Pomegranate has been used for medicinal purposes in the Far and Middle East for thousands of years. In Ayurvedic medicine, it’s used as a tonic to heal ailments such as diarrhea and ulcers. In the U.S. it’s currently grown in California and Arizona. Only recently has the juice been studied for its health benefits.
The juice contains the antioxidants anthocyanins (also in blueberries), ellagic and gallic acids (also in strawberries), and quercetin (in red wine). In small studies, pomegranate juice extract and pomegranate seed oil extract were protective against diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, and breast and prostate cancers.
While it contains fructose (fruit sugar), pomegranate juice does not elevate blood sugar as other juices do. In studies, no significant negative effects (such as insulin resistance) were noted when diabetics drank the juice.
When to shop
The fruit is only in season in limited quantities in the U.S. from October to January. For year-round health, it’s better to drink the juice. One major brand, Pom Wonderful, contains no added sugars, but has 160 calories per 8-ounce serving. You can also take supplements made from seed oil extract, although it’s too early to tell whether you get the most health benefits from eating the fruit, drinking the juice, taking the extracts, or doing all three.