Pomegranate is renowned for being a powerful antioxidant. Let’s discover all the nutritional and beneficial properties of pomegranate and the contraindications in case of excessive consumption.
The properties of the pomegranate make it a very popular fruit all over the world. Native to western Asia, pomegranate grows well in mild climate areas but can also be grown in cooler climates (as long as the sheltered location is grown).
Pomegranates, the size of an apple, have a leathery yellow or red skin and contain numerous seeds with a juicy, slightly sour pulp.
What does pomegranate contain
Let’s start immediately by saying that pomegranate has few calories, about 80 Kcal per 100 grams and a good amount of fiber, which however are lost almost all if we prepare the juice. On the other hand, the intake of fats and proteins is very low. On the other hand, it is very rich in antioxidants and vitamin C (a single pomegranate contains almost 20% of the entire daily requirement of an adult man), it also provides a good amount of vitamin K, B vitamins and carbohydrates.
As for minerals, this fruit is an excellent source of potassium, which helps to perform cell functions properly. In addition, the consumption of this fruit provides other minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and, to a lesser extent, manganese and zinc.
Surely the vitamin C content helps to strengthen our immune system in the defense against bacteria and other pathogens, but also against seasonal ailments. However, the definition of “Fruit of Medicine” given to pomegranate depends in particular on the presence of two unique substances responsible for most of the health benefits: punicalagin and punicic acid.
- Punicalagin: These are strong antioxidants found in the juice and peel of a pomegranate. They are so potent that the juice has three times the antioxidant activity of red wine and green tea. The extracts based on this fruit, in fact, derive from the peel, due to the high content of antioxidants and punicalagins;
- Punicic acid: present at 65%, it is a type of linoleic acid with important biological effects. For example, some studies have shown a protective role against atherosclerosis, thanks to the direct action on LDL cholesterol levels. By reducing bad cholesterol, it avoids the deposit on the arteries and the consequent occlusion which can also lead to stroke.
Furthermore, the pomegranate contains ellagic acid, a powerful antioxidant useful, among other things, in fighting free radicals, waste substances that can cause premature aging of our cells. For greater clarity, below is the table with the nutritional values.
Nutritional values per 100g of pomegranate:
- Waterfall: 77.93 g
- kcal: 83
- Proteins: 1.67 g
- Fat: 1.17 g
- of which saturated: 0.12 g
- Carbohydrates: 18.7 g
- of which sugars: 13.67 g
- Fibers: 4 g
- Soccer: 10 mg
- Potassium: 236 mg
- Magnesium: 12 mg
- Zinc: 0.35 mg
- Iron: 0.3 mg
- C vitamin: 10.2 mg
- Folate: 38 µg
- Vitamin K: 16.4 µg
- Glycemic index: 35
- Cholesterol: 0 g
Pomegranate: the beneficial properties
The vitamins and antioxidants present, give the pomegranate useful properties to support health from many points of view. Specifically, it is a fruit with a very high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power, it helps cardiovascular prevention, is good for the intestine, counteracts anemia and promotes the health and beauty of skin and hair. Let’s explore all the benefits of this fruit below.
✓ Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
The main and most important properties of the pomegranate fruit are certainly the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ones. Antioxidants are considered the “scavengers” of free radicals, substances capable of damaging cells and the genetic material they contain, namely DNA. Eliminating the free radicals that are produced with normal metabolism therefore means delaying cellular aging, better supporting the immune system and protecting against the onset of numerous diseases and cancers.
The anti-inflammatory property of the pomegranate, on the other hand, allows to limit the production of a molecule called Reactive Protein C (PCR) and leukocytes. Both are responsible for the inflammatory process that occurs when the body is subjected to damage from physical (e.g. burn), chemical (e.g. acid) or pathogenic (e.g. virus or bacteria) agents. This process also causes pain, redness and discomfort. Being able to control it is therefore also important to give relief.
✓ Cancer prevention
Another rather renowned property of pomegranate is its antitumor: laboratory studies have shown that pomegranate extract can slow down the reproduction of cancer cells, and even induce apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells. Furthermore, its antioxidant action works by reducing free radicals. In particular, contrasting effects were found in breast and prostate cancer.
The anthocyanins contained in pomegranate juice are also able to carry out a protective action against damage from UV rays, one of the main causes of skin cancer.
✓ Benefits for the heart
Pomegranate is good for the heart: its juice can act as an anticoagulant reducing the risk of blood clots. Several studies have also shown how the fruit can help prevent or contain risk factors for diseases not only directly linked to the cardiovascular system, such as hypertension or high cholesterol, but also related to oxidative stress and inflammation, a phenomenon underlying the formation of atherosclerotic plaques. Regular intake of pomegranate juice also helps to keep blood pressure under control.
Protective effects against heart disease associated with high levels of triglycerides and “bad” LDL cholesterol have been seen in various studies where, in patients who regularly drank pomegranate juice, there was a reduction in triglycerides and LDL. In short, a precious food that also carries out a preventive action in cardiovascular diseases.
✓ Useful for the beauty of the skin
The pomegranate fruit is used in cosmetics due to its regenerative properties on the skin. This characteristic is conferred by punicic acid and ellagic acid which favor the formation of new skin cells facilitating the regeneration of the skin tissue, extending the life cycle of the fibroblasts that produce collagen. Both acids are therefore used in cosmetic products for skin hydration and protection.
