Nutrition 101: There's a New Super Food in Town!

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Move over green tea and red wine, there is a new antioxidant-rich super food that's becoming more and more popular. The pomegranate used to be nothing more than a seasonal novelty--even though it is a fruit that has been around for centuries, as referenced in Persephone, Homer's Odyssey and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Over the last few years, however, there have been more and more products containing pomegranate popping up on store shelves. You can find pomegranate flavor or scent in everything from hand soap and body wash to ice cream and lollipops. So what is a pomegranate?

The pomegranate-- known as la granada in Spanish and la grenade in French--is a round fruit typically about the size of an orange or grapefruit with a distinctive crown-shaped calyx at its base. The outer skin is rather tough and leathery in texture. The skin color can range from pale pink to a rich ruby red. Inside, the pomegranate fruit contains chambers of ruby-red seeds separated by white pulp like membranes.

This fruit grows on small treelike shrubs and is a native plant from areas from northern India to Iran and throughout the Mediterranean region. It is believed that the plant was introduced to California by the Spanish settlers in 1769. If grown for fruit, it grows best in semi-arid or subtropical climates like Arizona and California, but the plant can be grown for ornamentation in cooler climates as well.

Pomegranates are one of the most nutritious fruits you can choose, but they are also one of the most difficult and labor intensive to eat. Not only is the fruit loaded with vitamin C, potassium, folic acid and fiber, scientists have found that it is also loaded with antioxidants that may help fight heart disease, cancer and the ongoing battle with aging.

The pomegranate fruit contains three different types of antioxidant polyphenols-- tannins, anthocyanins and ellagic acid. Found in many fruits, these are not specific to pomegranates; however, pomegranate juice contains a notably high amount of all three, which is what makes this fruit an antioxidant-rich super food.

When selecting a fruit, pick those that are heavy, brightly colored and have a rind without any splits. They can be safely kept refrigerated for several months, but they taste best when eaten fresh. The membranes and seeds are edible and can easily be put through a juicer. The seeds provide the largest portion of the fruit's fiber and can be sprinkled on salads, used in soups, breads or other baked goods. (Find some pomegranate recipes here.

How do you eat it?
  • Cut off the crown end and lightly score the rind from top to bottom in several places.
  • Soak the scored fruit in a bowl of cool water for several minutes. Carefully split the fruit apart while holding it under water. Holding the fruit under water as you break the sections apart will help reduce juice splatters.
  • Separate the seeds from the rind and membrane while in the water. The seeds will sink to the bottom of your bowl while the rind and membrane will float to the top.
  • Skim off the rind and membranes with a slotted spoon..
  • Drain the seeds and pat dry.

Some common ailments have been found to respond positively to pomegranate or its juice. Talk to your health care provider to see if pomegranates could be a natural option for you or someone in your family.

  • Anemia - There has been some indication that pomegranate juice can help with iron-poor blood, especially for women who lose volume monthly. Try adding a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a little honey to a warm cup of pomegranate juice.
  • Asthma - There has been some indication that pomegranates have some anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce wheezing in young children with asthma.
  • Loss of Appetite - Some people find that pomegranate juice can help increase appetite.
  • Sore Throat - The perceived anti-inflammatory properties of pomegranate juice may reduce soreness and redness in the throat.

Caution should be used regarding regular consumption of pomegranate juice if you are on any medications. There is concern that the potent antioxidant juice may affect the metabolism of some prescription medications. Blood pressure medications in particular should not be taken with pomegranate juice as it may cause your blood pressure to drop too low. Be sure to talk with your medical provider to find the best balance between your prescription medications and this wonderful and healthy super fruit.

During the holiday season you will likely see this beautiful red fruit in stores. Will you pick some up and give them a try?

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My grocery store sells small containers or pomegranate seeds - so easy to toss a spoonful into a salad - and it makes it so pretty. Report
Pomegranates remind me of my Grandma and her house, and I love to eat them every year when they are in season!!! Report
really do submerge the fruit under water it does squirt and stain. Report
I just saw these on sale in the grocery store last night, but didn't pick any up because I didn't know how to prepare them or what to do with them. After reading this blog I'm going to go back and get one to give it a try. If I like it I'll go back for more. Thanks for encouraging me to try something new! Report
One came in this week's office fruit basket, and I didn't know what to do with it! Maybe I'll give it a try. Report
I have eaten ponegranates all my life .. my kids love the juice.. they can be a mess
to eat but soo good Report
I just had my first pomegranate on Nov 5 and it was good! I will be buying more since I can get them year round. Report
I love them on salads, alone, the juice, any time! Quarter with a knife & then peel them under water - it makes it much easier! Report
I love to put the seeds in my oatmeal in the morning. They're a great way to mix it up from the blueberries or cranberries that I usually use. Report
I've always liked them but they are a pain to peel. Report
I LOVE EM, they make a great addition to my morning smoothie. I buy two or three when they are on sale and freeze them :) Report
Poms are too costly & labor intensive for me as a fresh fruit, but I do invest in the juice as well as the pomegranate flavored teas & waters. Report
My dad had us eating pomegranates before it was vogue. :P

