Food Focus: Pomegranates

The pomegranate is a nutrient dense, antioxidant rich fruit that has long been valued as a symbol of health, fertility and eternal life. The pomegranate is pomegranates1native to Persia (now Iran), but pomegranates also thrive in the drier climates of California and Arizona. We are entering pomegranate season in the northern hemisphere, which runs from September to February.

Pomegranates take a little work to get to the juicy seeds found inside, but it is well worth it. Pomegranate seeds are not only delicious by the handful, they can also be tossed on a salad, served over yogurt, ice cream or with your favorite breakfast granola. And the health benefits of pomegranates are plentiful. Punicalagins are compounds found only in pomegranates and are reported to benefit the heart and blood vessels. Punicalagins are the major component responsible for pomegranate’s antioxidant and health benefits. They lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and increase the speed at which heart blockages (atherosclerosis) dissolve. Pomegranates have also shown to prevent breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and leukemia.

So, how do you get into a pomegranate to get all of these health benefits? It’s not as difficult as it looks!

  1. First, cut the skin of the pomegranate in quarters from stem to crown end and pull apart into quarters.
  2. Immerse the quarters in a large bowl of cool water and while holding the fruit under water, break sections apart with your fingers, separating the seeds from pulp. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the pulp will float.
  3. Discard skin and pulp. Drain the seeds and dry on paper towels.

Pomegranate juice is also becoming more widely available in the U.S. and is delicious on its own or blended in a smoothie. A glass of pomegranate juice has more antioxidants than red wine, green tea, blueberries, and cranberries.

So next time you are in your grocery store, grab a pomegranate and enjoy this age-old fruit.

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