What exactly is in pomegranate juice that makes it good for our health? Should we be making our own at home? Or is it OK to drink commercially made pomegranate juice? The pomegranate juice polyphenols are the key to its health benefits. Let’s find out more about them.
There are three main components of pomegranates:
- seeds, also called arils
- peel, pith and rind/husk
Which parts have the most health benefits?
Pomegranate’s potential health benefits – Polyphenols
The reason for the substantial interest in the health benefits of pomegranates is because they are abundant in polyphenols. The concentration of polyphenols in pomegranate juice is 3.8mg/ml compared to other fruit juice (grape, blueberry, black cherry, apple, cranberry, orange) which runs at 0.46-2.6 mg/ml. Regular intake of polyphenols is associated with numerous health-promoting effects.
There are many different types of polyphenols. The therapeutically significant polyphenols in pomegranates include ellagic acid (pith and rind), ellagitannins (pith and rind), punicic acid, flavanoids, anthocyanidins(arils), anthocyanins (arils), and estrogenic flavonols and flavones.
As you can see, some of these constituents are in separate components of the fruit. Many are only in the peel, pith, husk of the fruit and not even in the arils/seeds.
Eating the pomegranate seeds
When eating the fruit of pomegranates, we tend to avoid the bitter white pith and peel and focus on the pretty red arils or seeds. But eating the seeds does mean we get the advantage of having some fiber which we don’t get in juice. Take a look at last week’s blog post for the nutritional breakdown of pomegranate seeds versus juice. However, eating just the seeds means we are missing out on a lot of health-giving polyphenols that are in the pith and rind.
So what about the juice?
Homemade pomegranate juice
If you look online for how to make homemade pomegranate juice, you’ll see that the recipe shows you how to get the seeds out of the pomegranate and then you juice the seeds. Another alternative that I have seen involves removing the seeds and then blitzing them up in a powerful blender rather than pressing the juice. Using a blender will preserve the fiber in the drink over juicing. But again, we are only getting the benefits of polyphenols in the seeds.
(Sadly, juicing recipes frequently tell you to add sugar to the juice! Ugh. You know not to do that, right?)
So this all seems obvious. But does this differ from commercially made pomegranate juice?
Commercial pomegranate juice
Commercially made pomegranate juice, like POMWonderful in California, is made not from juicing just the arils but by juicing the whole fruit. That means the rind, pith, and peel are in there too. As these components contain different polyphenols not found in the seeds, this type of commercial juice has a much higher polyphenol content – with a great variety of different polyphenols. This means we are getting much more polyphenols than eating just the seeds or juicing/blending the seeds at home.
While I can’t find data which says the levels of different polyphenols in commercial juice so that we can tell how much comes from the husk/rind etc, total levels are higher than the juice squeezed from seeds/arils alone.
But remember, some manufacturers of pomegranate juice add sugar to their juice too. You want to avoid these. Look for unsweetened 100% pomegranate juice. And you don’t need to drink a lot to get the benefits.
What do the studies use?
Most studies use pomegranate juice over eating the seeds. Obviously, it is an easier way to get pomegranate in us, and with higher levels of polyphenol intake.
But when we look at studies, we need to see what the polyphenol levels are. In some studies, 100% pomegranate juice is used. In others, pomegranate juice is just part of a drink. Just remember to look carefully at what the actual product is used in studies. It can make a significant difference to the outcome.
Take home message
If you are looking to maximize the health benefits of pomegranate juice, buy 100% unsweetened commercially available pomegranate juice. I buy and like the POMWonderful variety. The POMWonderful site has some recipes for meals and drinks, so take a look for some inspiration.
What’s your favorite way to eat/drink pomegranates?