When the days get short and the wintertime chill sets in, one of my favorite tasty treats come into season. Pomegranates, with their tart yet sweet little morsels, are super delicious and super healthy. We are now in the height of U.S. pomegranate season (from October to January), so now is the best time to pick one up on your regular grocery trip. If you buy them already separated, they can get a bit expensive. However, if you invest a few minutes in a whole one, you get a pile of fruit that is a great addition to a variety of meals. Eating the whole fruit rather than buying juice delivers much more nutrients to your system.
Whole Fresh Pomegranates
When you see a whole pomegranate at the store it can seem a bit tricky to break apart. I buy at least one a week and spend less than 10 minutes breaking them apart (honestly, it is kind of fun). Here is a quick method to crack into it. First, cut the top off to expose the fruits, called perils. You should see the clusters of perils. Cut through the skin, but not into the fruits, from top to bottom along the white sections. Next, you should be able to break it apart with your hands allowing you to separate the perils from the bitter white membrane. Now, you can sprinkle them on your salads or casseroles (or just eat a small handful!). I enjoy them with my breakfast.
Pomegranates have been shown to have a wide variety of health benefits due to their nutrient density. They are rich in polyphenols which are powerful antioxidants, meaning that they help your body get rid of toxins and free radicals reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. Pomegranates are vitamin dense, especially in vitamin E and K as well as magnesium. The combination of vitamins and antioxidants have been shown to help prevent or treat various disease risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, oxidative stress, hyperglycemia, and other inflammatory issues. There are also studies showing that pomegranates can help suppress cancer cells too!
Eating the entire fruit rather than buying the juice will provide much better health benefits. First, when you drink the juice there is much more sugar per serving. Without the fruit structure, all those sugars are available to your system which can detract from the positive health benefits. Second, the juice will be produced well before you consume it. The complicated antioxidants that provide so much of the benefits start to break down quickly after the juicing process, and if a high temperature process is used the degradation is immediate. Generally, when consuming any fruit, you should eat the entire fruit rather than only the juice to get the full benefits.
Pomegranates are truly one of my favorite aspects of the onset of winter. I hope this inspires you to pick up this beautiful fruit, break it apart, and enjoy those sweet tart treats.