30 Sep 2008

The Power of Pomegranates

Best wishes to my readers celebrating New Year
and to my readers celebrating Eid-al-Fitr.

Pomegranates have been cultivated for over 5000 years and thought to be native to Iran. They are the fruit of a small, bushy tree and generally the size of an orange with over 500 juicy seed casings (arils) in each.

Nutritionally pomegranates are an excellent source of vitamin C (one fruit has 40% of daily requirement), a good source of fiber, iron, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, potassium, with modest amounts of vitamins A, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin and folate. They are low in calories with a a sugar content of around 15%.

They are extremely high in antioxidants, far higher than oranges, blueberries, cranberries, green tea and red wine and which fight the free radicals in our bodies. This is due to their content of polyphenols, a potent form of antioxidant. They are punicalagin, a hydrolyzable tannin, found only in pomegranates, which breaks down to ellagic acid a naturally occurring phenolic compound phytochemical and anthocyanins which give pomegranates their bright red color a well as adding to the high level of antioxidants.

Pomegranates have been used in Ayurvedic and folk medicine for thousands of years and are now recognised in Western medicine for their excellent health benefits. Recent and ongoing studies have found them to be useful in the following:

Preventative medicine against heart disease and Alzheimer's by improving the blood flow.
Slowing down the progression of prostate cancer and treating erectile dysfunction.
Blocking enzymes that contribute to osteoarthritis.
Relieving the effects of menopause.
Supporting a healthy immune system and maintaining normal blood pressure levels.
Reducing the oxidation of bad LDL cholesterol which contributes to artery clogging and hardening.
Israeli researchers found that pomegranate seed oil causes breast cancer cells to self-destruct.
(Research links).

NOTE: Pomegranate juice, like grapefruit juice, appears to interfere with certain medications so check with your pharmacist if you are taking any medication.

Pomegranates should not be ignored as a skin and beauty aid. Helen of Troy is said to have used used pomegranate to enhance her natural beauty. The antioxidants in pomegranate help prevent skin damage and aging. A simple homemade soy yogurt and pomegranate juice face mask does wonders for the skin. For acne, boils, blackheads and whiteheads, mix dried and powdered pomegranate peel with fresh lime juice and apply to skin. For wrinkle-free skin, regularly apply a mask made of pomegranate leaf paste.

When purchasing fresh pomegranates choose ones without wrinkled, cracked or overly dry skins. The heavier they are the juicier they are. Pomegranates keep at room temperature for a few days and in the fridge for two to three months.

If living in a warm climate, grow your own pomegranate trees as they take up little space, are very attractive when in flower and are very low maintenance. If unable to get fresh pomegranates there are usually many bands of bottled pomegranate juices available in the supermarkets. Take note that their juice is used as a dye and therefore will stain your clothes.

Pomegranate Smoothie Recipe
From Dr. Ben Kim
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1 medium to large pomegranate, seeded
1-2 medium sized bananas
1 tbsp wild blueberries, frozen or thawed
1 cup almond milk

Blend all ingredients until smooth. If you like your smoothies extra thick, start with just half a cup of almond milk and add more if needed. It's fine to drink this smoothie with the bits of fiber that are left after the tiny sacs of pomegranate seeds have burst. If you prefer not to drink the bits of fiber, blend the pomegranate seeds on their own first and filter or use pomegranate juice.

Broccoli, Pomegranate and Orange Salad
Phil Vickery from B.B.C. Ready Steady Cook

1 head broccoli, cut into florets, blanched
handful fresh basil
handful fresh parsley, chopped
handful fresh coriander, chopped
1 orange, peeled, chopped
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 1/2tbsps (50g) pomegranate seeds

Place the broccoli, herbs and orange pieces into a bowl. Scatter over the sesame seeds, drizzle over the oil and vinegar and mix well. To serve, sprinkle the pomegranate seeds over the salad.

Pomegranate Pistachio Couscous
From Pomegranate World

1 1/2 cups water
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup couscous
2 tbsps chopped mint or cilantro
2 tbsps chopped unsalted pistachios
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
2 tsps lemon zest
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

To boiling water add cinnamon, olive oil and salt. Stir in the couscous, cover and remove from the heat. Let stand 5 - 10 minutes. Transfer the couscous to a large bowl and fluff with a fork. Mix in the herb, pistachios, half of the pomegranate seeds and lemon zest. To make a balanced lunch add garbanzo beans (chick peas).

Homemade Non-Alcoholic Grenadine Syrup
By Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, Home Cooking at

2 1/4 lbs / 1kg pomegranates
1 pt / 1/2 litre water
Sugar, see instructions
Red food coloring (optional)

Separate the pomegranate seeds from the membranes and skin. In a heavy saucepan, cover pomegranate seeds with 1 pint of water and simmer, stirring until juice sacs release their juice, about 5 minutes. Pour through a cheesecloth-layered sieve into a bowl, pressing the juice from the seeds. Discard seeds. Measure the strained pomegranate juice and add an equal amount of sugar. Pour into saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Add food coloring, if using. Pour into a decorative stoppered bottle. Use grenadine syrup in children's drinks like Shirley Temple or Roy Rogers, in alcoholic cocktails, desserts, marinades, and other general recipes.

