Food and Fitness Fundamentals
With the holidays now in full swing, so is the newly deemed “superfood,” the pomegranate. Studies for this fruit are still in the early stages; however, thus far current research suggests they may contain great nutritional value, act as an excellent promoter of cardiovascular health and help ward off many diseases, such as cancer.
Pomegranates are a fruit originally native to Middle Eastern civilizations. After filtering their way throughout the globe, they have made a very prominent appearance in the U.S. This delicious fruit is now readily available August through January in many local supermarkets and specialty stores. It may be that we are just beginning to learn what the ancient folks knew all along in regards to the many benefits that this beautiful superfood can provide.
Pomegranates, also known as Chinese apple and seeded apple, are thought to be of great nutritional value. Most notably, attention has been focused on them as being an excellent source of antioxidants, phytochemicals and polyphenols. These are contributing factors in promoting good cardiovascular health, aiding in preventing heart disease, strokes and high blood pressure as well as various cancers. Pomegranates provide about 100 calories per medium fruit, and are good sources of Vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin B5 as well as fiber when the actual seed is consumed.
Pomegranates are harvested in the ripened stage. When selecting, look for fruit that feels heavy (filled with juice), is medium to dark red in color and has a leathery, firm and taut appearance with no noticeable breakage or softened areas.
You may store fresh pomegranates at room temperature and out of direct sunlight for several days or in a sealed plastic bag in a refrigerator for several months. Freezing the arils, or kernels of the pomegranate, is also an option; however, when thawed they may lose some of their shape. Fresh juice will last several days in the refrigerator and up to six months in a freezer.
Eating pomegranates fresh from the fruit can be a fun activity for the whole family. One word of caution, they are known for staining and can be quite messy if not handled properly. Here are three easy ways to get those nutrient dense kernels out without massive staining and a huge mess.
There are endless ways to eat pomegranates. Sprinkling fresh arils onto a salad, yogurt or ice cream enhances nutrition as well as provides a beautiful ruby colored garnish. Adding frozen kernels to the bottom of a sparkling beverage suddenly makes what was a hum drum drink turn into a colorful festive addition to the holidays. Grenadine syrup is concentrated and sweetened pomegranate juice, often used in cocktails and beverages. Fresh or dried arils can also be used in baking or simply added to your favorite trail mix.
The juice of the pomegranate can be obtained by home juicing or purchasing in supermarkets. When buying make sure the label states 100 percent pomegranate juice to ensure you are not getting a sugary substitute. Thickened juice with added ground walnuts can be used to baste meat, fish and poultry, and provides an additional layer of depth both in flavor and elegance in presentation. Here are some recipes you might like to try.
If you are not already familiar with all of the wonderful ways to consume pomegranates, I suggest you give it a try while they are still in season. Not only are they the superfood of the holidays, but they are also a very festive and fun cultural tradition to share with your family and friends.