The word superfood is bandied about in the wellness world, but pomegranate seeds are indeed worthy of the name. They’re loaded with potent antioxidants (three times that of green tea or red wine) that can help protect you from cellular damage and inflammation linked to everything from cognitive decline to cancer.
The juicy, crunchy seeds are also an impressive workout booster. A study from Skidmore College in New York finds that pairing them with a protein (such as Greek yogurt) promotes muscle recovery and reduces soreness, even more than eating a protein or carb by itself. A cup of pomegranate seeds has 7 grams of fiber and a third of your vitamin C for the day.
“The combination of antioxidants to combat free radical damage and protein to build and repair tissue makes it the perfect marriage to support muscle recovery and growth,” says study author and exercise physiologist Paul J. Arciero.
Pomegranates—which are actually in the berry family—are available fresh through January. Stock up while you can; research finds that the seeds have triple the cancer-fighting compounds as the juice. Extracting seeds from the fruit can be messy, so try this: Make cuts around the pomegranate shell, then submerge it in a big bowl of water. Break apart the lobes, pluck out the seeds, and strain.
Snack on the tart seeds straight, add them to salads and oatmeal, or reduce and strain for a sauce to go atop chicken or pork. Eaten before you go out drinking, they might even help prevent a hangover. Given all the holiday parties, they couldn’t come at a better time.