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Now's the time – late fall through early winter – you'll find vibrant red pomegranates in produce and grocery stores. While it takes a bit of work to eat a pomegranate, it's a fruit worth adding to your diet.

Valued for its medicinal properties since ancient times, pomegranates have only recently come to be regarded by North Americans as a so-called superfood. Pomegranate seeds owe their superfood status to polyphenols, powerful antioxidants thought to offer heart health and anti-cancer benefits. In fact, pomegranate seeds have more antioxidant power than cranberry juice or green tea.

Research has shown that drinking pomegranate juice (made from the fruit's seeds) improved blood flow, lowered blood pressure and delayed the oxidation of LDL cholesterol in patients with coronary heart disease. (LDL cholesterol becomes even more damaging once it's oxidized.) Scientists suspect pomegranate's polyphenols may also help prevent plaque buildup in healthy people.

Preliminary research also suggests drinking pomegranate juice (one cup a day) may slow the progression of prostate cancer.

While these studies are small and not definitive, pomegranate is certainly a nutritious food to add to your diet. In addition to antioxidants, pomegranates are a source of fibre, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium. One pomegranate supplies one-quarter of a day's worth of folate (a B vitamin needed to synthesize and repair DNA) and one-third of your daily vitamin C.

Add pomegranate seeds to fruit salads, sprinkle over oatmeal, toss in green salads, blend in smoothies, stir into yogurt and mix into muffin and pancake batters. Top roasted carrots or Brussels sprouts with pomegranate seeds. Use pomegranate seeds to garnish brown rice, quinoa or other whole grain pilafs.

Add fresh pomegranate juice to vinaigrette salad dressings or mix with honey to use as a glaze for chicken, turkey or meat. If using commercial pomegranate juice, buy one with no sugar added.

Pomegranate nutrition

Per ½ cup arils (seeds)

(One medium pomegranate yields about 3/4 cup of seeds or 1/2 cup of juice.)

72 calories

1.5 grams protein

0 grams saturated fat

16 grams carbohydrate

3.5 grams fibre

9 milligrams vitamin C

14 micrograms vitamin K

33 micrograms folate

205 milligrams potassium

Excellent source of polyphenols

Leslie Beck, a Registered Dietitian, is based at the Medisys clinic in Toronto. She can be seen every Thursday at noon on CTV News Channel's Direct.

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