Pomegranate health benefits, serving size and extract recipe summary

For ease of use, a summary of the links and information available about health benefits of pomegranate seeds, juice and peel; serving size information that is based on animal based research studies and my own use of different pomegranate ingredients; and a concise recipe for the pomegranate peel extract recipe that I’ve developed.

Health benefits of pomegranate:

Pomegranate extract has been studied in animal based research to examine in more detail how it helps hypertensive blood pressure problems and reduce oxidative stress. The mechanism was found to involve increasing Nrf2. The formation of mitochondria increased, and their function improved. Before treatment the hypertensive animals had fewer of the specialized proteins that are involved in production of mitochondria. Mitochondria are the cellular organelles primarily responsible for turning blood sugar/glucose into usable energy. (5)

This study uses a pomegranate extract that incorporates the peel, seeds and juice as all contain the bioactive phytonutrient, punicalagin, thought to be most helpful for anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and anti-diabetic effects. The animals who received the extract were found to have better blood pressure, reduced heart hypertrophy ( a sign of worse heart health) and a lower heart rate. Neuronal/nerve cell activity and oxidative stress markers were decreased in the experimental treatment group compared to the control group which received a saline solution and no pomegranate extract. Angiotensin converting enzyme which is involved in blood pressure control was lower in the experimental group  that received pomegranate extract and may be the mechanism for the lower blood pressure. Pro-inflammatory cytokines were reduced in the experimental group after treatment, an indication that hypertensive inflammation was reduced. The pomegranate extract treatment led to increased levels of phosphorylated AMPK which then leads to an increase in Nrf2 and its resulting increases in antioxidant proteins which protect against injury and inflammation from oxidative stress chemicals. (5)

Serving size that might be needed for general health or for special health needs:

Animal based research used a range  of 1 – 10 grams/kilogram for 8 weeks was found to be beneficial for treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (6); which for a human sized person might be equivalent to a  a quarter to a half cup to a couple cups per day. (See this post for more details) The larger dose would likely be most beneficial used in smaller amounts throughout the day or in a couple portions. For example: Half a cup per day might be used for someone who is less ill and someone with more severe illness or genetic needs such as myself (I can’t make phospholipids and the pomegranate seeds and peel are a source) might use up to a half a cup every three to four hours throughout the hours spent awake – or whatever helped the symptoms. If every cell of the body needs the substances, every hour of the twenty-four, then one dose one time per day might leave the body under-treated for most of the 24 hours and only relieve symptoms for a few hours. The peel extract has a diuretic effect so using it earlier in the day and having a few extra glasses of water is mentioned in more detail later in this section.

I have found 1/3 to 1/2 cup of fresh seeds or pomegranate juice per day to help relieve my symptoms of anxiety and finger numbness (similar to Raynaud’s Disease but no diagnosis). Other patient forum feedback suggests one capsule of commercially available pomegranate juice concentrate was also helpful for Raynaud’s disease finger numbness or pain. (Avoiding letting the hands get too cold also can help prevent the condition from feeling as painful rather than just being a constant numbness in the fingertips.)

If I have pomegranate extract on hand I use a few tablespoons to about  1/3 cup per day and find it even more beneficial for relieving symptoms of anxiety or nerve numbness. However it has a diuretic effect so it is better to use it earlier in the day rather than at dinnertime and to have plenty of water or other water based beverages early in the day so sleep isn’t interrupted with a need to relieve the bladder. It is important to drink a little extra water or the urge to urinate can be painful and produce little flow. The body removes acidity by making a more concentrated urine – so add water yourself or a dilute juice or herbal tea and the kidneys will also be removing other toxins too which may increase health benefits.

Dried powdered pomegranate seeds are available at some India food grocery stores or websites look for a small box labeled Anardana. It seems to be a dried powder of the whole seeds and it is gritty and tart with a fruit flavor. I added a couple tablespoons to a batch of soup and that seemed to soften the gritty effect. It was good added after cooking, giving a nice tartness but there was a slight gritty texture occasionally, not too noticeable though. Anardana Powder, dried pomegranate seed powder – an example of the product available online:

  • Yogijis.co.nz      Phone:  (03) 390 3434      Email: orders@yogijis.nz
  • Anardana Powder, Powder of Dried Pomegranate Seeds: net Wt. 100 g//3.5 oz for $3.99

