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The real power of pomegranates

They may not be the ticket to an amorous evening, but they’re loaded with nutrients and antioxidants. (And they’re also delicious.)

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Pomegranates have a reputation as a full-on superfood, thanks in part to a big nudge from juice ads. It’s true they’re packed with some nutrients — for example, one pomegranate contains a whopping 40 percent of your daily vitamin C requirement. And they’re loaded with other antioxidants. But most fruits have plenty of antioxidants, and some of the other touted benefits of pomegranates such as preventing heart disease and helping fix erectile dysfunction — aren’t proven. So what’s the real power in pomegranates? Read on to find out.

Does eating pomegranates help you lose weight?

Maybe. A study tested a product called Xanthigen, which is made of oil from pomegranate seeds and brown marine algae, on women who have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and found that it helped them lose weight. But those are some very specific circumstances.

For the rest of us, the fact that one cup of pomegranate juice has about 150 calories and 33 g of sugar probably makes it more likely to contribute to weight gain. “That’s more sugar than there is in a cup of Coca-Cola,” says Brooke Bulloch, a registered dietitian in Saskatoon. Instead, she says, try eating the arils (the seeds inside the pomegranate) as a snack. They’re sweet and, unlike the juice, they’re a good source of fibre (5.6 g per half a pomegranate) which helps stabilize your blood-sugar level.

Do pomegranates help with erectile dysfunction?

Sorry, boys, the data behind this is pretty, ahem, weak. In fact, it’s largely based on a 2007 study which had 53 men with erectile dysfunction drink two cups of pomegranate juice a day for a month. It was generally reported as successful in the media, but the results weren’t statistically significant — the improvements may have just come down to luck.

Do pomegranates lower your risk of heart disease?

Maybe. A 2005 study found that, for people with heart disease, drinking a cup of pomegranate juice a day helped improve the blood flow to the heart. But that study was very small, testing just 45 people. And it was funded by the makers of POM Wonderful. Pomegranate juice has also been studied to see if it can lower high blood pressure, but different studies have come back with conflicting results.

Can pomegranates lower your cholesterol?

We don’t know. A 2012 meta analysis found that the evidence might be there, but a 2016 systematic review looked at more recent trials and concluded that eating pomegranates doesn’t have any effect on fats in the bloodstream, including cholesterol.

Can pomegranates cut your risk of cancer?

Maybe. A 2013 review pointed to a number of studies showing that pomegranate extract or juice can suppress the growth of cancer cells in the lab, and to a few showing the same in mice. In humans, the results have been less promising: A 2006 study found that drinking eight ounces of pomegranate juice a day slowed the progress of prostate cancer, but it was too small to be conclusive, and didn’t include a control group. A 2013 study gave pomegranate extract to men with prostate cancer to see if it would shrink the size of the cancer, and also found no significant results.

That said, “generally we know that higher intakes of whole fruit and vegetables can help prevent cancer,” says Brooke. Half a cup of arils is considered one serving — aim for five servings a day to cut your risk.

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