The Mighty Pomegranate (Punica granatum)
Growing up, pomegranate Punica granatum was one of my favorite winter fruits. It was always such a treat when my mom would hand me a bowl of bright red seeds!
Later on, when I had to peel my own pomegranate – let’s just say I ate less and less of it. Who wants to deal with that crazy mess?? And where do all those seeds go flying off too anyway?
Until I learned how to open one without making a mess… have you seen this video on how?
Inside a lumpy, thick-skinned pomegranate you’ll find a treasure of jewel-like arils-ruby seeds surrounded by sacs of flavorful juice. Pomegranate is both richly sweet and tart and exceptionally refreshing. Eat the arils (yup, that’s what they’re called, apparently!) by the spoonful, adding them to salads, oatmeal, or to Greek yogurt.
You’ll definitely want to check out this Pear and Pomegranate Salad recipe – it’s one of my favorites!
Pomegranate is native to the mountainous regions along the Caspian Sea, near northern Iraq and northwest Iran. For centuries, cultures around the world have used all parts of the tree—roots, bark, flowers, peel, seed and seed oil—medicinally to treat a range of health concerns, from digestive disorders and dysentery, to fever and heart ailments. Although in the West, the fruit and seed are typically used in medicinal preparations, you can make a tee using the peels and leaves quit easily.
Modern research indicates that pomegranate may be beneficial for reducing risk and supporting treatment for arthritis, certain types of cancers, erectile dysfunction, and heart disease. An antioxident compound only found in pomegranates called punicalagin is responsible for the beneficial effects to the heart and blood vessels. In fact, pomegranate has more antioxidant power than red wine and green tea!
Preliminary research shows that drinking unsweetened pomegranate juice helps improve cholesterol, lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the heart, and may help protect against the formation of blockages in the arteries. The research is not clear how much pomegranate juice (or as a nutritional supplement) is beneficial for different people and for different health concerns.
When buying pomegranate, don’t shy away from a fruit that isn’t perfectly round or feels heavy. Unusual shape, and weight indicate a fruit that is plump with arils and juice. Pomegranates do not sweeten once picked, so you’ll want to avoid fruits that look dried out.
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- Aviram M, Rosenblat M, Gaitini D, et al. “Pomegranate juice consumption for 3 years by patients with carotid artery stenosis reduces common carotid intima-media thickness, blood pressure and LDL oxidation.” Clin Nutr (2004). 23(3):423-33. Date Accessed: Dec 08, 2015: http://www.wonderfulpomegranateresearch.com/media/pdf/health/HH_2004_Aviram_ClinNutr_PJ_Consump_3Years_Carotid_021.pdf