An organic pomegranate juice concentrate is also available in the same quantity for a larger price. That seems like a lot of money for a 3.5 oz package which is slightly less than a half cup amount, unless you were comparing it to prepared capsules of a pomegranate product which might cost 20 to 30 dollars for one bottle of capsules:

  • Matakanasuperfoods.com, PO Box 18, Matakana 0948 New Zealand / Physical address: 108 Omaha Flats Rd. Auckland, New Zealand, Phone: 09 422 9618    Outside New Zealand:  +64 9 422 9618
  • Organic Pomegranate Juice Powder, 100g, $NZ 29,95

Sumac and Za’atar

A spice commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking and readily available at Middle Eastern grocery market may provide some similar health benefits to pomegranate. It is a dried powdered form of Sumac that has a lemony flavor. it is typically sprinkled on food individually at the table alone or in a mix with salt or with a few other spices and sesame seeds in a mixture called za’atar (link). I have found that using more than a half teaspoon  can cause the diuretic effect similar to the pomegranate extract’s effects. Studies on health benefits of Sumac have found benefit for a number of inflammatory conditions so using some in small amounts daily may have preventative health benefits against oxidative stress.

Pomegranate Extract Recipe  and Spicy variation:

Pomegranate Extract, basic recipe:

  • Peel and inner membrane of two pomegranates
  • Two to three cups of water
  • Two Tablespoons of Coconut oil
  1. Rinse the pomegranates before separating the seeds from the peel. Cutting the rind about a quarter inch deep in six sections can make it easier to open and remove the seeds. Save the juicy seeds for use fresh or place in a freezer container and store in the freezer for later use. Trim the peel to remove any spoiled or discolored spots on the outer peel or inner membranes. Discard. Rinse the remaining peel and chop into quarter to half inch sections.
  2. In a soup or stock pot place the chopped peel, water and coconut oil and bring to a gentle simmer and turn down the heat to continue at a gentle simmer. Try not to reach a vigorous boiling point. Simmer the mixture for 20-30 minutes while stirring occasionally to prevent the fibrous slightly sweet membrane particles from sticking to the pan.
  3. Remove from heat and strain the liquid into another large pan or bowl. The peel and membrane fiber is pulpy and can be rinsed with additional water to increase yield of the pulpy extract. Add one cup warm water and stir and strain the pulp and then add another one cup warm water, stir and strain, and maybe one or two more cups until the liquid seems more water like instead of a slightly thickened pale pinkish or creamy yellow color.
  4. Store the pomegranate extract in the refridgerator if it will be used in other recipes within a few days or freeze the excess in small containers for gradual use.
  5. It is very acidic and using a couple spoonfuls per day added to a soup or salad in place of lemon juice or vinegar can be a tasty way to use it. Diluting a few spoonfuls to 1/3 cup with an additional 2/3 cup of water or regular juice of some sort and adding a pinch of baking soda  can make it tolerable as a beverage. One third cup per day should provide adequate health benefits for someone using it for that purpose.

Pomegranate Extract made with dehydrated pomegranate peel

Repeat the above steps using pomegranate peel and membrane that had been prepared and diced into 1/4-1/2 inch sections and dehydrated for long term storage – planning ahead for when pomegranates were no longer in season. One pomegranate peel/membrane produced approximately 30 grams of dried peel and which measured at slightly less than a 1/2 cup of dried pieces loosely packed. Per one pomegranate amount of peel simmer with one tablespoon of coconut oil and 2 cups of water, about 20-30 minutes on low heat. After straining the heated peel I rinsed the peel with two cups of water poured over it gradually while stirring. The yield was three cups of pomegranate extract.

Spicy Pomegranate Extract, Slightly less acidic and slightly thickened and emulsified Spicy:

  • 6 cups of pomegranate extract  (previous post)
  • 2 Tablespoons Cardamom powdered spice
  • 1 teaspoon Gumbo File powdered spice (Sassafras Leaves, powdered and used in Gumbo soups or stews in Creole style cooking)
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
  1. Add the Cardamom and Gumbo File to the Pomegranate Extract and stir well to break apart any dry lumps of the powdered spices. The Gumbo File acts as an emulsifier and is a digestive aid and the Cardamom adds flavor, phytonutrients and would help alkalize the mixture in addition to the alkalizing power of the Baking Soda.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Add the Baking Soda and stir. Remove the mixture from the heat and keep stirring. It will froth up and stirring helps keep it from frothing over the top of the pan. The color changes from pinkish to brown from the Cardamom spice.
  4. To drink as a beverage dilute with equal parts water to Pomegranate Extract.