Furthermore, thanks to the antioxidants and vitamins present, pomegranate slows down the cellular aging processes and reduces hyperpigmentation, age spots and wrinkles. It is also a great help in case of acne and oily skin. In addition to the extracts, pomegranate seed oil can also be used for cosmetic use.
✓ Contrasts gastric disorders and intestinal paractysis
Pomegranate juice helps fight hemorrhoids, nausea and intestinal parasites (including the “famous” tapeworm). The seeds, chopped and prepared as a decoction, help fight diarrhea.
✓ Helps prevent anemia
Pomegranate has a fair content of iron which, combined with the presence of vitamin C (a substance that improves the absorption of iron present in food), is useful in countering and preventing iron deficiency and therefore the onset of anemia.
✓ Prevents Alzheimer’s
While there are currently no effective therapeutic options in treating Alzheimer’s, studies suggest that diet can act on prevention. Pomegranate, having a high content of antioxidants compared to other fruits and vegetables, has been shown to have a neuroprotective effect. An experiment with transgenic mice suffering from a neurodegenerative disease and treated with pomegranate juice has shown a beneficial effect on memory abilities.
Researchers believe that pomegranate punicalagins in particular may help fight Alzheimer’s disease by reducing inflammation in specific brain cells called microglia. Inflammation in these cells leads to the destruction of other cells in the brain, leading to and worsening the symptoms of dementia.
A recent study has shown important results in patients undergoing cardiac surgery who may be followed by a memory deficit. The pomegranate treatment not only protected against this effect, but also improved memory performance even 6 weeks after surgery. Deepening the research is therefore essential.
Pomegranate is excellent for boosting the immune system before winter, counteracting oxidative stress and promoting the well-being of the cardiovascular system and intestines.
How to open a pomegranate
To open a pomegranate, first you need to make a circular cut, about 2 mm deep, near the crown (the top of the fruit), in order to open the fruit. Then we will have to remove the cut part, a bit like a “lid”. At this point, a few incisions must be made from top to bottom, each one near the white skin visible inside that separates the individual sections of the fruit. Once the incisions have been made, we can open the pomegranate into wedges, remove the white skin and extract all the grains, also called arils.
How to use the pomegranate
Once you have bought and opened a pomegranate you can use it in several ways. The simplest way is to open it and extract all the grains to eat as a snack, trying to eliminate as much as possible even the white part, which would make the taste more bitter.
Another widely used method of eating pomegranate is to prepare the juice. In this case, if we have an extractor available, all we have to do is extract the small grains inside the fruit and put them directly in the extractor to make a pure pomegranate juice. Alternatively, it is possible to prepare the juice using a special “pomegranate squeezer”. In this case, the fruit must be cut in half and inserted into the machine, which will extract the juice as a sort of citrus squeezer. Generally, two medium-sized fruits are needed to make a juice. Alternatively, it is possible to find ready-made juice on the market. In this case we advise you to choose 100% natural products with no added sugars.
In addition, pomegranate can be included in other preparations in the kitchen, sweet or savory. These include pomegranate jam, pomegranate digestive liqueur or mixed salads, perhaps accompanied by rocket, avocado, lettuce and cabbage.
How much pomegranate to take to get benefits
Food guidelines recommend taking 5 servings of fruit and vegetables every day. When it is in season, therefore, it is advisable to include in your diet at least one pomegranate a day, equal to a portion of fruit. If you prefer juice, keep in mind that 1 good-sized pomegranate will provide about 120/130 ml of concentrated juice, equal to just over half a glass, which can be diluted with water.
As for the quantities to be consumed to obtain specific benefits, scientific studies suggest different quantities, which vary according to the result sought. Here are the main ones:
- Reduction of triglycerides: Researchers group demonstrated effects in reducing triglycerides and LDL with 800 mg per day of pomegranate seed oil (obtained after juice extraction) for 4 weeks;
- Positive effects on memory: Regarding the effects on memory, one study indicated 8 ounces (about 225 grams) per day as the ideal dosage for 4 weeks;
- During pregnancy: a glass of juice a day can also be recommended for women who want to prepare for pregnancy. Pomegranate juice provides up to 100% of the RDA of folic acid, whose role is fundamental in preventing serious pathologies in the child;
- Daily prevention: according to the literature, the recommended dose for a simple healthy diet is a 250 ml glass (about 2 pomegranates), capable of providing about 50% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for an adult, of vitamins A, C and E and 13% RDA of potassium;
In any case, it is always a good idea to discuss with your doctor, especially if you are taking drugs and / or supplements every day or if you are pregnant.
Contraindications of the pomegranate
Excessive consumption of pomegranate (in particular of the active ingredients obtained from the bark) can cause intoxication. The side effects in these cases are: dizziness, headache, drowsiness and difficulty in breathing. In case you are taking anticoagulant drugs it is advisable to consult your doctor before taking pomegranate. On the other hand, there is no particular attention in those suffering from diabetes.
The beneficial properties of the pomegranate were already known in ancient times: the root cooked in wine was used as a vermifuge and the peel was used in case of a sluggish intestine. The film that wraps the seeds was particularly appreciated for the preparation of thirst-quenching drinks.