K are also present and work in tandem with the other antioxidant plant compounds to keep your overall health in check, Koff says.
5. Your memory stays sharp
This is one benefit that’s still being studied, but according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, antioxidant-rich foods can have brain-boosting power if you keep them in your diet through your adult life—they encourage blood to flow to the brain, which ultimately helps keep the brain’s function sharp. (Here are 7 more brain foods you should eat on the reg).
6. Deliver at the gym (and recover too)
One benefit of pomegranates you may not have thought of is energy during a workout, and your active recovery period too. “Pomegranates contain nitrates, which is converted to nitrite and can then help support blood flow (vasodilation, widening of the blood vessels),” explains Middleberg. “This vasodilation essentially helps your body deliver more oxygen to your muscle tissue, improving your athletic ability overall and your ability to recover after exercise.” All the more reason to pop a few pomegranate seeds before the gym—or after, for that matter (add them to the top of your morning avocado toast—just trust us, and check out some more dietician-approved pomegranate meal ideas below).
How to Incorporate Pomegranate into your Diet
1. Spruce up your seltzer. Add a splash of pomegranate juice and a squeeze of lime to your favorite sparkling water to sip throughout the day, one of Middleberg’s beverages of choice.
2. Whip up a pom parfait. Koff suggests mixing almond milk, chocolate plant protein powder, almond butter, and pomegranate seeds, for a protein-packed parfait in the morning.
3. Sprinkle on a festive salad. Pomegranate seeds and some feta crumbles are the perfect addition to a fall salad of roasted butternut squash, Middleberg says.
4. Create a crunchier wrap. In a pan with coconut oil, crisp up some collard greens as the outside of your wrap, and then stuff with quinoa or black rice and pom seeds, says Koff.
5. Get ricing. Cauliflower rice is all the rage—when making it tabbouleh style, add pomegranate to the cauli rice mixture of mint, parsley tomatoes, onions, scallions, lemon and olive oil, or mix and match with the pom and veggies, Middleberg suggests.
Take a look at even more healthy pomegranate recipes here.