My first experience with fresh pomegranate wasn't good. A friend handed me a section of the ripe fruit studded with its juicy red jewels. Charmed, I took a bite, which instantly squirted a permanent red stain on my new white blouse. I couldn’t escape two more stains even after extra careful biting. But I was intrigued by the flavor—so tart, so potent! Since then I've stuck with the juice.
Pomegranates are native to the Mediterranean and Middle East, a fruit that’s been grown since 4000 B.C. Some scholars believe the “apple” eaten by Eve in the Garden of Eden was actually a pomegranate! It is rich in polyphenols, natural plant antioxidants that fight disease, which are also found in the superfoods blueberries, cranberries, red wine, and green tea. Published research has found a link between drinking 8 ounces of pure pomegranate juice daily and improved heart health in patients with heart disease (decreased plaque build-up and improved blood flow), and improved prostate health in men with prostate cancer. POM Wonderful juice is one brand with 100% pomegranate juice and no added sugar or juice fillers, which is probably why it’s the most expensive (about $4 for 16 oz). Other varieties are less expensive but may contain other juices or water.
The tart, strong flavor of pomegranate juice and its lingering aftertaste can take some getting used to (even more so than cranberry juice, especially if there’s no added sugar). If you find it too strong, try it mixed with other juices or seltzer. Or try it in recipes like the one below for a fruity quick bread, which I modified from Fat-Free Baking by Sandra Woodruff. Juice and/or mashed fruit adds moisture to muffins and quick breads so that less fat or none at all is needed. I love how easy this recipe is, with a short ingredients list that mixes up in one bowl and perfect for a healthful morning treat that looks festive with the dried cranberries. It’s fat-free and nutritious, which is ideal this time of year as we try to balance out the extra holiday calories!
Fat-Free Fruity Quick Bread
2 cups flour (I use half whole wheat, half white)
1/3 cup sugar
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
3/4 cup pomegranate juice
1 large mashed ripe banana
1 t vanilla extract
1 cup Craisins
Preheat oven to 350 F. Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the juice, mashed banana, and vanilla extract and stir just until mixture is moistened. Fold in Craisins.
Coat an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the mixture evenly in pan and bake for about 45 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Remove the bread from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.
For variety, add mini chocolate chips or finely chopped walnuts to the batter, or spread on light cream cheese after it's baked!