Did you know the humble pomegranate that has been used for years in the kitchen to jazz up dahi bhallas, Benefits of Pomegranate? The fruit that’s usually red or orange-yellow in colour botanically belongs to the Lythraceae family, of genus: Punica. The tree is believed to have originated in Persia and the Sub-Himalayan foothills of Northern India but now grows abundantly in the Indian sub-continent, Iran and the Mediterranean region. It thrives in dry and arid climates.
The peak season for pomegranate in India is between September and February when you will find it aplenty at local markets and fruit vendors. Though it’s now available around the year at departmental stores, you will get the best quality products in the peak season.
Known as anaar in Hindi, it has been widely used in Ayurveda to formulate cures for several diseases. Tough and leathery on the outside, the fruit contains hundreds of tiny edible seeds called arils. It is the arils that are packed with antioxidants, minerals, fibre, vitamins A, C and E and folic acid. In fact, pomegranate contains three times as many antioxidants as both wine or green tea. What’s more, it’s not only packed with medicinal properties but is delicious too. It’s widely used in baking, cooking, juice blends, smoothies, cocktails and as salad garnishing.
- How to pick the right pomegranate
- The right way to remove pomegranate seeds
- The numerous health benefits of pomegranate
- Pomegranate soothes stomach problems
- Pomegranate aids in weight loss
- Pomegranate regulates blood pressure levels
- Pomegranate eases joint pain
- Pomegranate promotes dental health
- Pomegranate arrests ageing
- Pomegranate hydrates dry skin
- Pomegranate treats acne and breakouts
- Pomegranate protects skin from sun damage
- Pomegranate helps in hair growth
- Don’t ignore the pomegranate peel
- Healthy pomegranate recipes
How to pick the right pomegranate
Do keep in mind that pomegranates are the healthiest and tastiest when they are ripe. If you are confused about when and which ones to choose, here’s some handy information for you.
Check the size:
You’d be surprised to know that the rounder the pomegranate looks, the more unsuitable it is for consumption. Always pick pomegranates that are slightly squarish in shape. This implies the arils are pressing against the outer walls of the fruits and are nice and juicy.
Note the colour:
The rind of pomegranate should be bright or dark red in colour. The darker the colour, the sweeter your fruit will be. Lighter colours mean the fruit is unripe and will be tart to taste.
Check the crown:
If the little petal-shaped appendages on top of the fruit are turned inward, your pomegranate is ripe enough to be eaten.
Weigh it in:
If the pomegranate is ripe and juicy it will feel heavier when you pick it up. The heavier it is, the juicer the arils are.
Try the rub test:
Press your finger on the skin and give it a nice rub. If the fruit feels smooth and tight, put it in your shopping basket. But if the skin has ripples or cracks and blemishes, then it’s way past its prime. Promptly put it back.
Try scratching the skin with your fingernail. If you are unable to scratch it, you have got a ripe pomegranate.
The right way to remove pomegranate seeds
It isn’t as difficult as it seems. Cut the fruit into equal halves and hold one half with the seed side down over a bowl. Now smack the half with a wooden spoon and the seeds will fall into the bowl. Alternately, try putting the halves in a bowl of water for 10 minutes and then try to remove the seeds in the water. You will notice that the seeds being heavier than the membrane that surrounds them sink to the bottom of the bowl.
The numerous health benefits of pomegranate
It’s the nutrient profile of pomegranate that makes it a super fruit. One cup of pomegranate seeds (174 grams) contains about 7 grams of fibre, 3 grams of protein and 30 percent of your recommended dietary allowance of Vitamin C, 36 percent of Vitamin K and 12 percent of potassium. What’s more, a cup of arils contains just 144 calories. However, it’s the presence of powerful plant compounds in pomegranates that give it potent medicinal properties. Some of its many health benefits are:
Pomegranate soothes stomach problems
Pomegranate is a powerful anti-bacterial and is used as a natural remedy to cure stomach disorders such as diarrhoea, dysentery and cholera. Drinking tea made from pomegranate leaves also helps get rid of indigestion. A study conducted in 2005 by KB Ajaikumar, M Ashraf, BH Babu and J Padikkala revealed that pomegranate has great gastroprotective properties due to its high concentration of antioxidants and can be used to cure abdominal cramping and discomfort.
Pomegranate aids in weight loss
According to research conducted by the Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, pomegranate can inhibit the development of obesity. It is also high in fibre and low in calories, which means it can keep you full for longer. If you are trying to lose weight, include a cup of pomegranate in your diet every day.
Pomegranate regulates blood pressure levels
The punicic acid found in pomegranates helps lower cholesterol, triglycerides and reduce blood pressure. The acid acts by preventing the activity of serum angiotensin-converting enzyme in the human body. A study published in the Phytotherapy Journal in 2013, concluded that the presence of different types of antioxidants and bioactive polyphenols in pomegranates promote cardiovascular health.
Pomegranate eases joint pain
The plant compounds in pomegranate have anti-inflammatory effects and are thereby effective in treating conditions like arthritis. Some studies have shown that pomegranate extracts can block enzymes that are known to damage joints in people with osteoarthritis.
Pomegranate promotes dental health
The fruit has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that prevent the build-up of plaque in the mouth and also help fight infections and inflammation in the mouth such as gingivitis and periodontitis.
