The Top Four Health Benefits of Pomegranates

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Carrie Lam, MD

A pomegranate fruit, containing powerful benefits of pomegranates for brain health.Pomegranates have been used since ancient times and are even mentioned in the bible. You can tell a vegetable or fruit has some serious nutrient power by the intensity of its color, and the bright ruby hue of pomegranate skin and seeds is a great example. We are going to uncover the top four benefits of pomegranates, as well as how to avoid some of their potential health risks.

Pomegranates are packed with vitamins, fiber, and other nutrients. Just one cup of pomegranate arils, or seeds, can provide 7g of fiber, 3g of protein, 16% of the RDI of folate, 30% of the RDI of vitamin C, 12% of the RDI of potassium, and 36% of the RDI of vitamin K.

Two very powerful phytoconstituents that are responsible for many of the health benefits of pomegranates are:

  • Punicalagins – a phenol that is found in the skin and rind of pomegranates.
  • Punicic acid – the main fatty acid found in pomegranate seed oil.

The main reason that pomegranates are so good for you has to do with their antioxidant capacity.

Pomegranates contain two formidable antioxidants: vitamin C and punicalagin.

Antioxidants are compounds that help neutralize free radicals, or oxidants, in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules that take electrons away from stable molecules, making them unstable as well.

Antioxidants are molecules that can give electrons to these free radicals in order to stabilize them. That’s how they neutralize their damaging effects. Oxidative stress happens when the number of free radicals is more than the number of oxidants available to neutralize them. It is responsible for many health issues, from premature aging to neurodegenerative diseases, to inflammation, to adrenal fatigue, to heart disease, to other chronic conditions.

The great thing about vitamin C is that it is water soluble, which enables it to provide antioxidants easily to your cells. It is also recycled by glutathione, meaning it can be used over and over again to neutralize oxidants.

Punicalagin is the antioxidant that is really unique to pomegranates, and it is found in the skin and rind of the fruit. That’s why it is much more available in pomegranate juice, which is made with the skin and rind as well as the seeds.

This antioxidant power of pomegranates contributes to their top four health benefits, which are listed below.

#1 – Pomegranates Help Reduce Inflammation

Chronic inflammation has been described as the root cause of all chronic conditions, including some mental health issues like depression, as well as autoimmune disorders. Although inflammation is a natural and healthy part of the immune response, when it becomes chronic, it is a huge stressor on the body. In fact, it is one of the biggest culprits in adrenal fatigue.

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) occurs when the body is under chronic stress, and the adrenal glands have to work overtime to produce enough cortisol to deal with that stress. Cortisol is the body’s main anti-stress hormone, and it is responsible for maintaining heart and blood vessel function, regulating blood pressure and blood sugar levels, suppressing the immune system, and neutralizing inflammation.

Symptoms of AFS include fatigue, weight gain, insomnia, brain fog, low libido, PMS, infertility, hair loss, lowered immunity, food and drug sensitivities, salt and sugar cravings, hypoglycemia, intolerance to stress, heart palpitations, anxiety, mild depression, and more.

The adrenal glands are part of the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response hormone circuit. The NEM’s other circuits are the bioenergetic, the neuroaffect, the cardionomic, the inflammation, and the detoxification circuits. Pomegranates can help with all of these circuits, but they seem to be most beneficial for the inflammation circuit.

The Inflammation circuit of the NEM is composed of the immune cells, the gut, and the microbiome. It needs a healthy immune system and a healthy detoxification circuit to function properly.

Pomegranates’ antioxidant properties give them a distinct ability to fight inflammation. In one study of people with diabetes, the inflammatory markers interleukin-6 and CRP were reduced by approximately 30% after drinking 250 ml of pomegranate juice a day for 12 weeks.

Now, here’s where we need to give you the first health risk warning. Pomegranate juice, though very healing in many ways, is also high in sugar. If you have AFS, especially if it’s in the advanced stages, or diabetes mellitus, we advise you to avoid high sugar foods and drinks, including high sugar fruits, because they can lead to blood sugar spikes and crashes, which can add more stress on the adrenals.

