As more and more people are looking to sip on superfoods rather than sugary , pomegranates (both in their natural and juice forms) have become increasingly popular, popping up on trendy salad and martini menus everywhere. But buyers beware: While pomegranates do have some great health benefits, there may be some tied to this gorgeous fruit!

Why They’re Super

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The Pomegranate tree is native to Asia and has been revered among many ancient religions for its medicinal purposes Langley, P. British Medical Association, London. BMJ, 2000 November 4; 321(7269): 1153–1154.. Now, researchers believe that the fruit’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may be used to help certain like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attack and congestive heart failure Basu A., Penugonda K., Department of Nutritional Sciences, 301 Human Environmental Sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma. Nutrition Reviews, 2009 Jan;67(1):49-56..

Pomegranates contain strong antioxidants and properties that can help prevent fatty deposits from building up around our arteries. This buildup may lead to heart attacks and other heart problems Basu A., Penugonda K., Department of Nutritional Sciences, 301 Human Environmental Sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma. Nutrition Reviews, 2009 Jan;67(1):49-56. ., Aviram M., Rosenblat, M., The Lipid Research Laboratory, Technion Faculty of Medicine, The Rappaport Family Institute for Research in the Medical Sciences and Rambam Medical Center, Haifa, Israel. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012 Nov. 18. Aviram M., Dornfeld L., Rosenblat M., et. al., Lipid Research Laboratory and the Division of Morphological Sciences, Technion Faculty of Medicine, The Rappaport Family Institute for Research in the Medical Sciences and Rambam Medical Center, Haifa, Israel. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2000 May;71(5):1062-76.. Studies have found that consuming pomegranate juice can reduce the development of these fatty deposits in our arteries, a problem commonly found in patients with chronic conditions (such as diabetes) . Rosenblat M., Hayek T., et. al., The Lipid Research Laboratory, Technion Faculty of Medicine, The Rappaport Family Institute for Research in the Medical Sciences, Rambam Medical Center, 31096 Haifa, Israel. Atherosclerosis, 2006 Aug;187(2):363-71.. And while more research is needed to fully back these claims in regards to pomegranates specifically, plenty of research supports the idea that antioxidants can help with a range of other issues, from sun protection to athletic performance . Braakhuls, AJ, Hopkins, WG, Lowe, TE. The University of Auckland, Discipline of Nutrition, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, Auckland. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2013 Feb 20..

But they're not just special in juice form. Whole pomegranate seeds contain a good amount of , too, which is for proper digestive and heart health.

Your Action Plan

While pomegranate juice sounds pretty awesome, make sure to before consuming it regularly as a health supplement. Also, read the labels on your pomegranate juice very carefully (and make sure what you’re getting is actually 100 percent juice). The Federal Trade Commission the makers of pomegranate juice in 2010 for allegedly misleading advertising that claimed their products prevented or treated erectile dysfunction, prostate cancer, and heart disease — all claims found to be “unsubstantiated” (whoops). While the FTC believes the results of studies POM ran on their juice were or did not show any benefits, POM Wonderful stands by its claim that there is a variety of research that shows the health benefits of pomegranates (we found it too!). Fun fact: Companies are allowed to post health claims about their products without proving them, as long as there is some sort of disclaimer on the package acknowledging the claims uncertainty. Read the fine print!

And while pomegranates definitely have some good assets, they’re also pretty high in naturally-occurring sugar, which can be easily to accidently overdose on, racking up calories. Drink this delicious ruby-red juice in moderation — a small dash of juice in a glass of regular or seltzer water goes a long way!

Unlike those easy peel-and-eat fruits, round, hard, tough-skinned pomegranates are a bit more difficult to break open. Luckily there are a few ways to master this fruit and get to the juicy seeds inside.

  • one: Quarter the pomegranate with a knife, and place the pieces in a bowl of water. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl while the rest of the fruit’s pith floats!
  • cut open the top of the fruit (like you would before carving a pumpkin) and then cut the fruit into slices, scooping out the seeds and putting them in a strainer for rinsing.
  • Try your hand at peeling. Starting from the pointy end, try your best to peel back the sides. (You can use a knife to get the process started.) Once you’ve peeled back some of the skin, use those fingers to gently loosen the kernels. Peel back the white pithy membranes as you go, and discard.

Once you’ve broken the seeds free, it’s time to get creative. Check out these recipes from around the web:

via Food.com

via Keep It Simple Foods via Epicurious

via The Food Network

via Whole Living

via New York Times

What’s your take on the mighty pomegranate — worth the work? Share your thoughts in the comments below!