What Are Pomegranates Good For?
By Dr. Mercola
Pomegranates have been enjoyed for thousands of years and are a symbol of hope and abundance in many cultures. They’ve been found in Egyptian tombs, eaten by Babylonian soldiers prior to battle and incorporated into Persian wedding ceremonies to symbolize a joyous future.
It’s even been suggested that it was pomegranates, and not apples, that grew in the Garden of Eden. Pomegranate literally translates to “seeded apple,” but research shows pomegranates may pack even more nutritional punch.
Sometimes referred to as the Chinese apple or “jewel of the winter” (in North America, pomegranates are in season during early winter), pomegranates are one of the world’s most popular fruits.
In North America, they’re often overshadowed by more common fruits like apples and oranges, but once you learn how to eat them (it’s not as hard as you might think), this is one fruit that can add valuable nutrition, including antioxidants, to your regular diet.
Pomegranates Are an Antioxidant-Rich Superfood
The primary source of pomegranate’s benefits come from its antioxidant content, particularly ellagitannin compounds like punicalagins and punicalins, which account for about half of the pomegranate’s antioxidant ability. It’s also an excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin C, with one pomegranate providing about 40 percent of the daily requirement for this vitamin.1
In fact, according to a 2008 study, which compared the potency of 10 different polyphenol-rich beverages, pomegranate juice scored top billing as the most healthful of them all.2
Its potency was found to be at least 20 percent greater than any of the other beverages tested, beating out Concord grape juice, acai, and blueberry juice —three well-known sources of potent antioxidants. It beat them primarily because it contains the most of every type of antioxidant.
Pomegranates contain three types of antioxidant polyphenols, including tannins, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid, in significant amounts. Antioxidants are nature’s way of providing your cells with adequate defense against attack by reactive oxygen species (ROS).
As long as you have these important micronutrients, your body will be able to resist cellular damage and aging caused by your everyday exposure to pollutants.
If you don’t have an adequate supply of antioxidants to help neutralize free radicals, then you can be at risk of oxidative stress, which leads to accelerated tissue and organ damage. Antioxidants may also help to lower chronic inflammation in your body.
In his book The Antioxidants, Richard A. Passwater, PhD, says that humans have one of the longest natural lifespans in the animal kingdom, most likely because of the wealth of antioxidants in our omnivorous diet – including from eating whole foods like pomegranates.
Pomegranates May Have Anti-Cancer Properties
Pomegranate’s antioxidant activity is known to inhibit cell proliferation and invasion, and promote apoptosis (cell death) in various cancer cells.3 In one study, pomegranate extract was found to inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cells by inducing cell death.4 According to the University of Maryland Medical Center:5
“In test tubes, pomegranate extracts made from juice, rind, and oil slow down the reproduction of cancer cells and may hasten their death. Some extracts also help reduce blood supply to tumors, starving them and making them smaller. Most studies have focused on breast and prostate cancer cells. In one other study, pomegranate juice extract given to mice slowed down the growth of lung tumors. However, most of these studies have been in test tubes or in animals, not humans.”
At least one study in humans has yielded promising results, however. In men with prostate cancer, those who drank pomegranate juice significantly lengthened the time it took for their PSA levels to double (from about 15 months to 54 months).6 Men whose PSA levels double in a short time are at an increased risk of death from prostate cancer, so the results suggest that pomegranate had a powerfully protective effect.
Pomegranates May Reduce Arthritis Symptoms, Support Joint Health
The antioxidants in pomegranates may also help to reduce inflammation that contributes to the destruction of cartilage in your joints, a key reason for the pain and stiffness felt by many osteoarthritis sufferers. One study even found that pomegranate extract blocked the production of a cartilage-destroying enzyme.8 Researchers concluded:9