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MEGAN MONDAY: Give Your Diet Some Pow With Pomegranates

on December 9, 2013

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach.

pomegranateI was shopping for Thanksgiving dinner ingredients when I came across lovely pomegranates and have been hooked on eating them since. With their dark, rich, red color and delectable nutritious seeds, pomegranates seem to fit perfectly with the holiday season décor as well. I figured now would be a great time to highlight these fantastic fruits before they are no longer in season (which will end in several weeks, so get your fill now!). Many of you have probably seen the interesting bubble-like bottles of POM Pomegranate juice in your grocer’s refrigerated juice section. The almost-black in color juice is so rich looking, it screams phytonutrients (although, unfortunately, as with most processed juices, most of the “true” nutrients are broken down or damaged by the time you drink it due to heat [pasteurization], processing, and time spent on the shelf; my advice – make it fresh and save the money and added sugar). You may have also seen these intriguing and bulbous creatures lining the shelves at your local grocery store and not know what they are or what to do with them. I must admit, pomegranates are not the easiest nutritious delicacy to tackle, as they take some time and preparation to remove the seeds, but the effort is exceedingly worth it. A super cool fact about pomegranates is each one contains exactly 840 arils (seeds) – these are seeds surrounded by a sac of succulent juice. It is the arils you want to eat (not the white pith or outer peel).
The best part? Pomegranates are packed with all kinds of vitamins and antioxidants – plus, kids generally love them! My 22-month-old will sit there and shovel handfuls of seeds into his mouth like they were candy (a note of caution – the seeds can be seen as a choking hazard to young children, so you must supervise them when eating and make sure children start off eating just one at a time). Just be careful when cutting, peeling, and finally eating pomegranates – the succulent seeds spray juice easily, which can stain, and is very dark in color. A funny, relevant story my husband shared with me last week was about a co-worker friend of his who has been bringing pomegranates to work to eat at lunch; however, his friend had no idea how to eat them and was eating the rind and spitting the seeds out (and making a huge mess, to boot). When my husband asked me, “How do you actually eat a pomegranate?” and I heard about the fruit travesty that was occurring for several days at his job, after I was finished laughing, I then realized that many people probably don’t know how to eat them, which is why I will attach two handy videos on the easiest ways to do so. Dress-up your holiday food décor and give your daily nutritional intake a make-over with these tasty treats that won’t be around fresh for much longer! Pomegranates are available fresh from October through January and are picked when ripe, so when you see them in stores, they are ready to eat. When selecting a pomegranate, consider that the heavier the fruit is, the juicier it will be and also feel for browning and/or soft spots – these usually indicate that the fruit is rotting in that part (which can be easily cut off if it’s not too large). They also make GREAT additions to holiday recipes (see the collection below).
Health Benefits:
– Pomegranates are loaded with antioxidants (it’s considered the greatest anti-oxidant fruit!), thus leading to disease-fighting powers – three different types of polyphenols (a potent form of antioxidant) can be found in this super fruit. Count on pomegranates to help prevent different types of cancer and fight heart disease by reducing arterial plaque build-up. These phytonutrients also help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

– These fruits are high in vitamin C and potassium, which is important for immunity, anti-inflammation, cell growth and repair, and healthy nervous-system function.

– Pomegranates are high in fiber and low in calories.

– The juice of fresh pomegranates contains phytochemical compounds that stimulate serotonin and estrogen receptors, improving symptoms of depression and increasing bone mass in lab animals = skeletal AND mental health boosts!

Storage Suggestions:
– Whole pomegranate fruits can be stored for a month in a cool, dry location.
– You can also refrigerate them for up to two months.
– Frozen pomegranate arils (already peeled and separated from the outer skin) or fresh juice will freeze for around 3-4 months if kept in an air-tight container.
Videos:
(This is how I personally get the seeds out of a pomegranate): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHyqoeB0Wlk

Recipes:
– Simply add pomegranate arils to any salad for added color and flavor.
– Substitute pomegranate juice for any citrus-based juice (they complement each other well) in recipes or dressings.
– Make a refreshing drink by adding pomegranate arils to sparkling water OR add fresh pomegranate juice to sparkling water for a delicious and nutritious flavor boost.
– Thanks to freshbaby.com for these great suggestions:
• Many years ago, Grenadine was made from pomegranates (the dark, red syrup that is used to make “Shirley Temple” drinks for kids). Sadly, bottled versions today are made with artificial flavor and food coloring – no pomegranates at all. To put the pomegranate back into grenadine, make your own at home. It’s easy:
Homemade Grenadine: In a small saucepan, simmer 2 cups of pomegranate juice over medium heat and
cook until reduced by half, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat and add 1 cup sugar, stirring constantly until
dissolved, about 2 minutes. Let cool. Store in a tightly closed jar or container in the refrigerator for up to a
month.
Here are some other great ways to use this syrup:
o Drizzle over pancakes, waffles or french toast
o Stir into plain yogurt, smoothies or oatmeal
o Pour over frozen yogurt, ice cream or pound cake

• Great garnish: Pomegranate arils add a dash of color, flavor and texture to many dishes. Try sprinkling or tossing arils in:
o Guacamole or salsa
o Creamed spinach
o Brown rice, couscous or quinoa

• Pomegranate-infused BBQ Chicken: Put some zip into BBQ sauce by combining a ½ cup of pomegranate juice and ½ cup of BBQ sauce in a saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Baste the sauce over a chicken while it’s baking or slather over chicken in the final minutes of grilling.

Anti-oxidant smoothie
– Handful of organic baby spinach
– 1/2 cup pomegranate juice (preferably fresh, which would equate to the juice from 1 pomegranate)
– About ¼ cup frozen organic blueberries
– A few frozen organic strawberries
– 1 tablespoon freshly ground flaxseed
– (optional) ¼ avocado
– Blend all ingredients together and enjoy!
Pomegranate Kid Spread
– ½ cup small curd cottage cheese
– 2 Tbsp (or more) pomegranate arils
– If no nut allergy is present, 2 tsp ground pecans or almonds
– Combine all of the ingredients together and you can either spread on whole grain toast or on apple or peach slices.

Some websites with great pomegranate recipes:
http://www.lilsugar.com/Kid-Friendly-Pomegranate-Recipes-11540275
http://www.superhealthykids.com/healthy-kids-recipes/category/pomegranate.php
http://www.eatingwell.com/node/16487?slide=1#leaderboardad
http://allrecipes.com/recipes/fruits-and-vegetables/fruits/pomegranates/
What are some of your favorite recipes and/or uses of pomegranates?
Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching. Megan educates and empowers women, men, and children of all ages to learn the true ins-and-outs of “feeding the brain with knowledge about the best foods and habits for one’s body” in order to reach optimal health and wellness potentials. Visit her website today to learn more: http://www.exponentialhealthandwellness.us or feel free to send her an e-mail at: megan@empowerhealthcoach.com.

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