I'm just a little worried about the comment that poms make people feel hungry. I want food to fill me up, not make me more hungary! Report
I was thinking this would be a good food to munch at night while watching TV? I suppose you'd have to wear a splatter-towel, but the fact that they are such a pain to dis-member means they'd last all evening! Report
better than candy! takes a long sweet time to eat. Report
I love the taste of them, but for me they just aren't worth the hassle for the little bit you actually get out of the fruit. Report
I LOVE them... but they are 1.99 each. CRAZY!! Report
Ive loved pomrgranate since I was younger. My favorite way to have a pomegranate is t and to cut it in sections and then freeze them. It's just great, like having 100 ultra mini icees. Report
I live in southern Italy and have them quite often. They're kind of bohtersome, but tasty and good for you! Report
They have been around for a while... Great in salad dressings.... Report
I think I'll leave them in the store.... Report
I grew up in the caribbean before coming to Canada in my early teens, and it is funny how the pomengranate and numerous other fruits that grew in our backyards we took for granted, and now purchase them at ridiculous prices. We ate these things on a daily basis, and now find out how good they really are for us. lol Report
It's a very messy fruit with a sour taste and a lot of seeds that are hard to chew or swallow. Juice in a glass bottle in a refregirated section of a store is more convenient. And more expensive too. So I prefer persimmons, they are sweet, easy to carry with you, and each fruit has 6 grams of fiber. Report
They are already in stores...they're awesome Report
Like LadyAnneHoward, I remember sitting on a wall with my sister and us picking all the seeds out, fingers covered in reddish purple stains!
The last time I had a pomegranate I had a tough time with the seeds being too tough - maybe they were too young.

STEPHENP85 - I tried pomegranate juice a few months back - it was quite bitter. Just remember, like any other food item, read the label to check on additives etc, as the benefits won't be as great compared to fresh. Report
They have been in the stores here for about a month. I have been eating 3 or 4 week while they last. I love them. Report
I love pomengranate. Unfortunately it is not availabale where I stay but whenever I go to India I make it a point to eat it. I have never tried the juice of it but I like it as it is. Report
Welcome to my life! In Judaism, the pomegrante is essential in the celebration of the new year, which we just welcomed towards the end of September. Jews around the world eat this delicious fruit during September and October, they sell the juice everywhere and it's easy to pick up in season at the grocery store in Israel! Come visit me any time. :-) Report
this fruit is mentioned in Quran the holly book of Muslims,so I know how healthy is it also Olive and some other plants that the science still figuring out the benefits of them and still will discover more .God knows and that is why he mentioned them . Report
I love them, but haven't had one for quite a while now but they are going on my shopping list. I remember as a child we would sit for hours with a pin eating each indivdual pod seperately lol, anyone else do that?
Hugs ~ Lady Anne xx Report
Oh yes! I already have a couple of them in my fridge. We just bought them yesterday.
Thank you sooo much for the tips on how to separate the skin! I wish I knew the secret when my daughter was just a kid and ate them all the time! Report
I love pomegranates! Sometimes they're very hard to find here in HI but I usually drink the cherry or plain POM with sparkling water or the pom teas. Super good! Report
I live in Turkey & have the trees in my garden. I thought pomegranates, although delicious, were packed with natural sugar like grapes and should be eaten moderately? I'm really confused now as everyone is raving about them Report
We have always eaten a matter of fact I shared one with my daughter tonight-- I Like to toss the seeds in a salad-- deliciuous and sweet! Report
I've been eating them since I was a kid. We always busted them on the road and ate them while on a walk. I made jelly out of them one year when I was given alot. Report
Thank you for this article. I never knew how to eat them properly. I almost bought one on Sunday, but the price was $2.99 each. They were quite large though. I enjoyed them as a kid and do plan to eat one before Christmas. Report
I live in a pomegranate growing area, they are easy to find. I am looking for a tree to plant so I can get my own! Report
My boyfriend and I have become pomegranate fanatics after watching a Good Eats episode about them. We originally wanted to try them in all the fun recipes, but we just end up eating them plain right away! They are so yummy!! Report
I have never had them but its funny that this article was on here today because I just found a new orbit gum that is now pomegranates flavored. I will have to try it. Report
I have two on my counter ready to eat right now! I was going to look up how to eat them tonight since I've never had anything but the juice. Glad this article was here so I don't have to look it up! Don't know if I like that it increases appetite though. Report
They are really great in a marinade as well. The juice is pretty expensive around my area so if I'm getting some Pomegranate it's in the fruit form and it's a struggle to eat on the I make it a big treat :) Report
I just bought one this week. I didn't realize the whole "open in a bowl of water" would help reduce juice splatters. Now I have pom color drapes over my sink... Oh well, I was going to change it anyway.
I love them! Report
I never knew how to eat them so I never bought them. thanks for the info. Report
While I understand it's not the most heathful way to have pomegranates, I love pomegranate martinis. Report
one of the easiest way to eat them - is to cut them in half across the axis.. and tap the shell with a spoon and all the seeds pop out - then give it a squeeze to get the juice..

I am so grateful my Mom was such a California Girl! Even when we lived far away from California, we often had pomegranates in our lunch - just cut in half for us to pick apart and eat! Yummy and always so fun to share with kids who had never seen them before. And this was in the 60's! Report
I love pomegranates when I eat them I cut them in 1/2 and then scoop the seeds out with a spoon. I like the information on who to grow them I am going to try to grow some. Report
I've been eating pomegranates since I was a little girl and LOVE them. They used to be a treat in my house because they have always been expensive, but now I buy them regularly when they are in season....and they are in season!! Can't wait to buy my first of this year. Report
I have never had a Pomegranate; this information was very helpful, I suffer from low Iron, not quite anemic but close. If anyone needs a visual of the How to Eat It instructions (like me) it’s on You Tube listed as: Secret Underwater Pomegranate Trick. Report
I love this fruit, although I did not know it increases appetite. Hello, I don't need help in that area!

Be careful when you eat these, as the juice will stain your clothes, carpets and any other fabric. I always tell my DD to eat it outside! Report