Pomegranate arrests ageing
Being rich in antioxidants, pomegranates neutralise the effect of free radicals in our body. The anti-ageing plant compounds in the fruit also help in stimulating keratinocyte cells (skin cells) and help in cellular regeneration thereby keeping wrinkles and sagging skin at bay. For wrinkle-free, younger-looking skin try including pomegranate in your diet or use it in face packs.
Pomegranate hydrates dry skin
Pomegranate for skin is a rich source of vitamin C, which research has proven is effective in treating dull and dry skin. When applied topically on a regular basis, it can reduce skin roughness. Also, around 82 percent of pomegranate’s volume weight is water and thereby it’s effective in keeping you hydrated.
Pomegranate treats acne and breakouts
When bacteria found in environmental pollutants infects the oil glands of the skin, a pimple is formed. When this happens, the body sends white blood cells called neutrophils to the infected site to kill the bacteria. But the whole process causes inflammation and as a result, we notice angry and swollen zits on the skin. Pomegranate is known for its anti-inflammatory properties so when applied to the zits, it cures inflammation.
Pomegranate protects skin from sun damage
Exposure to sun not only causes tanning and sunburn but can also lead to oxidative stress that causes age spots and wrinkles. The polyphenols in pomegranate are powerful antioxidants that help protect skin cells from oxidative damage.
Pomegranate helps in hair growth
The punicic acid in pomegranate seeds has been found to strengthen hair follicles by stimulating circulation and improving blood flow to the scalp. Pomegranate oil can also be used as a hair massage oil to smoothen frizzy hair and deeply condition it.
Don’t ignore the pomegranate peel
Although the seeds are well-known for their benefits, it is one of Mother Nature’s best-kept secrets that the peel also packs in quite a punch. The peels prevent the breakdown of collagen, and when applied topically, can promote cell growth. They are also helpful in fighting acne and pimple scars. When coarsely ground, they make an excellent facial scrub and exfoliant, while also containing sun-blocking agents that offer protection from the harmful UV rays of the sun. Sun-dried pomegranate peels, when boiled in water, lead to a concoction with several benefits. It soothes sore throats, lowers stress and cholesterol levels, and alleviates symptoms in menopausal women. To use the peel topically, you need to powder them. For this, make sure they are properly sun-dried, without any trace of moisture. Then grind for two minutes until you have a fine powder. This can be stored for up to two weeks. Use as and when required, as a key ingredient of face masks, hair masks and teas/infusions/recipes.
Healthy pomegranate recipes
Pomegranate feta salad:
200 g feta cheese
The seeds of 2 pomegranates
1 garlic clove, crushed
100 g mixed greens of your choice (spinach, kale, watercress, rocket and so on)
50 ml extra virgin olive oil
100 g almonds, cashews or pistachios, toasted
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Salt, to taste
1) In a dish, mix the feta with lemon juice and crushed garlic. Leave aside.
2) In a large bowl, mix the greens, olive oil and salt. Toss well.
3) Then, crumble the feta mix over this, and finally, top up with pomegranate seeds and toasted nuts.
6 slices bruschetta
2 tsp olive oil
1 ripe avocado
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
50 g goats cheese
1 cup pomegranate seeds
Salt, to taste
1) Pre-heat the oven to 175 C.
2) Spread a thin layer of olive oil on each slice of bruschetta and toast till crisp.
3) While the bruschetta is in the oven, puree the avocado flesh, and mix with finely chopped red onion, the remaining olive oil, lime juice, salt and pomegranate seeds. Be careful you don’t crush the seeds while mixing.
4) Remove the slices from the oven, spread the mix evenly and serve. You can garnish with goats cheese before serving, if you’re looking for a more melt-in-mouth experience.
Pomegranate poached pears
4 whole ripe pears, peeled but with stems intact
100ml pomegranate juice
70ml dessert wine
a handful of pomegranate seeds
1) Slice off the base of each pair, so that it can sit neatly on a dish, then place them on their sides in a pan.
2) Pour the juice and wine over the pears and simmer over medium heat, then cover and gradually simmer over low heat until the pears are tender. Keep turning them over so they are evenly coated in the liquid.
3) Transfer to a plate or a dish. In all probability, the remaining liquid has reduced to a thick sauce consistency. Drizzle a wee bit over each pear, and sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top. You can even serve with other assorted nuts and seeds.
DIY beauty hacks with pomegranate
Nourishing and brightening face pack
Take 2 tbsp manuka honey, the seeds of 1 pomegranate, 100 ml buttermilk and a cup of oatmeal, and mix in a blender until you have a smooth paste. Apply this on your face and neck – even your elbows and knees – for around 10 minutes. Then thoroughly rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry. Pomegranate arils are blessed with natural face brightening tendencies, which when combined with honey and buttermilk, are only heightened. The oatmeal helps exfoliate the skin. For best results, use twice a week before bedtime. Finish up with your favourite night cream or serum to trap in the benefits.
Cleansing and hydrating hair mask
This mask balances sebum secretion and restores lustre to dry and dehydrated hair. Take 1 cup each of full-fat yoghurt and pomegranate seeds. Grind into a paste, and mix in a teaspoon of lemon juice. Apply this to your hair, from the scalp and roots right down the tips. Leave on for half an hour, and then rinse off with room temperature water.
Teeth whitening pack
Take some sundried pomegranate peels, and then powder them finely. To half a tsp of this powder, add a pinch of salt and mix well. Apply all over the teeth and gums and leave on for five minutes. Rinse your mouth, and gargle with a glass of lukewarm water to which a tsp of pomegranate juice has been added. This soothes swollen gums and also keeps teeth white and gleaming.