In such cases, we recommend you stick to eating the seeds and staying with the adrenal fatigue diet until your adrenals are strong again; then you can try pomegranate juice and see how it affects your blood sugar levels. The adrenal fatigue diet is very anti-inflammatory on its own, so there’s no need to take unnecessary risks when your adrenals are in a weak state.

You can also consider trying pomegranate oil or extract, though we advise you to still take care and get guidance about any supplements you choose in order to avoid paradoxical reactions.

If you do want to experiment with pomegranate juice, make sure it is 100% pure. It’s this kind of juice that because that contains 3% punicalagin and which has been shown to have the most beneficial effects.

#2 – Pomegranates Can Help Clear Brain Fog

Pomegranates and pomegranate juice, both of which convey health benefits of pomegranatesOne of the biggest complaints many people with AFS have is the brain fog – the inability to focus, the short-term memory loss, the fuzziness. It makes day to day functioning more difficult and frustrating. Work tasks take longer than usual, and relationships take a hit too. These symptoms clear up when adrenal fatigue recovery gains momentum, but in the meantime, there are small changes that can really help. Adding pomegranates to your diet is one of these changes.

Several studies have shown the effects of pomegranates on brain health and memory. In one, those suffering from memory problems were given pomegranate juice. They showed improvement in visual and verbal memory after some time.

In an animal study, pomegranates were shown to have neuroprotective effects. This may be due to their anti-inflammatory properties since neuroinflammation is a factor in neurodegenerative diseases. These neuroprotective effects need further research in order to assess the benefits of pomegranates for managing Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. In another study, pomegranate juice seemed to slow down the progression of dementia.

#3 – Pomegranates Protect the Heart

Heart disease has been the number one killer of Americans for many years now, so anything you can do to protect your cardiovascular system is a smart idea. Adding pomegranates to your diet can help as it has some cardioprotective effects. Keep in mind that inflammation plays a role in heart disease, so consuming anti-inflammatory foods is always a good place to start.

Some studies showed that pomegranate juice reduced high blood pressure just after two weeks of consumption. Plus, its antioxidant effects kept LDL cholesterol from oxidation and reduced atherosclerotic plaque build-up.

This brings us to the second health risk warning. If you have advanced AFS, your blood pressure may actually be on the lower side, so you need to be careful with blood pressure lowering foods and drinks. In the beginning stages of AFS, however, blood pressure tends to be on the higher side, which means pomegranate juice is okay to try during those stages.

#4 – Pomegranates Help Your Sex Life

Pomegranate juice seems to have multiple effects on sexual health. First of all, it can help reduce cortisol levels, so it may be useful for those in the beginning stages of AFS to regain some energy and reduce the libido-lowering effects of adrenal fatigue. Low libido in AFS is a result of several factors, one of which is the lack of energy available to the reproductive functions.

Also, oxidative damage can affect erectile tissue by impairing blood flow there, and in animal studies, pomegranate juice was shown to help increase blood flow and help with the erectile response. Human studies are still inconclusive, but with further research, it will become clearer. Until then, you can try it for yourself and see.

In Conclusion

Benefits of pomegranates in a bowl of saladThose are the top four benefits of pomegranates. There are many other studies showing promising benefits of pomegranates for fighting prostate and breast cancer, helping with joint inflammation, fighting bacterial and fungal infections, and improving exercise performance. There is promise studies will find even more benefits in the future.

But just remember, if your health is in a weakened state or your AFS is advanced, you should ask your health professional first before trying out pomegranate products, whether juice, extracts, or supplements. Try this great recipe packed with pomegranates to start experiencing the benefits yourself.

© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

If it’s not a fruit you usually eat, that’s a big loss. Pomegranates are proving to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Read about the top four benefits of pomegranates and how to avoid some of their health risks too.

Benefits of pomegranates