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Super fruit: The power of pomegranates

Although pomegranates have been in the produce aisle for a while, emerging research now credits this trendy fruit with a host of health benefits. Rich in phytochemicals, potassium, antioxidants and vitamins C and B6, tart-but-sweet pomegranates are enjoying renewed status as a health-smart food.

What makes pomegranates so healthy? Their benefits include:

  • Better heart health. Like many fruits, pomegranates are a good source of antioxidants and phytochemicals like polyphenols, which may help protect against heart disease. Pomegranates’ juice contains much higher levels of antioxidants than other fruit juices do. These antioxidants help keep blood vessels healthy, maintain blood flow and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol, which clogs arteries.
  • Anti-aging properties. Pomegranates’ antioxidants help fight against the free radicals that speed up aging. Pomegranate fruit extract may protect against osteoarthritis by inhibiting joint cartilage from breaking down. And according to scientists at Loma Linda University in California, animal research suggests that drinking pomegranate juice reduces the buildup of harmful proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Pass the pomegranates, please

To reap pomegranates’ benefits, either eat the fresh fruit or drink the bottled juice. The vivid red fruit is in season from September to January. Before drinking pomegranate juice regularly, however, check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist—the juice can adversely affect the metabolism of certain prescriptions. It can also cause blood pressure to drop too low if combined with some blood pressure medications. If you’re watching your weight, don’t forget how juice calories can add up—one top brand of pomegranate juice contains 140 calories a cup.

How to eat a pomegranate

Pomegranates may look strange. The fruit’s flesh consists of hundreds of tiny, red juice sacs, each surrounding one seed. These sacs, called arils, are balled together within a tough outer peel. The juicy arils are easy to retrieve if you follow these steps:

  1. Remove the pomegranate’s crown; cut the fruit into sections.
  2. Place the sections in water and, while keeping the fruit under water, remove the arils with your fingers. The arils will sink and the white pulpy membranes will float. Discard the peel and pulp.
  3. Strain the water. You can eat the entire arils, including seeds. Enjoy them alone or in salads and baked foods.