Pomegranate Health Benefits: Tips & Recipes

Pomegranate Power!

Colorful, delicious fruit packs a powerful antioxidant punch.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

As a kid, I was one of the few people in my family willing to work at eating a pomegranate. I'd patiently peel away each pomegranate kernel until I had a mouth's worth in my hand, then pop them into my mouth, carefully sucking away the juicy outside, then spitting out the hard seeds. No matter how careful I was, I ended up with pink hands and pomegranate juice stains on my shirt.

Now, all that fruity fun has been eliminated for you; you can buy pomegranate juice in bottles at your friendly neighborhood grocery store. It's rather pricey, in terms of both the green stuff and calories, so you might want to mix it with mineral or seltzer water to make it go further.

Why should you give pomegranate juice a second look?

  • It has a unique, pleasant flavor.
  • The color is amazing. It can add a splash of red to your beverages, smoothies, and other recipes.
  • Pomegranates are a rich source of antioxidants.

Antioxidants in pomegranates include polyphenols, such as tannins and anthocyanins. In fact, pomegranates may have even more antioxidant power than cranberry juice or green tea, Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN, a nutrition advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research, has written in the AICR's "Nutrition Wise" newsletter.

As for other possible health benefits, while more studies are needed, there are indications that:

  • Pomegranate juice may improve blood flow to the heart in people with ischemic coronary heart disease (CHD). In a study of 45 people with CHD and myocardial ischemia (in which not enough blood gets to the heart muscle), participants who drank about 8 fluid ounces of pomegranate juice daily for 3 months had less ischemia during a stress test. Study participants who did not drink the juice, meanwhile, had evidence of more stress-induced ischemia. The study noted no negative effects to drinking pomegranate juice (even on blood sugar levels or body weight). Lead researcher, Dean Ornish, MD, believes pomegranate juice may even be able to help prevent heart disease in people who do not already have it.
  • Pomegranate juice may help stop plaque from building up in blood vessels - in other words, it may have an anti-atherogenic effect. The antioxidants in the juice may help keep cholesterol in a form that is less damaging, and may also reduce plaque that has already built up in vessels, according to Collins. Pomegranate juice was shown to have potent anti-atherogenic effects in healthy humans and in mice with plaque buildup -- possibly due to its antioxidative properties, researchers from Israel recently concluded. In their study of healthy male volunteers, pomegranate juice was shown to decrease the likelihood of LDL "bad" cholesterol to form plaque. Another Israeli study showed a decrease in the development of atherosclerosis in mice whose diets were supplemented with pomegranate juice.
  • Pomegranate juice may slow prostate cancer growth. Antioxidants are known to help prevent and repair DNA damage that can lead to cancer. "Pomegranate juice won't fend off cancer by itself, but studies suggest it may be a wonderful addition to the balanced, plant-based diet recommended by the American Institute of Cancer Research," says Collins. Men who have already had preliminary treatment for prostate cancer may benefit from a daily dose of pomegranate juice. The juice appeared to suppress the growth of cancer cells and the increase in cancer cell death in lab testing, according to research from UCLA. Allan Pantuck, MD, said in an email interview that he guesses a combination of elements in pomegranates -- rather than any single component -- is probably responsible for these health effects.

Yes, more research needs to be done on pomegranate juice for us to know anything definitive about its benefits. But, so far, the future looks bright for this vibrant, fuchsia-colored fruit.

Pomegranate Juice Recipes

If you're ready to add pomegranate juice to your diet, try one of these colorful recipes.

Pomegranate Pudding

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1/2 cup regular yogurt sweetened OR 1 portion light dessert + 1/2 cup fruit juice

Depending on the color of your pomegranate juice, this pudding can turn out to be different shades of pink or dark purple.

3 tablespoons Minute tapioca
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1 cup pomegranate juice
1 3/4 cup 1% low fat milk or fat free half-and-half
1 egg, beaten (use a higher omega-3 type, if available)
4 teaspoons Splenda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Combine tapioca, sugar, and cinnamon (if using) in medium nonstick saucepan. Stir in pomegranate juice, low fat milk, and beaten egg. Let stand 5 minutes.
  • Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a full boil (it will thicken as it cools). Remove from heat. Stir in the Splenda and vanilla extract.
  • Cool 20-30 minutes. Stir and spoon into 4 serving cups. Serve warm or chilled.

Yield: 4 large servings

Per serving: 140 calories, 6 g protein, 24 g carbohydrate, 3 g fat, 1.2 g saturated fat, 69 mg cholesterol, 0.3 g fiber, 74 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 19%.

Pomegranate Punch

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1 cup fruit juice

1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup orange juice (the freshly squeezed type, if available)
1/2 cup diet grapefruit juice soda (or diet 7 UP)

  • Add all ingredients to a large glass and stir.
  • Add ice as desired and serve.

Yield: 1 serving

Per serving: 125 calories, 1 g protein, 30 g carbohydrate, 0.4 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0.4 g fiber, 4 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 3%.

Recipes provided by Elaine Magee; © 2006 Elaine Magee

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

Published September 8, 2006.

SOURCES: American Institute for Cancer Research, "Nutrition Wise" newsletter, week of Dec. 5, 2005. Ornish, D. The American Journal of Cardiology, Sept. 15, 2005; vol 96:6: pp 810-814. Aviram, M. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2000; vol 71:5: pp 1062-1076. Pantuck, A. Clinical Cancer Research, July 1, 2006; vol 12: pp 4018-4026. Aviram, M. Atherosclerosis, Aug. 2006; vol 187: pp 363-371. Kaplan, M. Journal of Nutrition, 2001; vol 131: pp 2082-2089. Malik, A. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Oct. 11, 2005; vol 102:41: pp 14813-14818. Allan J. Pantuck, MD, Department of Urology, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA.

©2006 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.



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