With a family that includes just one genus and two species—only one of which is cultivated—pomegranates are truly in a class by themselves. And when it comes to how to eat a pomegranate, it’s easy to feel intimidated by the tough rind and the honeycomb of jewel-like arils within. So if you’re new to the world of pomegranates, or just wondering if there’s an easier way, we have some tips that can have you enjoying those juicy pomegranate seeds in no time.
But first, let’s take a look at some of the amazing health benefits of this incomparable Persian fruit.
Pomegranate Health Benefits
For at least 4,000 years, the pomegranate fruit has been revered as a symbol of fertility, prosperity, and eternal life. And throughout that time, people have made use of the fruit, flowers, rind, leaves, bark, and even roots of the pomegranate trees and shrubs for medicinal purposes.
From Ayurveda to traditional Chinese medicine to the ancient Greeks, cultures have used pomegranates to treat everything from sore throats, coughs, diarrhea, and infections to arthritis, hemorrhoids, and heart disease.
Even today, people love pomegranates for their health benefits as much as their tarty sweetness. And science is now getting in on the act and verifying what the ancients knew instinctively—pomegranates are not only good to eat, but they’re also really good for you.
In fact, studies have found that pomegranates have antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and liver-protecting properties. Moreover, pomegranates are rich in polyphenols—beneficial plant chemicals that have been shown in studies to play a role in preventing and treating many common health problems, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis.
A 2012 study found that hemodialysis patients who drank approximately 3.5 ounces of pomegranate juice 3 days a week for 1 year had a significant decrease in infections requiring hospitalization as well as atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries due to fat buildup.
A 2011 study found that rinsing with 30 milliliters of pomegranate juice was effective at reducing both streptococci and lactobacilli—two types of bacteria associated with dental caries.
And these are just two of a number of studies that have demonstrated the health benefits of pomegranate juice. Additional studies involving animals have shown promising results when it comes to using pomegranates to treat high cholesterol, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Many of these benefits can be attributed to the anti-inflammatory effects of the polyphenols found in pomegranates, as chronic inflammation is known to be a risk factor for the development of numerous health conditions, including COPD, psoriasis, obesity, and diabetes.
A Delicious Way to Get Your Vitamins
While research continues on the various ways pomegranates may benefit specific health conditions, there’s no question that this veritable superfood contains many nutrients that can boost overall health.
For example, a single pomegranate contains:
- 11 grams of fiber
- 48% of the RDA of vitamin C
- 58% of the RDA of vitamin K
- 27% of the RDA of folate
- 19% of the RDA of potassium
- 22% of the RDA of copper
- 17% of the RDA of manganese
Which Pomegranate Varieties Are Best?
If you live in North America, chances are you’re familiar with only a few varieties of pomegranate, but there are literally hundreds of different cultivars out there.
And with flavor that runs the gamut from super tart to sugar sweet and seeds that can be ruby red or yellow-green, when it comes to pomegranate fruits, you’re limited only by your imagination!
Some of the varieties that are available in the United States—either at your local grocery store or through a nursery—include:
- Wonderful: By far the most famous variety in the United States, these large, reddish purple fruits have a pleasant, tangy flavor.
- Sirenevyi: This large fruit with pink skin and deep purple seeds has a sweet flavor that reminds some people of watermelon.
- Parfianka: This extra juicy variety with sweet-tart fruit is often rated the most flavorful in taste tests.
- Desertnyi: This variety tastes both sweet and tart and has light citrus notes that remind some of oranges.
- Angel red: This newer pomegranate variety is sweet and grown especially for juicing.
- Sin pepe: Also known as pink ice and pink satin, this variety has light pink seeds and a flavor reminiscent of fruit punch.
- Gissarskii rozovyi: This fruit has a light pink rind and slightly tart taste that some find similar to lemonade.
- Kashmir blend: A good option for your favorite recipes, this variety has a red rind with a chartreuse tint and red seeds with intense tart to sour flavor.
- Francis: This large variety that originated in Jamaica is known for its sweet arils.
- Granada: This medium-sized pomegranate is a mutation of the wonderful variety, but the fruit is darker and less tart.
How to Eat a Pomegranate
The best way to eat a pomegranate is to start with fresh, ripe fruit.
So how do you choose the perfect pomegranate? Look for a fruit whose skin is shiny and relatively free of blemishes. And be sure to pick it up and feel its weight. If it seems heavier than it looks, you know you’ve got a ripe pomegranate that’s juicy and ready to go.
Some people recommend cutting a whole pomegranate into quarters, placing it in a bowl of water to de-seed and removing the translucent white membrane that surrounds the arils, and then using a strainer or colander to drain off the water.
And if you’re in a hurry and can’t wait to get your fresh pomegranate seeds in your juicer or blender, this method is perfectly sound. But we think pomegranates are a treat to be savored. And if you cut one into quarters, you’re going to end up with a lot of damaged seeds.
So if you have the time—and don’t want to waste a single luscious pomegranate seed—perhaps the simplest method is to use a sharp knife to gently cut around the calyx, or crown, at the top of the pomegranate. Then just remove the cap and peel through the fleshy white pith under the rind like you would an orange.
This process can be a bit slow at first, but once you’re able to remove the thickest part of the pith (where it separates each quarter of arils), you can begin to pull the pomegranate apart and peel off the thin membrane that covers the seeds.
Then it’s just a process of enjoying each juicy, flavorful aril.
This method of opening and eating a pomegranate not only results in fewer damaged seeds, but it also forces you to slow down and really tune in to the experience—kind of like a brief period of meditation. And who doesn’t need that once in a while?
Whether it’s your first time or hundredth, once you get a taste of fresh pomegranates, you’re sure to fall in love. Because whether you juice it or seed it, blend it in a pomegranate smoothie, toss it in a fruit salad, or add it to your favorite recipes, pomegranates can’t be beat!