Health from your gardens -X, Pomegranate

Pomegranate fruit is a delicious red ball like fruit with great health benefits, culinary uses and also medicinal uses. Its botanical name is “Punica granatum” and it is a fruit bearing deciduous shrub or small tree , 5 to 8 m tall. It is cultivated in most parts of India and several continents of the world and is in season from September to February and March to May. The tree has multiple spiny branches and the tree survives for several years. The bright red flowers are about 3 cm in diameter, with 3-7 petals. The edible fruit is a berry, round in shape, 5-12 cm in diameter and has thick reddish skin. The fruit contains 200 to 1400 seeds, each seed coated with water laden sweetish or sweet & sour tasting pulp. The seeds are embedded in a white, spongy, astringent membrane and groups of seeds are separated by delicate septa. The seeds with the pulp are used in several ways like in cooking, baking, meal garnishes, juice blends, smoothies and even alcoholic beverages such as cocktails and wine

Some fruitless varieties are grown for the flowers alone also.

Pomegranate Tree

Ripe Pomegranate Fruit

Nutritional Values of pomegranate fruit.
Per 100 Gms of Fruit:

Energy – 83 kcal’s
Carbohydrates – 18.7 g
Sugar – 13.67 g
Proteins – 1.67 g
Dietary Fibre – 4 g
Fat – 1.17 g

Vitamins : B1, B5, B6, Vits C, E & K etc

Minerals : Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium etc
Culinary Uses:

  • The seeds with its pulp covering are carefully collected from the thick cover and is edible as it is.
  • The tasty watery pulp has different tastes and flavours depending on its variety and ripeness.
  • The juice alone can be made & collected using a blender and has a sweet or sweet & sour taste.
  • The thickened, sweetened pomegranate juice marketed as Grenadine syrup is now further modified with addition of berries, citric acid, food colouring etc is used in cocktail mixing.
  • The fruit also contains many B-complex group of vitamins and potassium having many beneficial effects on body metabolism and cardio protective action.
  • Dried seeds known as “anar dana” are often used as spice in Indian, Pakistani and Persian cuisine. Ground anar dana is also used for flavouring dishes.
  • Dried seeds have many other uses-like as trail-mix, granola bars, or as a topping for salad, yogurt, or ice cream. Chocolate-covered seeds may be added to desserts and baked items.
  • There are many other culinary uses for fresh pomegranate seeds with pulp, juice or seeds alone in many countries, particularly in various non-vegetarian dishes.

Persian Soup, “ash-e-anar” made with Pomegranate juice.”

Green salad with roast beef & Fresh pomegranate

Health benefits of Pomegranate:

  • The fruit provides only 83 cals per 100 gm and contains no cholesterol or saturated fats.
  • It is a good source of soluble and insoluble dietary fibers (4g per 100 g fruit) and hence aids digestion and easy bowel movement.
  • Regular intake of this fruit boosts immunity, improves blood circulation and also offers protection against some cancers.
  • Some ellagitannins abundant in pomegranate juice are effective in reducing heart disease risk factors by its anti-oxidant properties.
  • Unripe papaya, however, can be safely consumed as a cooked vegetable.

  • The fruit is also a rich source of Vitamin C (17% of daily requirement in 100 g fruit) and hence boosts immunity.
  • Regular use of this fruit is said to be protective against prostatic cancer, prostatic hyperplasia, diabetes and lymphoma.
  • Pomegranate is also a good source of various B-complex group of vitamins and several minerals.

Medicinal Uses:

In India, in the Ayurvedic system of medicine, pomegranate seeds with pulp, juice and particularly the outer rind are used extensively for treating various ailments.

  • Rind of the fruit and bark of the tree is used as traditional remedy for diarrhoea, dysentery and intestinal parasites.
  • Seeds and juice are considered as tonic for heart and throat.
  • Pomegranate fruit is considered as nourishing for the human system and used as a blood purifier.
  • The flowers, seeds, tree bark have been used for controlling various human ailments in the Ayurvedic system of medicine.
  • The inedible pomegranate peel contains plenty of polyphenols, including condensed tannins, catechins, gallocatechins and prodelphinidins. Hence extracts from the peel are used as dietary supplements and food preservatives.
  • Pomegranate ellagitannins (called punicalagins) have free-radical scavenging property in laboratory experiments. These anti-oxidant properties in human practice has not been proved.
  • In preliminary laboratory research & clinical trials, pomegranate juice may be effective in reducing cardiac risk factors, by affecting LDL oxidation, macrophage oxidative status and foam cell formation.
  • In hypertensive patients, consumption of pomegranate juice for 2 weeks was shown to reduce systolic BP by inhibiting serum angiotensin-converting enzyme.
  • Pomegranate juice may also inhibit viral infections and pomegranate extracts have antibacterial effects against dental plaque.

Manufacturers of pomegranate juices, however may make many other dubious claims and health benefits, many of which are not proven.

Summary :
Grow the Pomegranate plant in your back yard, harvest fresh and organic fruits and use it regularly as a fruit and in your cuisine to reap rich health benefits. Low in calories but rich in vitamins and minerals and some useful chemicals/tannins, it is really a super-fruit to be used as frequently as possible

Be knowledgeable, follow healthy life style and enjoy good health,

Best Wishes,
Compiled by Dr M Mohan Rao,
Former M.D & Senior Surgeon (Now retired),
Dr U Mohan Rau Memorial Hospital, Chennai.
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