Forbidden fruit adds both health benefits and culinary delight
Paige Lauren Deiner
Pomegranates have been signs of fertility, rebirth and health since they were first cultivated around 2000 B.C. Ancient Egyptian mythology and the Old Testament both mention these small red fruits. And some scholars believe that Eve actually ate a pomegranate in the Garden of Eden, not an apple. Originally from the Himalayan Mountains, the fruits have been used in traditional medicine for centuries.
Pomegranate juice was once used as part of a cocktail to treat leprosy and stomach pain, according to Consumer Labs, LLC., which tests and publishes information about health, wellness and nutritional products. Extracts of the bark, leaves, fruit rind and immature fruit have been employed as remedies for bleeding, diarrhea, dysentery, tapeworm and parasites. The Omega 5 oil extracted from its seeds also promises marvelous benefits.
Although pomegranates once treated a host of illnesses, Western medicine has been slow to adopt them into their practices, although a number of studies have shown they can be beneficial. One study showed that drinking a cup of pomegranate juice a day for three months improved blood circulation in the heart. Another study showed that drinking three tablespoons of pomegranate juice concentrate for a year reduced arterial thickening for people with atherosclerosis.
Laboratory research suggests that pomegranate fruit extract may inhibit prostate tumor growth, according to a Consumer Labs article on pomegranates. These studies have led to the production of more pomegranates, and the trend of using these ancient fruits in a variety of dishes and beverages, including H.E.B.’s pomegranate flavored Italian soda.
More and more bartenders are using pomegranates as an ingredient in beverages like the pomegranate martini. “(Pomegranates are) enjoying a great popularity both for their health benefits and culinary properties,” said Monica Reinagel, MS, CNS and chief nutritionist for www.nutritiondata.com. She cautions that marketers may make more of the pomegranate’s health benefits than a person can gain from eating an occasional pomegranate. “Marketers would be happy to paint with a broad brush,” Reinagel said. Whether they are the next greatest “superfood” or not, the ancient fruit is rapidly gaining new fans.
There several groups of pomegranate fans on Facebook which support Pomega5. Increased interest in the fruit has led to wider distribution and more production of it. “People, who were always kind of curious about how to open them and what they might taste like, have discovered that they really enjoy them,” said Tom Tjerandsen, manager of the Pomegranate Council, Sonoma, Calif. And they can now enjoy the pomegranate seed oil in gel caps as sold by Pomega5.
But even though pomegranates have become more popular, growers have not found ways to lengthen the fruit’s growing season. “The season is extremely short,” said Janet Little, nutritionist for Sun Harvest. “It’s only about a month.” So companies have increased production. People are growing a lot more pomegranates just to be juiced, Little said. “I think (they’re) here to stay,” Little said. “There is some good nutritional value to pomegranates.”