If you’re not familiar with pomegranate, it’s one of the oldest known fruits native to Persia. This dense, interesting-looking fruit has also been revered as a symbol of health, fertility and life — and research now backs up that pomegranate may be one of the healthiest fruits going. It also has a unique, slightly tart, slightly sweet flavor.
The tough, red exterior houses edible seeds that can keep for up to two months in the refrigerator and are often tossed on salads and foods as a crunchy, delicious and nutritious garnish. Pomegranate is high in vitamin C, contains a large amount of vitamin K — which is good for bone health — and vitamin B5, which helps the body metabolize protein, carbohydrates and fats.
The fruit is also high in phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, zinc, folate, potassium and iron, contains no cholesterol and has about 105 calories from the seeds.
The pomegranate is rich in phytochemical compounds, those high levels of flavonoids and polyphenols, which are potent antioxidants that may provide protection against heart disease and cancers. A glass of pomegranate juice has more antioxidants than a glass of red wine, green tea or blueberries.
The pomegranate may boost testosterone in both men and women, improving libido and is a great potential immunity booster for preventing colds. It’s also said to help the skin look younger by inhibiting free radicals that promote the aging process.
The juicy benefits
Researchers continue to find more health benefits from this amazing fruit. A compound found only in pomegranates, called punicalagin, benefits heart and blood vessels. It also lowers cholesterol and blood pressure and helps heart blockages (atherosclerosis) break up. In one study, heart patients who drank an ounce of pomegranate juice for a year had lowered blood pressure and a 30 percent reduction in plaque in their blood, while those who didn’t drink the juice actually had an increase in heart plaque.
What’s more, the pomegranate has also been linked to inhibiting cancer growth like breast, prostate, colon and leukemia. The juice may also be helpful for stimulating serotonin and easing the symptoms of depression.
How to eat them
“The edible portions of the fruit are the seeds, which contain two parts. The aril is the colorful pulp filled sac that houses a tiny seed called the embryo which can be soft or hard. There are hundreds of arils in each pomegranate. The fruit is a bit challenging to eat but that’s what makes it fun,” says Jill Taufer, registered dietitian and a licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist Program Agent, at Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Florida.
How much is needed to reap benefits?
“Research has shown some heart health benefits from as little as 2 ounces of pomegranate juice a day,” says Taufer. Good news since an 8-ounce serving contains 31 grams of sugar.
“Individuals taking prescription medications who want to add pomegranates to their diet should first discuss the possibility of drug-nutrient interaction with their physician or pharmacist. The high vitamin K content may counteract the work of blood thinners," she adds. "Also, pomegranate may affect how quickly the liver breaks down certain medications including prescription drugs for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.”
How to seed a pomegranate
Cut the blossom end off, removing some of the yellow pith. Soak the fruit in a large bowl of cool water for five minutes. Break the fruit into sections while holding it underwater, separating the seeds from the membrane. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl. Drain on paper towels and store in airtight container in the refrigerator.
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