Monday, October 31, 2011

The Jewel of Autumn- Pomegranates!

Patients always complain to me that as soon as autumn hits, all the delicious fruit is gone. Well it may be true that some of the best like peaches or berries are out of season for a year, some of my favorites are only unique to the fall. Pomegranates, often called the “jewels of autumn” are super-fruits that shouldn’t be missed out on…

Why have you done a good thing?

Pomegranates are true super-fruits. Rich in a type of antioxidant called polyphenols, pomegranates have been shown to reduce your risk for heart disease by preventing atherosclerosis or the hardening of your arteries. Polyphenols also help to reduce inflammation, reducing the risk for chronic diseases and alleviating arthritis. Pomegranates have even been associated with reduction of dental plaque, helping to reduce gum disease and cavities. Pomegranates are also a great source of vitamin C, another well-known antioxidant, and potassium which helps to keep your blood pressure healthy and low. Pomegranate seeds or “arils” are a great source of fiber and healthy unsaturated fats as well. Pomegranate juice however is strained from the seeds, making pomegranate juice not nearly as healthy as the seeds themselves.

How to pick a pomegranate

A pomegranate should feel heavy and the skin should be firm and taut. Don’t worry about skin blemishes as they do not affect the quality of the seeds inside.

How to eat a pomegranate

The first time I tried to seed a pomegranate, I stained my hands (and a new dress). Here are the steps to prevent you from doing this!

1) Cut off the tip of the pomegranate (the crown)

2) Cut the pomegranate into 4 segments

3) Submerge the segments into a bowl of water. Gently, remove the arils or seeds with your fingers while the pomegranate is under the water. Repeat with each segment

4) Strain the water in a colander and enjoy the arils! Discard the other parts of the fruit.

Don’t like to seed a pomegranate? Try buying pre-seeded pomegranates from Whole Foods and other grocery stores. It’s OK to let them do the work…

Recipe ideas:

-Top pomegranate arils onto salads, fruit salads, Greek yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, oatmeal, whole grain pancakes or waffles

-Blend into a fresh fruit smoothie with Greek yogurt for breakfast

-Bake into your whole grain muffin or quick bread recipes

-Sprinkle on top of roasted root vegetables like sweet potatoes and parsnips

-Mix into grain dishes like whole grain cous-cous, brown rice, or quinoa with walnuts and parsley

-Make a great antioxidant rich dessert by using dark chocolate to coat clusters of pomegranate arils

-Glaze lean proteins like lean red meat or chicken with pomegranate glaze:

½ cup 100% fresh unsweetened pomegranate juice

1 cup port wine

2 tbsp pomegranate seeds

Combine juice and wine in a small saucepan over medium heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced to half its volume and is thick like syrup, about 45 minutes. Serve over lean proteins!

-Top fish or chicken with pomegranate salsa:

3 tomatoes, diced

1 cup pomegranate arils

½ cup chopped parsley

1 jalapeno, seeded, finely diced

1 scallion, diced

salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and serve with baked chips, toasted whole wheat pita or over fish

Want a decorative idea for Fall dinner parties or Thanksgiving? Use the beautiful pomegranate in its whole form.

Enjoy this beautiful autumnal fruit!

--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN

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