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With a strange yet alluring beauty, the pomegranate has been prized by various cultures since ancient times. It’s one of the oldest and most adaptable fruits around.
There’s a lot more to this ancient superfruit than meets the eye, especially when we start to dig into its health benefits.
So let’s uncover the truth about the pomegranate fruit.
From Ancient Egypt to the Himalayas
The pomegranate originated in an area that spans from Iran to the Himalayas. This fruit grows from a shrub or a small tree, and it ripens in the Northern Hemisphere between September and February. In the Southern Hemisphere, it ripens between March and May.
When it does ripen, you can expect to see a rich red and fully developed crown. Maybe it was the crown that initially attracted Ancient people to this fruit, or maybe it was the pomegranate’s antioxidant power.
We can’t say exactly where the attraction came from, but we know that it was well-deserved. Pomegranates were often used in Egyptian mythology and art. They were praised in both the Old Testament of the Bible and in the Babylonian Talmud. This continued throughout history, as various cultures held the pomegranate in high regard.
The Complex Anatomy of a Pomegranate
In order to understand this amazing fruit, we should first have a basic understanding of its parts. Without getting overly technical, the pomegranate is made up of three parts:
- Peel – The tough outer skin
- Arils and seeds – The seed is the white part inside the arial. They are the edible good stuff, also called kernels or jewels
- Pulp membranes – Inedible white part that is woven around the Arils and seeds
So What Exactly Makes Pomegranate So Healthy?
The pomegranate may be an ancient fruit with a storied history, but there’s nothing mystical about its health benefits. The fruit is packed with nutrients and antioxidants that boost its nutritional profile.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the plant-powered goodness you’ll find in pomegranate.
The antioxidants in pomegranate are called punicalagins, and they are extremely powerful. In fact, a Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry study found that the antioxidant activity in pomegranate juice is even stronger than in green tea.
But you should also know that the highest content of punicalagin is found in the pomegranate peel, which is inedible on its own. So if you want the biggest antioxidant punch, look for commercially-extracted juices from whole pomegranates.
Good news for banana haters everywhere: You don’t need bananas to get potassium. This is especially true if you have pomegranates in your kitchen. Potassium is one of the seven essential macro-minerals, which essentially means you need to get it from your diet.
Potassium is involved in primary bodily functions, like regulating fluid balance and controlling the electrical activity of the muscles (including the heart). Adults should get 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily, and 1 cup of pomegranate arils contains about 410 milligrams.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and a powerful antioxidant that helps the body create and maintain connective tissue, including skin, bones and blood vessels. Our bodies don’t make Vitamin C, so we have to get it from external sources.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for men is 90 milligrams, and it’s 75 milligrams for women. One cup of pomegranate arils contains nearly 20 percent of the RDA for men and 24 percent of the RDA for women.
Vitamin B is unique in that it’s actually a complex of vitamins instead of just one. There are 8 B vitamins in total, and you can find 5 of them in the pomegranate. The pomegranate contains thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), folate (B9). But its highest concentrations are in folate. Our bodies need folate to make DNA and other genetic material.
The body’s cells also need folate in order to divide. Folate is essential to our lives, and it’s especially important during pregnancy.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that we get 400 micrograms of folate daily, and 1 cup of pomegranate contains 66 micrograms.
Fiber is a plant material that your body cannot absorb. It simply passes through your digestive tract, but don’t mistake it for being useless. Fiber is crucial for things like normalizing bowel movements and maintaining bowel health.
One cup of pomegranate contains 7 grams of soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. Insoluble fiber promotes movement through your bowels, so it’s a great benefit to anyone who suffers from constipation.
Good For Your Body, Good For Your Heart
There have been many studies published on the health benefits of pomegranate, but the most promising seems to be its relationship to heart health.
A Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal research review found evidence that the pomegranate is a uniquely heart-healthy fruit for its ability to:
- Support healthy blood pressure levels
- Help protect LDL and HDL cholesterol from oxidation
- Support the break down of harmful oxidized fats
By now you’re convinced that you need more pomegranate in your life. But if you’ve ever tried to enjoy a fresh pomegranate, you probably know that it can be a messy endeavor. In truth, there’s no perfect way to eat this stone fruit, but you can take a few steps to minimize the mess.
- Start by cutting the fruit in half. Now you’ll have full view of those precious arils and seeds. Next, make four evenly-spaced ½-inch scores along the pomegranate’s skin, starting from the inner edge and working outward.
- Place the fruit in a large bowl of water and use your fingers to pry the pomegranate apart in sections. The arils will sink to the bottom and the white membrane will float to the top, making it easy to separate.
- Once you have a bowl full of arils, remove from the water and enjoy! Some people mistakenly think you must spit out the seeds from the juicy aril, but that’s completely unnecessary. You can eat the arils and seeds together.
If you’re not up for eating a bowl of pure pomegranate arils, you can sprinkle them on salads, add them to smoothies or use them to top off your oatmeal. There’s really no wrong way to enjoy the nutritional goodness found inside the pomegranate fruit!
It’s pretty obvious to see why people have been raving about the pomegranate since ancient times. This superfruit is loaded with powerful antioxidants, fiber and a long list of essential nutrients to help support a healthy body.
Pomegranates are among the healthiest foods in the world (in terms of antioxidant and nutrient content), but they aren’t magic. Be sure to eat your pomegranates along with a healthy, balanced diet to help get the most out of this superfruit.