Pomegranates (punica granatum), are one of the oldest known fruits, dating back thousands of years to Babylonian times. They were mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible and some say the pomegranate was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, not an apple. They are native to Persia and are sometimes known as Chinese apples. Pomegranates grow on deciduous shrubs or small trees and today are cultivated in India, Southeast Asia, Malaya, East Indies, and parts of Africa. In the US, they are grown in Arizona and California and are usually available from late summer to mid-winter in the local supermarket.
This funny-looking fruit is one the healthiest foods you could eat, and is called a superfood by some. They are full of Vitamin C, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, zinc and iron, and have lots of fiber in the seeds. And pomegranates have very high amounts of potent antioxidants in their juice – probably more than any other fruit or beverage. This makes them very beneficial to eat.
Major Health Benefits
The compound punicalagin is only found in pomegranates. It has been shown to reduce blood pressure, improve total cholesterol by lowering LDL and raising HDL, and decrease plaque formation in the heart’s blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the heart. There is also less platelet aggregation, therefore reducing the incidence of heart attack and stroke.
Some studies have shown that pomegranates inhibit vascular changes in tumor growth with certain cancers such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and different kinds of leukemia.
The antioxidants found in pomegranates can help reduce the inflammation that causes painful joints associated with arthritis. And enzymes in their juice can prevent cartilage damage.
Because diabetics are prone to atherosclerosis, pomegranates’ antioxidant properties reduce the damaging effects of the disease on the heart and blood vessels. Pomegranates also appear to lower blood sugar levels after eating a meal.
Studies hint that punicalagin found in pomegranates can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Drinking pomegranate juice can also help in the treatment of erectile dysfunction, and it is said to be good for the skin and teeth.
You may have tried drinking pomegranate juice, but if you never tried eating the fruit, you should know the red, leathery tough outer layer gives way to a white, bitter membrane and little juice filled sacs called arils (about 600 in each fruit). Only the seeds are edible in the fruit. It is opening the fruit and extracting the seeds that are tricky, and you must be careful because the juice stains. There are about 200 calories in an entire medium sized pomegranate.
Opening the Fruit
There are different ways to remove pomegranate seeds. Here are two. It becomes easier with just a little practice, and it is well worth the effort.
Cut the top or crown end off, removing with it some of the white pith. Lightly score the skin in quarters, from the stem to the crown end. Holding it firmly, gently pull the sections apart, following the score lines. Bend back the skin and gently scoop the seed clusters into a bowl; remove any pith.
Cut the pomegranate in half vertically. With the cut side up, make 4 equally spaced cuts 1 inch long and 1 inch deep. Hold the pomegranate half, cut side down, over a bowl and pull the fruit open but not apart, using equal pressure from both hands. Holding the pomegranate half, cut side down, in the palm of one hand, whack the top of the fruit with the back of a large spoon. The seeds will fall out.
Pomegranate seeds can be sprinkled on top of a salad, added to yogurt, or grilled on meats. They’re used in many recipes, especially Indian dishes.
When I was a child, I used to just bite the arils off the fruit and spit the seeds out. This was OK but a little bitter tasting, since you can’t help but get some of the bitter membrane in your mouth. Now I just take a spoonful of seed from the bowl and eat the entire thing. I just love it – so sweet and juicy!
Do you have some special way of enjoying pomegranates? Leave a message below!