Pomegranate: how to eat this fruit? What are the benefits?
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Pomegranate: how to eat this fruit? What are the benefits?

The pomegranate is a fruit unlike any other. Recognizable among a thousand thanks to its bright red color and its luscious seeds called arils, it is also a precious health ally. Indeed, this amazing fruit from Asia is recognized worldwide for its exceptional antioxidant content as well as for its many health benefits. 

Pomegranate Characteristics 

  • Strong antioxidant power;
  • Promotes cardiovascular health;
  • Good source of dietary fiber;
  • Anti-inflammatory virtues;
  • Helps prevent chronic diseases.

Pomegranate nutritional and caloric values

For 100 g of fresh pomegranate:

NutrientsAverage content
calories80.6
Proteins1.44g
Carbohydrates14.3g
Lipids1.2g
Dietary fiber2.3g
Glycemic load:Data not available
Antioxidant power:Yes, but precise data is not available

Focus on the micronutrients contained in the pomegranate

Among the nutrients present in good quantity in the pomegranate, we can mention the following: 

  • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): Pomegranate is a source of vitamin B5;
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): Pomegranate is a source of vitamin B6;
  • Vitamin C: Pomegranate is a source of vitamin C;
  • Copper: Pomegranate is a source of copper.

The benefits of pomegranate

Several prospective and epidemiological studies have revealed that high consumption of fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers, and other chronic diseases. The presence of antioxidants in fruits and vegetables could play a role in these protective effects.

Pomegranate juice against cardiovascular disease

Several studies have found that regular consumption of pomegranate juice may prevent certain risk factors for cardiovascular disease. A clinical study has shown a decrease in atherosclerotic lesions following the consumption of pomegranate juice. 

In people who have already suffered from coronary artery disease, the consumption of pomegranate juice has improved blood circulation in the arteries. 

In diabetic patients with high blood lipids, pomegranate juice caused a decrease in total cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol (LDL) levels. However, this beneficial effect was observed only in people with high cholesterol levels, not in healthy subjects.

Consumption of pomegranate juice may also lower blood pressure in subjects with hypertension. Pomegranate juice may even improve endothelial function (i.e. the health or elasticity of blood vessels) in teens with metabolic syndrome. 

However, a diet high in antioxidants, obtained through other types of juices or fresh fruits and vegetables, could have the same effect.

Pomegranate: an excellent antioxidant

Although pomegranate seeds contain a high amount of antioxidants, the juice contains more. Indeed, the whole fruit is pressed when the juice is extracted. It is thus enriched with antioxidants present in very large quantities in the white membranes that surround the seeds.

Among about forty fruits (including strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackcurrants), pomegranate is at the top of the list of antioxidants. The main antioxidants found in pomegranate are flavonoids (especially anthocyanins), tannins, and ellagic acid. 

Anthocyanins give pomegranate its red color. Tannins impart a bitter taste to pomegranate juice and the white membranes that surround the seeds. 

The pomegranate also contains punicalagin, which has very powerful antioxidant power and is found in the juice and the peel of the pomegranate apple. 

Pomegranate extracts are usually made from the peel, due to their high antioxidant content. The antioxidant activity of pomegranate and its juice is higher than that of green tea and red wine.

According to a study, the consumption of pomegranate juice would increase the antioxidant activity of the blood, thus making it possible to protect blood lipids (for example cholesterol) against oxidation. 

However, researchers found that the beneficial effects of pomegranate juice may also be due to gut microflora byproducts. According to them, one must be careful before extrapolating these results to humans, since each individual has a different absorption rate and metabolism with the antioxidants in pomegranate juice.

Several studies report that fruits rich in flavonoids, anthocyanins, and procyanidins, such as pomegranate, have the potential to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

These compounds would act in synergy on different markers, for example in blood platelets and blood vessels. Pomegranate antioxidants may also contribute to the beneficial effects observed on cancer. 

However, it has been shown that the beneficial effect of pomegranate juice on cancer cells would be greater than that of antioxidants taken alone. 

Despite these promising results, more clinical studies need to be conducted to confirm the effects of pomegranate on the prevention or treatment of cancer and cardiovascular disease in humans.

