Pomegranates: Delicious Sources of Antioxidants

The pomegranate’s bright red outer rind provides a tantalizing hint of the burst of flavor inside. This fruit is native to a region that spans Iran to the Himalayan Mountains in northern India. Thousands of years ago, pomegranates were grown over the entire Mediterranean and were introduced to California by Spanish settlers in the mid-1700’s. Today, pomegranates are also grown in parts of Arizona and California.

Pomegranates, like most fruit, are low in fat and calories, contain no saturated fat or cholesterol, and are naturally low in sodium. Pomegranates are also excellent sources of fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K. They're even good sources of potassium, folate, and copper.

Antioxidants in Pomegranates

Antioxidants are natural substances in foods that prevent or delay some types of cell damage and can play an important role in health. Pomegranates contain a type of antioxidant known as polyphenols, which have potential anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic effects that may help prevent or possibly treat chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, prostate and breast cancer, and oxidative stress. Polyphenols including tannins, flavonols, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid are found in pomegranate juice, peels, and arils (the juice sac that surrounds the seeds). The antioxidant potential of pomegranate juice is more than that of red wine and green tea. While the scientific evidence for the beneficial health impact of antioxidants found in pomegranates is building, further human trials are needed to more completely understand the therapeutic potential of pomegranates.

Use Caution if You Have These Conditions

Pomegranates may have similar interactions with medications as grapefruit juice. They could interfere with medications like some statin drugs used to treat high cholesterol levels and may also interfere with the action of warfarin.

How to Select and Eat Pomegranates

Pomegranates are picked and shipped to grocery stores when they’re ripe. Choose pomegranates that are plump, round, and feel heavy for their size (this means they are full of juice). Pomegranates keep well at room temperature away from direct sunlight for a few days. For longer storage, wrap pomegranates in plastic bags and store them for up to three months in the refrigerator. Pomegranate arils can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen in single layers on a tray and then stored in the freezer up to 6 months in airtight containers.

To open a pomegranate and remove the juicy arils, cut off the crown and then cut the fruit into sections. Place the sections in a bowl of cold water to avoid staining your fingers with the red juice. Use your fingers to roll the arils from the sections. The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the pith will float to the top. Discard the pith and strain the arils from the water.

10 Delicious Ways to Enjoy Pomegranates

  1. Sprinkle the arils into vegetable or fruit salads for a tangy crunch.
  2. Mix arils into oatmeal for bright color and a naturally sweet flavor.
  3. Add pomegranate juice to sparkling water for a delicious taste without added sugar.
  4. Stir arils into plain yogurt and use it to top pancakes or waffles.
  5. Toss arils into a spinach or leafy green salad.
  6. Add arils to cooked brown rice or quinoa pilaf instead of dried fruit.
  7. Sprinkle arils onto a vegetable pizza.
  8. Simmer pomegranate juice over low heat until it’s reduced by half, then use as glaze for chicken or pork chops.
  9. Add arils to your favorite vinaigrette for a burst of flavor in salads.
  10. Stir arils into cranberry sauce for crunch and flavor.

References

  1. California Rare Fruit Growers. Pomegranate. https://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/pomegranate.html. Written 1997, accessed 11-10-18.
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Antixoidants: In Depth. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/antioxidants/introduction.htm last updated November 2013. Accessed 11-10-18
  3. Zarfeshany A, Asgary S, Javanmard SH. Potent health effects of pomegranate. Adv Biomed Res. 2014;3:100. Published 2014 Mar 25. doi:10.4103/2277-9175.129371
  4. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Pomegranate. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/pomegranate last updated 10-9-18, accessed 11-10-18.
  5. Fruits and Veggies More Matters. Pomegranate: Nutrition, selection, storage. https://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/pomegranate Accessed 11-10-18.
  6. Fruits and Veggies More Matters. Jennifer England, RD, LD. Pomegranate 101. https://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/pomegranates-101 Accessed 11-18-18

By Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDE, CPT, CHWC

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