Pomegranate or Punica granatum is a fruit that has numerous culinary applications, ranging from juice blends, smoothies, cooking, garnishes, to baking. But apart from these culinary uses, you must have wondered what this fruit is good for in terms of health benefits. Its consumption may help prevent cancer, fight inflammation, prevent digestive disorders, fight erectile dysfunction, and improve heart health.
Botanical name: Punica granatum
Other names: Grenade, Chinese apple, Dalima.
Pomegranate is the fruit of the pomegranate tree, Punica granatum, an evergreen plant that belongs to the botanical family Lythraceae. The plant is a shrub or small tree that usually reaches a height of about 6-10 meters. The fruit is composed of many sacs which are filled with a flavorful pulp that varies in color from red to pink.
Uses of Pomegranate
Pomegranates can be eaten in several ways, but their juice is very popular. The juice can be sweet or sour, with the sour taste due to the presence of acidic ellagitannins. The juice is a popular drink in the United States, Canada, Middle East, and the whole of Europe. The seeds from this wonderful fruit are also used to prepare a wide variety of dishes, especially in the Indian cuisines.
Unsurprisingly, pomegranate has a long history of use in medicine. It is an important ingredient in many remedies in India’s popular Ayurvedic traditional medicine. In fact, pomegranates have been used for thousands of years to cure a wide range of diseases and illness all over the world.
In natural and holistic medicine, pomegranates are used to treat coughs, sore throats, urinary infections, arthritis, digestive disorders, and skin diseases. The decoction of its seeds is used to treat syphilis. Its juice is used to stop diarrhea and treat jaundice. In fact, the numerous medicinal uses go so far, that its flower buds are used as a remedy to fight bronchitis (1).
Thankfully, modern medicine has carried out numerous scientific researches on this wonderful fruit. Just as expected, it found pomegranate to have many health benefits. A ton of evidences have been piled up to prove many of the beneficial effects of this fruit, including its fight against cancer and heart disease. Continue reading to find most of its scientifically proven benefits on the human health.
Properties of Pomegranate
- Pomegranate contains significant amounts of carbohydrate. It represents about 18.7% of its total content.
- It also contains significant amounts of protein, at about 1.67% of its total content. This is quite a reasonable amount since it is a fresh fruit.
- Fats in pomegranate are negligible. The total fat content of pomegranate is less than 1.2% of its weight.
- Pomegranate contains significant amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, and some B group vitamins. Important vitamin lacking in pomegranate is pro-vitamin A, which is also known as beta-carotene.
- Some minerals such as copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium are contained in pomegranate in reasonable amounts.
- Pomegranates contain citric acids and some organic acids which help give them their characteristic bitter-sweet taste. The presence of these acids also play a role in the restoration of the intestinal bacterial flora.
- Another important substance present in pomegranate in small amount are the tannins. Tannins have an anti-inflammatory and astringent effect on the mucosa of the digestive tract. They are usually found in the membranes that separate the seed sacs.
- An important substance also found in pomegranate is the Pelletierine. This substance is an alkanoid which helps get rid of intestinal parasites.
- Anthocyanins are present in pomegranate as well. They mainly act as a diuretic, anti-inflammatory and antiseptics. Other functions of these pigments are stopping of aging process and cancerous degeneration, which is due to its antioxidant effect.
The above components of pomegranate give it the following properties:
- Vermifuge (eliminates intestinal parasites).
6 proven medicinal uses of pomegranate
- Prevents intestinal disorders
- Treats hypertension
- Fights iron-deficiency anemia
- Improves heart health
- Fights arthritis
- Fights erectile dysfunction
The astringent and anti-inflammatory effect of pomegranate on the digestive tract makes its consumption beneficial in cases of infectious diarrhea caused by colitis. Its intake may also be of immense benefit in cases of flatulence, Crohn’s disease, and intestinal cramps.
A research conducted in 2015, found ellagitannins from pomegranate to stimulate the growth of gut bacteria (2). This showed that pomegranates could have prebiotic effect. Moreover, pomegranates are significantly rich in dietary fiber.
Fiber has been proven on numerous occasions to also stimulate the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the gut. It helps increase the peristaltic action of the intestine in moving stool down the colon. This is in addition to its benefit in adding some bulk to stool – an action that lessens the severity of constipation. It also stimulates the production of digestive enzymes necessary for breaking food particles into smaller pieces.
The fact that a high potassium and low sodium diet is vital in managing hypertension, makes pomegranate a suitable food for hypertensive patients. Pomegranates contain negligible amounts of sodium, in such a way that a 100 gram serving of this wonderful fruit still provides 0% of the daily value for sodium.
Interestingly, a study published in Phytotheraphy Journal found the consumption of pomegranate juice to lower blood pressure in hypertensive patients (3). A significant reduction in blood pressure was noticed after just 2-weeks of pomegranate juice consumption. This finding reveal pomegranate juice to be an effective cardioprotective supplement for most people suffering from hypertension.
Although the iron content of pomegranates is small, many still believe that it can be beneficial for those suffering from iron-deficiency anemia. Pomegranates also contain small amounts of vitamin C and copper.
While iron is involved directly in the production of red blood cells, vitamin C and copper facilitates its absorption into the body. For this collective action, many think pomegranates have a lot to offer to people suffering from iron-deficiency, and can reduce its symptoms such as dizziness and weakness.
There are numerous studies (more than 100) that have proven the benefits of pomegranate on cardiovascular health. I have personally viewed more than 30 of such studies while writing this article. Below are some that I found to be very interesting.
The daily consumption of pomegranate juice has been found to improve stress-induced myocardial ischemia in patients who have coronary heart disease (4). Another study, although in animals, found the intake of pomegranate extract to reduce aortic sinus and coronary artery atherosclerosis (5).
Moreover, pomegranates are rich in flavonoids and numerous antioxidants. These compounds both help stop the aging process of the arteries.
If you are looking to boost your heart health, then look no further, as pomegranate is one of the few foods that can improve the functioning of your heart in no time. Adding just a few amounts of this fruit to your diet can help lower your blood pressure, and reduce your risk for heart diseases.
Arthritis is actually not a disease on its own, but a symptom of joint disease. It is the leading cause of disability in the United States.
Thanks to these wonderful fruits once again. The inflammation and pain caused by arthritis may be relieved through the intake of pomegranates. And this has been attributed to its anti-inflammatory effect.
Not long ago, a research found pomegranate extracts to have arthritis inhibitory effect (6), and proved it beneficial for the treatment of osteoarthritis, and other inflammatory diseases.
A study conducted using 53 humans, found consumption of pomegranate juice to be beneficial in people with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction (7). Although the results of the study were not found to be statistically significant due to the small number of subjects.
Another study, but this time around in animal subjects, found intake of pomegranate juice to increase blood flow, and improve erectile response (8).