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Superfood: Pomegranate

Superfood: Pomegranate
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As more and more people are looking to sip on superfoods rather than sugary sodas, 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 inflated claims tied to this gorgeous fruit!

Why They’re Super

 

Photo: Bigstock

The Pomegranate tree is native to Asia and has been revered among many ancient religions for its medicinal purposes [1]. Now, researchers believe that the fruit’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may be used to help certain heart conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attack and congestive heart failure [2].

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 [2] [4] [5]. 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) [6]. 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 [7].

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

 

Your Action Plan

While pomegranate juice sounds pretty awesome, make sure to check with your doctor 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 sued the makers of POM Wonderful 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 false 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.

  • Option 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!
  • Others 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:

Pomegranate, Honey & Quinoa Breakfast via Food.com

Apple and Pomegranate Breakfast Crumble via Keep It Simple Foods Pomegranate, Beet, and Blood Orange Salad via Epicurious

Pomegranate Iced Tea via The Food Network

Pomegranate Roasted Chicken via Whole Living

Sea Scallop Salad with Meyer Lemon and Pomegranate via New York Times

 

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

Works Cited +

  1. Why a pomegranate? Langley, P. British Medical Association, London. BMJ, 2000 November 4; 321(7269): 1153–1154.
  2. Pomegranate juice: a heart-healthy fruit juice. 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.
  3. Pomegranate juice: a heart-healthy fruit juice. 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.
  4. Pomegranate Protection against Cardiovascular Diseases., 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.
  5. Pomegranate juice consumption reduces oxidative stress, atherogenic modifications to LDL, and platelet aggregation: studies in humans and in atherosclerotic apolipoprotein E-deficient mice. 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.
  6. Anti-oxidative effects of pomegranate juice (PJ) consumption by diabetic patients on serum and on macrophages. 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.
  7. Effect of Dietary Antioxidants, Training and Performance Correlates on Antioxidant Status in Competitive Rowers. 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.

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