Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Crack Open a Pomegranate

by Lourdes Castro

Every couple of years or so an “it food” pops up. Arugula was one that redefined salads in the 90s and now is as common as iceberg lettuce. The same goes with balsamic vinegar, edamame, even chorizo. So whose the new kid on the food block? For those of you who haven’t seen the inside of a grocery store in a while, today’s “it food” is the pomegranate.

Pomegranates are everywhere. The round red fruit with a stem end that resembles a crown is as easily seen in markets and kitchens as they are in spas and living rooms. And while their fragrance is sweet and enticing and their appearance rich and beautiful, how many people actually open them up and eat them?

In truth you only eat the small hard to get to seeds that are held inside the fruit, but you are greatly rewarded with sweet, tart seeds that burst with flavor when you bite them.
What if I told you the pomegranate has been added to the unofficial superfood category? (Superfoods are believed to have health benefits beyond those of more common foods due to specific phytonutrient content.)

Then what if I told you the phytonutrient jackpot is found in the crunchy seeds of the pomegranate with its juice coming in second?

Pomegranates Health Benefits

• Slows onset or development of prostate cancer
• Protect against heart disease
• Protects against diabetes
• Protects against cancer
• Protects against rheumatoid arthritis
• Retards aging
Native to Iran and now cultivated in California and Arizona, the pomegranate has reached a rock star level of popularity. Pomtinis were served at the Oscars, Jo Malone has a scent called Pomegranate Noir, even President Bush gave a nod towards the fruit when he asked Afghan President Karzai to grow pomegranate trees in place of poppies.

Why the hype? In addition to its delicious sweet, sour, tangy flavor, pomegranates are loaded with phytonutrients that have been shown in a number of peer-reviewed studies to have potent free-radical scavenging ability.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause all sorts of “problems” from aging to disease. Phytonutrients and antioxidants have the ability to neutralize them.

The closest a food is to its natural state, the more nutrients it will have. Hence, pomegranate seeds eaten from the whole fruit will contain more nutrients – and phytonutrients – than pomegranate juice. So if you find yourself in the market and see a pomegranate, pick one up, crack it open, and enjoy.

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