Tuesday, October 22, 2013

pomegranate power

i used to get sucked in by the 100 calorie snack packs in the grocery store.  they would get stock-piled in my office for those moments of late afternoon weakness when i needed a little something to keep me going, or when i just flat out needed something to munch on.  well-known companies package cracker and cookie mixes in the little packages and most people think they're not really eating anything bad for them...since they're only 100 calories.  here's the problem, those salty and sweet treats are worthless.  you're more likely to continue snacking on other foods and sugary drinks when you eat them.  well, i have an alternate snack that will satisfy your taste buds for well under 100 calories.

pomegranates have been cultivated since ancient times and are typically in season from september to february.  that means, they're in season and prime pickings right now!  most people only consume the arils, the red juice pouches that surround the actual seed, but you can actually eat the seeds, too.  most people don't know that the seeds are not harmful.  they also don't know that there are actually benefits to consuming the seed.  pomegranate seeds are rich in oil.  linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, makes up the largest percentage of the oil in pomegranate seeds.  the rest of the seed is comprised of protein, crude fiber, vitamins, minerals and polyphenolic compounds...all good things.

as the pomegranate aril surrounds the seed, and the two can be eaten together, the usda analyzed the nutrition of the two components as a single entry in the nutritional database.  a half cup of arils, with seeds, supplies 72 calories, 1.5 g of protein, 0 g of fat, 16 g of carbohydrates, and 3.5 g of dietary fiber.  this same serving supplies 12 percent of the daily value for vitamin k and 10 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin c for adults.  i doubt that you could find that same nutritional benefit in a package of 100 calorie snack mix.

the health benefits that come from including pomegranates into your diet are almost as good as the taste.  pomegranates contain polyphenols with powerful antioxidant properties.  these compounds may reduce plaque buildup caused by excess ldl cholesterol.  they also contain flavanols that may offer memory enhancement and protection against cognitive disabilities.  in a mice related study, researchers gave pomegranate juice to mice for six months and found that the mice learned maze tricks more quickly than mice that did not drink the juice. 

i hope you'll think about eating these little jewels.  i myself bring a half cup of them with me to work.  i leave them on my desk, snack on them all day, and don't feel the slightest bit bad about this healthy indulgence.  but i must warn you, if you do not properly know how to get the seeds out, you're in for a messy experiment.   here....i'll help.

1.  cut off the top of the pomegranate, about 1/2 inch.
2. gently score the outside of the pomegranate into segments, like you would if you were cutting orange segments.  you don't want to cut all the way through, but just deep enough that you can pull the pomegranate apart.

3. submerge the pomegranate into a bowl of cold water and gently remove the seeds
4.  you'll get little white pieces from the fruit floating around in the water, so make sure you remove them.  i drain mine in a strainer and gently pick through for any damaged seeds or bits of "debris" and then store in an airtight container.
a little tip for picking the best pomegranates in the grocery store....pick a heavy one.  that means more seeds!!!

eat clean.  live lean.  live better.  live longer.

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