Wellness Encyclopedia: Pomegranate

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Most known for their powerful levels of disease-fighting antioxidants, pomegranates contain a host of other vitamins and micronutrients…

Walking into the market last week, I was greeted with a welcome, if slightly shocking sight: a pile of ruby-hued pomegranates stacked just so, front and center in the produce section. “Pomegranate season, already?” I thought to myself. Clearly I’ve been a little too busy for my own good, allowing my favorite season to slip by unnoticed, its fruits and foliage unappreciated, too quickly fading into the anticipation of the holidays (did I just say … holidays?! No, no, no… not yet!). But it’s true, these gorgeous fruits come into season in California in late October, just in time to lend their juicy seeds and vibrant tang to Halloween cocktails, Thanksgiving sides and, later, holiday treats. And while we might take for granted their omnipresence now, pomegranates weren’t always so widely available. I remember when this superfruit burst onto the scene, a seemingly brand new offering praised for the powerful antioxidants harbored within (at the same time the country was wondering “what the heck are pomegranates?”, and antioxidants were also a fairly new concept… how far we’ve come in 25 years!).

While this gorgeous geode of a fruit (fun fact: technically it’s a berry) is fairly new to the Western palate, pomegranates have been cultivated for thousands of years, originating in the region that is now modern-day Iran. Like any ancient fruit worth its weight in antioxidants, pomegranates come with their own varied mythology: In Greece, they were known as the ‘fruit of the dead,’ thought to have been borne from the blood of Adonis; in Egypt, pomegranates were a symbol of prosperity (all those ruby-colored seeds!). Now in modern times, pomegranates have come to symbolize health, a turning point in the Western diet when many of us began to pay closer attention to the actual benefits of the fruits and vegetables we were told to eat five servings of per day. Not just plate fillers, but real, health-giving wonders. Today, I’m diving into the benefits of pomegranates. Learn more about this beautiful berry below, then scroll down for an easy and delicious recipe for pomegranate-infused green tea.

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What is it? Believed to have first been cultivated in what is now Iran, the first known usage of pomegranates can be traced back to 3000 B.C. Despite now being grown in various parts of the world and their wide-scale abundance in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia, pomegranates only recently gained popularity in the Western diet and are now grown in California and Arizona. Technically a berry, this garnet-colored fruit grows on a small tree with spiny branches, and while the flesh is bitter, it’s the sweet, juicy seeds that steal the show.

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What are the benefits? Most known for their powerful levels of disease-fighting antioxidants, pomegranates contain a host of other vitamins and micronutrients, including immunity-boosting vitamin C and potassium, which keeps kidneys healthy, as well as vitamin K and folate. Pomegranates also contain high levels of fibre, which keeps you feeling fuller longer and boosts gut health. Perhaps the most unique aspect of pomegranates are their ability to protect against dental plaque. The polyphenols present in pomegranate juice have an antibacterial effect on dental microorganisms, reducing plaque and keeping the mouth healthy.

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How do I use it? First thing’s first — learn how to deseed a pomegranate! Once you do, removing the seeds will be a breeze, and you can save yourself some hard-earned cash by skipping the pre-seeded offerings at the store. The sweet, slightly tangy taste of pomegranate seeds lends itself well to everything from sweet treats to savory sauces. The easiest way to enjoy pomegranate seeds is by tossing them directly into your mouth! They’re also tasty as a topping for yogurt, oatmeal or smoothie bowls, added to cocktails, tossed into savory winter soups (they’re excellent paired with squash) or mixed into salads. Pomegranate seeds may also be juiced, and there are a variety of pomegranate juices available at the market. Just be sure that if you do purchase a readily made pomegranate juice, you check the label for no added ingredients.

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Pomegranate Green Tea with Raw Honey

Ingredients:

8 oz. boiling water

1 bag organic green tea

2 tbsp pomegranate seeds (or more)

Raw honey, to taste

Directions:

Place pomegranate seeds and tea bag in a large mug. Boil the water and carefully pour into the mug, over the seeds and tea bag. Allow to steep 4-5 minutes. Remove the tea bag and add the honey. Optional: use a spoon to gently crush the pomegranate seeds and release the juice. Enjoy!

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+ Check out more pomegranate recipes from BLDG 25!

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