The virtues of pomegranate against certain cancers

According to the results of in vitro studies, pomegranate juice or pomegranate juice extracts may delay the progression of certain cancers, such as prostate cancer, colon cancer, and breast cancer. However, clinical studies will be needed to assess the effects of pomegranate juice on humans.

In patients with prostate cancer, the daily consumption of pomegranate juice would decrease the growth of cancer cells and increase the resistance of lipids to oxidation. 

Several animal and cell culture studies suggest that pomegranate juice may reduce the risk of breast cancer by acting on estrogen receptors and non-estrogen receptors.

The effects of pomegranate on neurological disorders

Animal studies reveal that pomegranate juice may have a neuroprotective effect. It would protect the brain in the event of lesions related to birth problems and would have beneficial effects on the neurological signs linked to Alzheimer’s disease. 

These results will have to be validated in humans and will make it possible to specify the mechanisms of action concerned. Some human studies also show promising effects on memory.

Pomegranate to take care of your joints

Laboratory studies have shown that pomegranate extract can block enzymes that are known to damage joints in people with osteoarthritis.

A powerful anti-inflammatory

Chronic inflammation is a major driver of many chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and even obesity. Pomegranate has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which are largely mediated by its antioxidant properties. 

A study on diabetics found that drinking 250ml of pomegranate juice daily for 12 weeks lowered inflammatory markers of C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 by 32% and 30%, respectively.

Pomegranate to boost sports performance

Pomegranate is rich in dietary nitrates like beets. Dietary nitrates have demonstrated positive effects on performance. In a study of 19 athletes on a treadmill, 1 gram of pomegranate extract 30 minutes before exercise significantly improved blood flow. 

This resulted in a delay in the onset of fatigue, and an increase in exercise efficiency. More studies are needed but the effects are promising.

A source of Punic acid

Pomegranate also contains Punic acid which is the main fatty acid in pomegranate arils. It is a type of conjugated linoleic acid with powerful biological effects. 

In a study involving 51 people with high cholesterol and high triglycerides, consuming 800 milligrams of high-punic acid pomegranate seed oil daily for 4 weeks significantly lowered triglycerides and improved the triglyceride: HDL ratio (good cholesterol).

The other benefits of pomegranate on the body

Preliminary research indicates that pomegranate may have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. Its antibacterial and antifungal effects could potentially be protective against infections and inflammation of the mouth including gingivitis, periodontitis, and dental stomatitis.

Nutritionist’s word

When it’s the season, it would be a shame to deprive yourself of the health benefits of fresh pomegranates. In addition, it can slip very easily into salads and pan-fried vegetables which will bring an incomparable note of originality. 

It is also excellent for dessert or a smoothie. Out of season, pomegranate juice is an excellent alternative provided you favor a natural product with no added sugar. 

How to choose the right pomegranate?

Grenada Identity Card 

  • Family: Lythraceae; 
  • Origin: Asia;
  • Season: October to March;
  • Red color ;
  • Flavor: sweet and slightly bitter.

Choosing the right pomegranate, in all its forms  

  • Fresh Fruit: Ripe fruit emits a metallic sound when struck with the flat of the hand. At equal size, choose the heaviest fruits, a sign that they are very juicy. The bark should be smooth, shiny, a beautiful deep red and free from browning;
  • Syrup: read the label carefully to make sure it is real pomegranate syrup and not corn syrup;
  • Juice and concentrate: they are now available in supermarkets;
  • Dried arils, whole or powdered, and pomegranate molasses. You can find it in oriental or Indian grocery stores.

pomegranate juice

Nothing makes pomegranate juice more enjoyable than drinking it directly from the fruit. With your hand, roll the pomegranate on a work surface to break up the arils, but without damaging the peel. Then make a hole at the end of the fruit and suck the juice out using a straw.

A few tips before getting into the kitchen 

To remove the seeds, with a good knife, remove the cap of the fruit, then cut it into 4 or 5 quarters. Submerge the quarters in a bowl of water and scrape them gently to release all the seeds. 

These sink to the bottom of the water and all you have to do is remove any bits of white (inedible) membrane that float around. Pour into a colander and briefly run under water. Avoid aluminum pans and plain steel knives, which have the effect of making the fruit more bitter.