Bulgur Salad with Fennel
From Maharishi Ayurveda

1 cup bulgur wheat
2 fennel bulbs, finely sliced
1 celery stalk, finely sliced
1/4 red pepper, finely sliced
2 tbsps olive oil
Finely grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Seeds from one fresh pomegranate
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Place bulgur wheat in bowl and pour enough cold water over it to cover. Let it soak for about 30 minutes. Drain wheat through a sieve. Lightly steam the fennel bulbs and pepper and allow to cool. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Let it stand for 30 minutes before serving.

Homemade Pomegranate Molasses
From RecipeZaar
This is a way to make pomegranate molasses if you do not have access to a middle eastern grocery store, but can get pomegranate juice. ~ "Pink Eyed" Jim Cortina

3 cups pomegranate juice (if there is added sugar in your juice, reduce the sugar called for in this recipe)
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients. Simmer and reduce until there is only 1 cup of liquid remaining. Chill.

Grilled Eggplant in Pomegranate Dressing
From Martha Stewart
Makes about 1 quart / 1 litre

3 small eggplants (about 2 1/4lbs / 1kg) , cut lengthwise into 3/4" / 2cm thick wedges
1 1/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil
3 tsps coarse salt
3 tbsps pomegranate molasses
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup shredded fresh mint
1/4 tsp

Preheat grill to medium-low. (If you are using a charcoal grill, coals are ready when you can hold your hand 5 inches above grill for just 7 seconds.) Brush eggplant wedges on all sides with 2/3 cup oil, and season with 1 teaspoon salt. 2. Place eggplant on grill rack in a single layer. Cover grill, and cook, turning occasionally, until softened and lightly charred, about 8 minutes total. Meanwhile, whisk together molasses, lemon juice, garlic, mint, remaining 2 teaspoons salt, the pepper, and remaining 2/3 cup oil. Add warm eggplant, and toss. Eggplant can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

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Marion said...

Pomegranate season was always very popular with my kids. And the colour of those kernels is so jewel-like...I love them...they're great as salad toppings.

Babette said...

I like Pomegranates. I also recently found a chocolate-covered pomegranate in the store. :o) I wrote a post about pomegranates in my blog. I hope it's ok to link it here.

Jackie said...

Links are always welcome babette :)

Marion I miss the days when I used to pop out and pick one from the tree. For some strange reason there are no trees in my suburb. We get them from Georgia (Europe)!

Urban Vegan said...

This is one good thing about fall.

dreamy said...

So they are called pomegranates! I saw it the other day and I juz can't recall it's name :p

Heather in Beautiful BC said...

Pomegranates are amazing! The seeds added to a salad make it look so exotic!

Is grenadine really made from pomegranates? Who knew? Not me for sure!!!

I know I will always learn something incredible by dropping by your site Jackie - thanks for sharing all this information :)

earthmother said...

I'm embarrassed to tell you, I was a pomegranate virgin until just weeks ago when I had my first.

This is one sexy piece of fruit! Who knew?

And, now that I know all the health benefits in these little buggers, you can bet I'll be having them more often.

Going to try out that smoothie recipe.

cholesterol lowering foods said...

Useful article. Thanks for sharing.

Usha said...

I just got to your blog while blog hopping,you have a wonderful space here...this is a very very informative post..Thanks for sharing:)

April said...

Those are some very tasty looking Recipes. I think I'll try Grilled Eggplant in Pomegranate Dressing this weekend. Thanks for sharing.

Vegan Eating Out said...

Who knew Pomegranates were so versatile and nutrient packed!

Martin Miller-Yianni said...

Pomegranates are unique, there is no other food like them and the taste so distinctive!
I used to have them given to me when i was a child but now never eat them as they are not widely available and expensive. Pity.

Good article Jackie, lots of useful pomegranate ideas knocking around.

Allie B said...

All those recipes sound delicious! Once pomegranates are in season and are cheaper I will definitely make some grenadine syrup.

Mark said...

Pomegranates are great! I picked a few up at Henry's, about $0.97 each. These were still not quite ready, but in another week or two, I imagine they will be getting better. Please check out my new site:


aTxVegn said...

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to comment! This is another fabulous recipe roundup! I really like the broccoli and pomegranate seeds. It's seems almost Christmasy!

Sandra Evertson said...

WoW1 Great post! Thanks!
Sandra Evertson

Rural Vegan said...

This was a really cool, informative post! Now if only pomegranates were easier to eat!

Fruity said...

This is one fruit which I like and had listed. Healthy but troublesome to eat..:)

Lucero said...

I love pomegranates. We would get them whenever we could when we were kids. My mother had taught us to spit out the seeds when we ate them. I learned in recent years that it's not necessary and that the seed actually adds a delightful crunch to your pomegranate concoction. A friend of mine made a fruit salad with pineapple, pecans and fresh shredded coconut with pomegranate and it was yummy. Thanks for the recipes.

Anonymous said...

I'm really loving pomegranates lately. I just bought some 100% juice and am enjoying it plain. I know some think it's too sour but I don't. The pistachio pomegranate cous cous sounds good (minus the couscous - maybe I could sub out for some barley).