Pomegranates, formally known as Punica granatum, are red and look a bit like apples from the outside. Once opened, these seeded fruits no longer share any resemblance, however.
Pomegranate's benefits surpass those of many fruits, as this berry contains a myriad of different nutrients and antioxidants.
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Despite pomegranate's benefits, you should consume pomegranate juice in moderation. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends only one cup of any juice per day.
Read more: 5 Tricky Fruits and How to Eat Them
Pomegranates and POM Juice
Pomegranates are healthy fruits that are rich in a variety of essential nutrients. Unlike most fruits, which are soft and tender, pomegranate fruits contain hundreds of seeds. The seeds, known as arils, are surrounded by a layer of bright red, sweet fruit. You can eat both the entire seed or consume juice, which is made from crushed seeds.
As you might expect, raw pomegranate and pomegranate juice have different nutritional benefits. The USDA lists a cup (174 grams) of raw, fresh pomegranates as having:
- 144 calories
- 2 grams of fat
- 2.9 grams of protein
- 32.5 grams of carbohydrates (23.8 grams of sugar and 7 grams of fiber)
- 9 percent of the daily value (DV) for potassium
- 5 percent of the DV for magnesium
- 6 percent of the DV for zinc
- 31 percent of the DV for copper
- 9 percent of the DV for manganese
- 7 percent of the DV for vitamin B2
- 13 percent of the DV for vitamin B5
- 8 percent of the DV for vitamin B6
- 17 percent of the DV for vitamin B9 (folic acid)
- 20 percent of the DV for vitamin C
- 7 percent of the DV for vitamin E
- 24 percent of the DV for vitamin K
In comparison, the USDA states that each cup (8 ounces or 249 grams) of pomegranate juice has:
- 134 calories
- 0.7 grams of fat
- 0.4 grams of protein
- 32.7 grams of carbohydrates (31.5 grams of sugar and 0.2 grams of fiber)
- 11 percent of the daily value (DV) for potassium
- 6 percent of the DV for copper
- 10 percent of the DV for manganese
- 14 percent of the DV for vitamin B5
- 6 percent of the DV for vitamin B6
- 15 percent of the DV for vitamin B9 (folic acid)
- 6 percent of the DV for vitamin E
- 22 percent of the DV for vitamin K
Pomegranate juice also contains small amounts (between 1 and 4 percent) of nutrients like phosphorus, selenium, zinc, magnesium, iron, calcium, choline and B-complex vitamins.
As you can see, raw pomegranates are generally far more nutritious compared to pomegranate juice. However, both pomegranates and pomegranate juice provide antioxidants. According to a March 2014 study in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, pomegranates contain a range of different polyphenol antioxidants, including ellagitannins, gallotannins and flavonoids.
Of course, not all pomegranate juice is created equal. Some products are made from concentrate, like the well-known POM juice. This product reports having 150 calories, 38 grams of carbohydrates (32 from sugar) and 17 percent of the DV for potassium per cup (8 ounces). No other nutrients are listed, though POM juice likely contains polyphenol antioxidants, as well.
Read more: 13 Powerful Grains and Seeds
Antioxidants and Pomegranate's Benefits
Pomegranate is associated with a wide variety of health benefits. This fruit is thought to be able to:
- Reduce cholesterol
- Reduce oxidative stress in the body
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Reduce inflammation
- Provide anti-cancer effects
The polyphenol antioxidants are one of the most important aspects of pomegranate's nutrition. According to both the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences study and a March 2014 review in Advanced Biomedical Research, there are more antioxidants in this fruit's juice than other antioxidant-rich beverages, like green tea or red wine.
A further November 2014 study in Food and Chemical Toxicology confirmed that pomegranate can increase antioxidant levels in your body and that pomegranate's benefits last for as much as a week after consumption.
These polyphenol antioxidants may be beneficial in the management or treatment of a variety of health problems, too. For example, a preliminary study in the Journal of Nutrition and Cancer published in May 2014 showed that the polyphenols in pomegranates can modulate sex hormones that play a role in preventing certain cancers, like breast cancers.
A study published in March 2013 in Phytotherapy Research and a January 2017 review published in Pharmacological Research reported that pomegranate is good for your heart. Specifically, pomegranate's antioxidants were shown to improve cardiovascular health and consistently lower blood pressure levels. A further September 2017 study in Phytotherapy Research showed that pomegranate juice can also help protect against blocked arteries and consequent heart attacks.
The Sugar in Pomegranates
Many of these studies focused on both the pomegranate fruit as well as the juice. Both the whole fruit and beverage can be part of a healthy diet. Keep in mind that, whether you're eating the seeds or drinking their juice, pomegranates have a fairly large amount of sugar. However, as seeds, this sugar is natural and considered healthy.
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As a juice, especially when made from concentrate, you run the risk of ingesting an unnecessary and unhealthy amount of added sugars. Since pomegranate is already naturally sweet and added sugars are thought to be unhealthy in excess, consume unsweetened pomegranate juice whenever possible. If you're drinking natural, unsweetened pomegranate juice, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that one cup of juice per day is a perfectly healthy choice.
The total amount of fruit you should have per day is two cups. However, when you drink pomegranate juice, you're losing out on quite a few nutrients, like fiber. If you want all of your daily fruit intake to come from pomegranate, at least one cup should come from the whole seeds rather than just the juice.
If you want to drink more pomegranate, you can always toss the seeds into a blender and create a smoothie. Blending your pomegranates with other fruits or berries will further increase your antioxidant consumption and nutritional benefits.
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020"
- USDA MyFoodData: "Nutrition Comparison of Pomegranate Juice Bottled and Pomegranates"
- Pom Wonderful: "100% Pomegranate Juice"
- Advanced Biomedical Research: "Potent Health Effects of Pomegranate"
- Journal of Research in Medical Sciences: "Effects of Pomegranate Juice Consumption on Inflammatory Markers in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial"
- Food and Chemical Toxicology: "Pomegranate Juice Consumption Increases Gsh Levels and Reduces Lipid and Protein Oxidation in Human Blood"
- Nutrition and Cancer: "Effects of Pomegranate Juice on Hormonal Biomarkers of Breast Cancer Risk"
- Phytotherapy Research Journal: "Clinical Evaluation of Blood Pressure Lowering, Endothelial Function Improving, Hypolipidemic and Anti‐Inflammatory Effects of Pomegranate Juice in Hypertensive Subjects"
- Pharmacological Research: "Effects of Pomegranate Juice on Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials"
- Phytotherapy Research Journal: "Cardioprotective Effects of Pomegranate (Punica Granatum) Juice in Patients with Ischemic Heart Disease"