The pomegranate is a wonderful fruit, associated with myths, legends, religions, love, sex, beauty and health. It hails from the hot and heady Middle East and Mediterranean regions (though thought to have actually originated in China, less romantically) and this seems to add to its mystique and allure. Not unlike incense, myrrh, camels, mirages in the desert sands, oasis, and luxurious tents waiting to offer relief, luxury and succour.
A pomegranate – Photograph by Katie Fisher
Happily for us this fruit has travelled over the decades, and now, in the 21st Century and modern methods of transportation, rightly or wrongly, we have access to it all year round and not just when we go on sun-seeking holidays.
As far back as the first century this amazingly exotic fruit has been said to have superior healing properties. However, pomegranate health benefits have only recently reached social acceptance within the public domain. This has now been substantiated with recent and ongoing studies that prove that this fruit is indeed what the legends claimed it to be. But the detail is that the beautiful pomegranate is high in a compound called punicalagins, amongst other things, which makes it two to three times higher in antioxidants than red wine, green tea, blueberries, cranberries and oranges.
They are rich in vitamin B (riboflavin, thiamine and niacin), vitamin C, calcium and phosphorous, as well as many other vitamins and minerals, which when combined create a powerful synergy that either prevents or reverses disease.
Pomegranates in an historical setting – Photograph by Ann Wuyts
Regular use of the juice and seeds of the pomegranate is beneficial in weight loss management programmes, and is particularly effective in thinning the blood and therefore reducing the risk of heart attack and strokes, lowering blood pressure levels, increasing blood flow towards heart, maintaining good cholesterol levels and reducing arterial plaques. Apart from these many benefits, pomegranate seeds are also said to be an effective cure of arthritis, osteoporosis, skin allergies, skin disorders, urinary tract infections, sore throats, tapeworms, digestive disorders, blood impurities, osteoarthritis and diabetes.
The most heartening of all studies being conducted at the moment are those on prostate cancer. One study such study was presented at the 104th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association, which began in 2003 and included 48 men older than age 60 who underwent surgery or radiation therapy to treat localized prostate cancer. All of the men had rising prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels after surgical treatment. The participants drank eight ounces of pomegranate juice daily. During the six-year follow-up, men who continued drinking pomegranate juice had PSA levels four times lower than those who stopped drinking the juice – a powerful indication of pomegranate juice benefits.
Christopher Amling, MD, an American Urological Association spokesperson says, “This study suggests that pomegranate juice may effectively slow the progression of prostate cancer after unsuccessful treatment. This finding and other ongoing research might one day reveal that pomegranate juice is an effective prostate cancer preventative agent as well.”
Spectacular information about a fruit that simply livens up a salad, beautifies an already glamorous cocktail or creates a syrup to upgrade any meat dish hoping to impress!
Buy the fruit or syrup at any good supermarket and use it with seared duck, roasted game, sautéed aubergine or fried fish. It also has an affinity with oranges, bitter salad leaves, nuts and sharp, fresh cheeses as well as pineapple, clementines and poached rhubarb lending itself perfectly to any weight loss management recipe.
Warm winter salad with pomegranate – Photograph by Karen and Brad Emerson
North African Couscous and Pomegranate Salad (Serves 6)
1tbs extra virgin olive oil
2tsp Sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp Ras-el-Hanout (Moroccan Spice Blend)
Juice and zest of one lemon
Freshly cracked black pepper and salt
100g diced dried apricots
Seeds from one pomegranate
1 green pepper, diced
1tbs chopped fresh mint
1tbs chopped flat leaf parsley
- Place the couscous in a large mixing bowl, add salt and freshly cracked black pepper, ras-el-hanout, juice of one lemon, olive oil, sherry vinegar and the diced dried apricots and mix well.
- Pour the boiling water over the couscous until just covered, stir and if it looks a bit dry add another dash of boiling water. Cover the bowl with cling film and let the couscous stand for six minutes.
- Use a fork to fluff the couscous, if the couscous is a bit hard and dry add another dash of boiling water, let it stand for a further few minutes and fluff again.
- While the couscous is absorbing the water prepare the rest of the ingredients. Wash the green pepper, cut in half and remove the seeds. Cut into long strips and then into small dice.
- Chop the herbs and de-seed the pomegranate.
- Once the couscous is ready add the diced peppers, chopped herbs and pomegranate seeds along with the lemon zest. Mix and adjust the seasoning if needed.
- If the salad is a bit dry add dash of extra virgin olive oil, but only a small amount.
Serve with a sprinkling of the pomegranate seeds as a garnish and salad leaves such as Mizuna or rocket.
Fireside Martini – Photograph by James Lee
Rachel Allen’s Pink Pomegranate Cocktail
75ml (2½ fl oz) lime juice
2tbsp extra caster sugar or coloured decorating sugar on a saucer to dip glasses in
60ml (2fl oz) pomegranate juice (from supermarket) or juice of 1 fresh pomegranate
60ml (2fl oz) stock syrup
75ml (2½ fl oz) vodka or Bacardi
1 cup ice
- Take two martini or champagne glasses; dip the rims in the lime juice, then into the sugar. Put the glasses in the freezer or fridge.
- Stock syrup is handy for cocktails and poaching fruit. To make 150ml (¼ pt) put 200g (7oz) caster sugar and 200ml (7fl oz) water in a saucepan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil for 2 mins and leave to cool.
- Mix the pomegranate juice, stock syrup, vodka and lime juice in a cocktail shaker (or jug) with the ice, shake and then strain (leaving the ice behind) into the chilled glasses.
What dishes do you use pomegranate kernels or juice in? Any top tips for weight loss management? Let us know!