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Pomegranate Power

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

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Pomegranate Power - Tuesday, June 13, 2006Pomegranates are apple-sized fruits that have a round shape. These fruits have a thick skin and contain a juicy pulp with multiple seeds. The pomegranate (Punica granatum) is native to the Middle East. It was subsequently grown in the Mediterranean region, and it is now cultivated in the United States.

Ancient Persian lore held that pomegranate seeds made their warriors invincible. In China, the fruit symbolized longevity. Ancient Egyptians were buried with pomegranates in the hope of being reborn, and in traditional Greek weddings, this fruit may be broken as a symbol of fertility.

Pomegranates are full of edible seeds that contain antioxidants and vitamins A, C, and E. These seeds also contain iron. One pomegranate contains approximately 100 calories and less than 1 gram of fat.

Pomegranate juice has received much press recently because of its high concentration of antioxidants. Ounce for ounce, it contains more antioxidants than in other fruit juices and even in red wine. The antioxidants are healthful substances that fight damage to cells by scavenging free radicals. Pomegranate juice is rich in polyphenols, a class of antioxidants. Recent studies have suggested a variety of health benefits from consumption of this juice. This includes improved blood circulation. It may stimulate the production of nitric oxide, a chemical that keeps arteries open and keeps blood flowing. Pomegranate juice appears to limit the process of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). It can decrease the oxidation that causes bad (LDL) cholesterol to adhere to artery walls and, it may reduce clogging of carotid arteries in the neck. A pilot study in the journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2004 demonstrated correlation between consumption of pomegranate juice and the reduction in the amount of plaque in arteries in the neck. Pomegranate juice may reduce blood pressure, and there is evidence that it improves heart health.

One study suggested that drinking 8 oz. of this juice daily can suppress prostate cancer growth in men with recurrent tumor. Pomegranates contain phytoestrogens. These are substances in plants that have chemical similarities to that of human estrogen and can bind to estrogen receptors in the body. Pomegranate seeds contain the female hormone estrone. It has been suggested that pomegranate estrone may reduce some of the symptoms of menopause that are associated with low estrogen levels.

Other research evaluating pomegranate extract has suggested that it may be helpful in slowing development of osteoarthritis (the "wear-and-tear" form of arthritis) by protecting cartilage.

Pomegranate juice is a concentrated source of calories. An 8 oz. glass contains approximately 150 calories. A single pomegranate fruit contains approximately 100 calories. Pomegranates are generally available in the United States from September through December. Whole pomegranates can be refrigerated for up to two months. Pomegranate seeds that are packed in an air tight container can be kept in the freezer for up to three months. The pulp of the pomegranate is pink to reddish in color. It can be messy eating a pomegranate, so follows these steps. First cut off the crown end of the pomegranate. Then, lightly score the thick rind of the fruit with a knife in several places, from top to bottom. Place the pomegranate in a bowl of water and soak it for 5 minutes. Hold it under water and break it into pieces. Separate the seeds from the skin and the membrane under water. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl, whereas the skin will float. Skim off the rind and the membranes and pour the seeds into a colander. The seeds can be used as a garnish in dishes with rice or potatoes. These seeds can also be used in salads or incorporated into salsa. Mix with other fruits in a dessert cup. The seeds can also be eaten by themselves, like tiny berries. Pomegranate syrup is used in the making of grenadine, and pomegranate extract can be used as a glaze for poultry or utilized in marinades.

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