To extract the juice, gently crush the arils in a sieve placed in a bowl or pass them through a stainless steel potato masher. You can also pass them through a blender and then through a sieve to extract the juice, or use a juice extractor. To reduce bitterness, it is best to remove the white membrane from the fruit.

For optimal preservation 

  • Refrigerator: fresh fruit can be kept for a few weeks or even a few months. The juice can be stored for a few days;
  • Freezer: fresh arils can be kept for 1 year;
  • Store dried arils, whole or powdered, in a cool, dry place, away from light.

How to prepare pomegranate

In the kitchen, the pomegranate can be eaten both in sweet and savory versions. Its luscious seeds with a bright color and unique texture always provide the little extra that makes a big difference. It slips easily into everyday recipes and makes it possible to make dishes that are as healthy as they are gourmet, for our greatest pleasure. 

Cook pomegranate seeds (or arils) 

  • In salads: with lamb’s lettuce or arugula, raisins, and hazelnuts. With bitter greens (chicory, radicchio, endive) and chestnuts. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil;
  • Add a handful of fresh arils to a dried fruit salad including apricots, prunes, raisins, almonds, pistachios, rose or orange blossom water, and honey;
  • Add them to a fruit salad made with pears or apples, grapes, cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, and figs. Season with honey and, if desired, a drizzle of a fruit liqueur. You can omit the liqueur and serve it with yogurt, cottage cheese, or cottage cheese;
  • In the salsa: mix arils, hot pepper, green onion, pieces of citrus, and coriander leaves;
  • In cakes, muffins, and other pastries, dried arils can replace raisins;
  • Add some fresh arils on a slice of bread covered with hummus (mashed chickpeas);
  • Serve fresh arils with black rice or brown rice and toasted slivered almonds;
  • Slightly browned in a little butter, the arils go wonderfully with roast meat or enhance a dish of sautéed vegetables;
  • Serve chicken breast marinated in orange juice and soy sauce on a bed of raw baby spinach, garnished with figs and pomegranate arils;
  • Stuff a sweet pepper with dried fruits and nuts, coat with a walnut sauce, and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds;
  • In India, fresh arils are used in many vegetarian dishes, especially vegetable curries (potatoes, mushrooms, etc.). As for the dried arils, they are used in the composition of spice mixtures, which give a pleasant sweet and sour flavor.

What to do with pomegranate juice and syrup?

Pomegranate juice is intensely red. In the past, we even made ink from it. But today we have selected a variety with white arils, which do not stain the fingers, the table linen, or the cutting board and which can be easily used in the following preparations: 

In coulis, creams, sorbets, and ice creams;

Top cheesecake with pomegranate sauce.

Incorporate the juice into a vinaigrette and season with it oven-roasted beets, garnished with grilled hazelnuts;

Prepare a sauce including olive oil, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, chopped mint and parsley, salt and pepper, and drizzle it over a grilled eggplant salad;

Because of its richness in proteolytic enzymes, the juice is traditionally used to marinate meat or fish;

Rice and Lentil Soup: Sauté onions in clarified butter or oil. Add rice, lentils, turmeric, salt, pepper, and water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes. Add parsley, green onions, and pomegranate juice (about 1 cup to 8 cups of water) and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Garnish with mint leaves and raisins, then serve

Traveling in the kitchen thanks to the pomegranate 

  • Muhammara: this Turkish sauce is made with roasted and peeled red pepper, garlic, onion, chili paste (or a small hot pepper), breadcrumbs, ground walnuts, lemon juice, molasses pomegranate (which can be replaced with concentrated juice), yogurt, cumin, and salt. Pass to the blender and then go up in sauce by gradually adding olive oil. Serve in dips with pita bread, crackers, or raw vegetables;
  • Kisir: This Turkish version of tabbouleh is made of bulgur with red pepper, tomato, onion, parsley, mint, and a little pomegranate juice. It is traditionally served on vine leaves blanched in boiling water.

Make pomegranate syrup

For this, boil 2 cups of arils and 2 cups of sugar (or honey). Pass through a cloth to remove the seeds. Keep refrigerated to prevent fermentation. For information, a medium pomegranate yields 1/2 to 3/4 cup of arils and 1/3 to 1/2 cup of juice.

