Fruits are often problematic for people with diabetes because most raise blood sugar. Learn how pomegranates can be a juicy sweet treasure.
Diabetes Problem Foods, Pt. 4
As I was putting up the groceries from my husband’s trip to the grocery store, I noticed some red odd-shaped fruits that I initially thought were apples, a common mistaken identity. When I realized that they were pomegranates, I immediately brushed up on the health benefits of this fruit and the best way to consume it.
Several months prior, I bought a bag of frozen pomegranate arils, the closest I have come to trying pomegranates for the first time, and I was not impressed by the taste. However, I felt that I could not ignore the benefits of this wholesome fruit. It was no coincidence that the pomegranates made it into our home weeks later.
For a week, I watched my husband and son devour this fruit, yet I still did not get up enough nerves to try one. One evening after dinner, I walked in the kitchen and saw my husband cutting up the very last pomegranate that we had, and he asked: “would you like to try some?” Without thinking about my previous experience with pomegranates, I gave into my curiosity. I am so glad I did because what I found out was not only is the fruit healthy, but it is so delicious. Initially, I did spit out the seeds thinking they were too hard to chew. After doing a second search on the internet on how to enjoy wholesome fruit, I ate the whole arils. I loved feeling the explosion of the aril’s juices in my mouth, and the seeds seemed to melt right in the juices. My pomegranate experience confirmed not to judge food by its appearance, and try foods in different forms. The frozen arils may not work for me. However, eating pomegranates fresh works. You could be missing out on some potential health benefits and another food to add to your healthy living journey.
History of Pomegranates
As rich as the pomegranate is in flavor, its affluence has extended beyond cultural and religious boundaries. According to research, around 3500-2000 BC, pomegranates may be one of the first cultivated fruits. Native to Iran and Northern India, pomegranates became a well-known cultivated fruit since the early pre-Christian era. Pomegranates’ versatility traces back centuries, including during the Old Testament era in the Torah. People used pomegranates in wall art, pottery, the medical treatment of intestinal worms, as a dye, and to signify marital status and wealth. The common ground that I found across cultures and religions is that pomegranates have emotional, nutritional, and spiritual meaning. Around AD 2000, pomegranate became widely known in the United States for its health benefits, abundant taste, and versatility in the kitchen. Today, California produces 90% of this sweet tasting fruit.
Per the United Department of Agriculture (USDA), one 4” diameter pomegranate (282 grams) contains 4.71 grams of protein, 52.7 grams of carbohydrates (more than three servings of carbs), and 11.3 grams of fiber, which is almost 50% of the recommended intake of fiber on a 2000 calorie meal plan. Remember that fiber is instrumental in maintain normal gut health, cholesterol, blood pressure, and satiety. Fiber may also play a role in decreasing your risk of certain cancers. Pomegranates, like many fresh fruits and vegetables, provide a wealth of potassium (666 grams). If you eat a 4” pomegranate, then you will consume approximately 233 calories, which is something you want to be mindful of if you are watching your calories. You can always split one with someone else, as in my experience above, or cut half of the fruit and save the other half for later. Pomegranates have a higher glycemic index (67) than grapes (46); therefore, to balance your blood sugars, you may want to combine a healthy protein/fat with this fruit to help lessen the glycemic effect.
Pomegranates are rich in plant compounds that provide antioxidants. Antioxidants help to maintain the structure of the cells in our body; therefore, they maintain and improve their function. These plant compounds may also help with inhibiting the growth of or killing certain cancer cells, such as breast and prostate cancer cells, help with preventing and ridding of bacterial and fungal infections. Hence, pomegranates are known as a superfood and to some as the “king of fruits.” Pomegranates may help with decreasing inflammation within the body and decrease the risk of heart disease and obesity. Also, pomegranates contain nitrates, which helps blood vessels relax and may contribute to increased blood flow.
Food For Thought
Picking the right foods for your body involves flexibility, patience, and time.
How can I maximize pomegranates as fuel for my body?
Eat the fruit whole directly for great benefits. The peel or skin is thick and leathery and is not edible. Remove the membranes (white part) to enjoy the arils (seeds).
People can easily enjoy this fruit in one of two ways.
1. Suck all the juice from around the seeds and then dispose of the seed.
2. You can eat the aril and the seed. Most of the fiber is in the seed!
Preparation & Recipes
You can eat arils fresh or frozen and enjoy them as a snack, add to smoothies and yogurts, sprinkle on salads, or add as a garnish to prepared meats and pasta. Many people prefer to drink pomegranate juice; always read the labels of juices being mindful of additives such as added sugars.