Monday, April 20, 2009

The Pomegranate: A Superfruit!

The term “superfruit” refers to a fruit that is not only rich in nutrients and antioxidants, but one that also has the power to affect cellular and molecular structure, and the potential to be beneficial to overall health. Pomegranates are said to have three to seven times as much antioxidant value as green tea and red wine. Furthermore, pomegranates are low in calories, with an estimated 110 calories and 25 grams of sugar from the whole fruit. Juice made from pomegranate seeds provides 16% of our daily Vitamin C requirement, per 100 ml. The fruit is also a good source of Vitamin B5, potassium and fiber. Many dietary supplements use extracts from pomegranates such as ellagic acid.

Regular consumption of pomegranate juice containing high levels of antioxidant improve blood circulation by preventing build up of plaque and hardening of artery walls. Laboratory studies have shown that pomegranates can prevent breast and skin cancer. A recent study conducted by researchers at UCLA also showed that pomegranate supplements containing ellagitannins can significantly reduce blood levels of PSA (prostate specific antigen) and slow down the progression of recurrent cancer cells. The antioxidant power of pomegranates may also be useful in treating Alzheimer’s disease, cholesterol, atherosclerosis, diabetes, and the common cold. It’s no wonder that pomegranates appear in every list of “Must-Eat” foods.

Culinary uses of the pomegranate are most evident in the native regions of southwestern Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. In parts of South India, like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, the seeds are eaten raw either in a simple vegetable or fruit salad (the watery arils are very refreshing for the hot weather of these regions) or with curd and rice. In North India and the Middle East, it is also used as a garnish for grilled meats, hummus and tahini. Wild pomegranate seeds are sometimes used as a spice known as anardhana or pomegranate in India and Pakistan, and as a substitute for pomegranate syrup in Middle Eastern cuisine. Pomegranate syrup can also be found in the sweeter and thicker form of grenadine, which is used in alcoholic drinks and found widely in traditional Iranian dishes such as fesenjan, a thick sauce made from grenadine and ground walnuts (eaten with duck or chicken and rice) and ash-e anar, a pomegranate soup.

In Turkey, pomegranate molasses or syrup is used in muhammara- a spread made with roasted peppers, garlic and walnuts. In Greece, pomegranate frequents many recipes, including kollivozoumi, a creamy broth made from boiled wheat, pomegranates and raisins, pomegranate eggplant relish, and avocado-pomegranate dip. Pomegranate is also made into a liqueur and grenadine is used in fruit confectionery, ice cream toppings, mixed with yogurt or spread as jam on toast.

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