Pomegranate contraindications and allergies

There are very few contraindications to pomegranate consumption or any particularly well-known allergies. However, due to its high fiber, carbohydrate, and nutrient content, it can cause discomfort in some people. 

This is particularly the case in subjects suffering from irritable bowel syndrome or in the case of diabetes. 

irritable bowel syndrome 

The pomegranate has the advantage of being rich in fiber. If this represents an asset for the majority of subjects, it is not the case for everyone. Indeed, in people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome or intestinal hypersensitivity, the consumption of pomegranate can be the cause of the occurrence of unpleasant symptoms: stomach aches, bloating, diarrhea, aerophagia, etc. 

In these cases only, pomegranate consumption must therefore be scrupulously adapted to digestive tolerance and limited if necessary. 

Fructose richness

The pomegranate is quite rich in fructose, it must be consumed in moderation by the diabetic person. Otherwise, it could lead to a harmful rise in blood sugar. The fact of consuming it fresh rather than in the form of juice and combining it with other foods during the same meal can already greatly limit this phenomenon. 

History and anecdotes

First appearing in the form pume garnet in 1175, the term “pomegranate” appeared in the French language in 1314. It comes from the Latin malum granatum which means “fruit with small seeds”. It is actually a large berry with seeds individually surrounded by a red pulp (the arils). The current Latin name Punica comes from what the Romans also called the fruit Punicum malum, literally “Punic apple”, alluding to ancient Phenicia, where large pomegranate orchards were maintained.

A little history

Along with dates, figs, olives, and grapes, the pomegranate certainly represents the quintessence of Middle Eastern cuisine. These fruits were probably among the first to be domesticated in this region of the world (more precisely in Iran, it is believed), around 5,000 or 6,000 years ago. 

Thanks to the resistance of its rind, which makes it a long-lasting fruit that is unlikely to be damaged during transport, the pomegranate was, very early in history, one of the staple foods of travelers and caravaneers. Its water-soaked and slightly tangy pulp quenched thirst during long desert crossings. Its seeds therefore quickly spread eastward (Afghanistan, India, China) and westward (Egypt).

The Moors introduced it to Spain where, under their influence, it gave its name to the city of Granada. In Mesopotamia, it is the symbol of fertility, because of its many arils, which would number 840.

In Asia, as well as in ancient Greece and Rome, it has various other meanings in the 3 great monotheistic religions: the nostalgia of the promised land for the Hebrews in exile, a symbol of divine perfections for Christians, an antidote against hatred and envy among Muslims.

Pomegranate cultivation and by-products

Today, the pomegranate tree is cultivated in many dry tropical and subtropical regions of Europe, Africa, and Asia, as well as in America, from California to Chile. Long ignored by North American consumers, the pomegranate is gaining an excellent reputation among gourmets. 

Added to this culinary popularity is the interest it arouses among researchers, who are looking into its antioxidant properties and the role it could play in the prevention of various diseases.

In addition to fresh fruit, you can find pomegranate juice (or concentrate) on the market, as well as various pomegranate-flavored products: milk, carbonated or alcoholic drinks, lemonades, and desserts. 

There is also a syrup called “grenadine” and another, much thicker, less sweet, and more acidulous called “pomegranate molasses”. Finally, there are also dried arils, whole or powdered, which are widely used in Indian cuisine, and various specialty products (vinegar and pomegranate wine, sauces, etc.).

There are many varieties of pomegranate trees, which produce fruits that are more or less sour or sweet, large or small, and whose bark color varies from cream to red. In our markets, practically only the Wonderful pomegranate is known, which is grown on a large scale in California.

Ecology and environment

In India, food needs are growing exponentially. Irrigation of crops is an increasingly common practice, as it increases yields per hectare. However, the massive use of irrigation has led to a significant reduction in water reserves in the south of the country.

To counter the problem, we turn to drip irrigation systems (or localized irrigation) which bring water directly to the roots of cultivated plants. This system makes it possible to considerably limit losses attributable to evaporation or involuntary irrigation of weeds. 

Thanks to this system, we can also cut the supply of fertilizers by about 30%. In the pomegranate orchards where it has been planted, a 98% increase in yield has been observed as well as a 45% drop in water requirements.

Image Credit: Image by azerbaijan_stockers on Freepik

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