 

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

References:

  • Claude Prigent, Editor, Protein Phosphorylation, Publisher: InTech, Chapters published November 29, 2017 under CC BY 3.0 licenseInTechOpen.com, https://www.intechopen.com/books/protein-phosphorylation (4)
  • Wenyan Sun, Chunhong Yan, Bess Frost, Xin Wang, Chen Hou, Mengqi Zeng, Hongli Gao, Yuming Kang,and Jiankang Liu,

    Pomegranate extract decreases oxidative stress and alleviates mitochondrial impairment by activating AMPK-Nrf2 in hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus of spontaneously hypertensive rats., Sci Rep. 2016; 6: 34246.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5054377/ (5)

  • Anupam Bishayee, Deepak Bhatia, Roslin J. Thoppil, Altaf S. Darvesh, Eviatar Nevo, and Ephraim P. Lansky.,  Pomegranate-mediated chemoprevention of experimental hepatocarcinogenesis involves Nrf2-regulated antioxidant mechanisms., Carcinogenesis. 2011 Jun; 32(6): 888–896. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3314278/ (6)

Cookies are great but so are crackers

 The Gumbo File works so well as an emulsifier in the Molasses or Chocolate Cookies that it likely would help hold a crumbly cracker together too. If and when I set up my kitchen again here is a draft version of the cookie recipe as a potential cracker recipe – the exact amount of water/soup stock that would be needed would need to be determined by the texture of the dough.

Crackers are rolled out and cut into shape or pressed very thin before being baked. Some leavening with baking soda is traditional in the popular white flour square “Soda” crackers that are served with soups or topped with sliced cheese or other toppings. The gluten protein found in wheat flour and a few other flours forms a fibrous fabric like structure in a kneaded bread dough or cracker dough. Gluten free baking requires some other type of fiber to help form the fabric like structure that traps bubbles of air from the baking soda leavening long enough to be baked into an airy crisp texture. Whether or not Gumbo File could help serve the purpose would be an experiment. Gluten free crackers tend to be crisp and flat with only some airiness depending on the type of ingredients used.

Basic Cracker recipe draft

*Try number one worked basically. I had less coconut flour on hand and made up the difference with more of the other flours to equal a similar amount and I added about 3/4-1 cup of coconut oil and 1 1/2 cups water to make a cookie like dough. Making a single batch with half the ingredients would be easier to shape. I pressed rounds of dough flat in extra almond meal and they puffed slightly but remained moist inside with a skillet cooking. A longer slower baking might make them more cracker like instead of like a moist flat bread. Extra water in the dough to make a thinner batter would likely work for pancakes.

– the use of cardamom is somewhat of a pepper replacement and whether I used it or some other savory seasonings could be modified for a variety of cracker flavors if the basic recipe worked.

Dry ingredients, stir together in a large bowl:

  • 1 1/2 cup Brown Rice Flour
  • 1 1/2 cups Coconut Flour
  • 1 1/2 cup Almond Meal
  • 1 cup Tapioca Flour/Starch
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Cardamom Powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda

Emulsifier step- gently heat Pomegranate Extract or Juice to a simmer in a saucepan then remove from heat and stir in the Gumbo File Powder.

  • 1 1/2 cups Pomegranate Extract or Vegetarian Soup Stock or Water (If Pomegranate Extract is not used then add 4 teaspoons of Apple Cider Vinegar or Lemon Juice later – when the rest of the liquid is added. Baking Soda requires an acidic ingredient in the recipe which Pomegranate Extract provides.)
  • 6 Tablespoons Gumbo File Powder

Wet ingredients – in a another large bowl combine the thickened warm emulsifier liquid with the Brown Sugar and then stir in half of the remaining juice. Reserve part of the juice to add to the dry ingredients after first mixing in the emulsifier/sugar mixture. (This method is more like making a cake than a cookie, you combine small amounts of the liquid at a time for a smooth cake batter that is not over-stirred. In a kneaded bread dough or traditional Soda Cracker recipe the goal is to fold the dough repeatedly in somewhat regular motions and directions in order to ‘weave the fabric’ of the gluten structure. In gluten free baking without gluten the fiber network is not as regular and gentle handling and folding might support some leavening air bubbles but the traditional kneaded structure is not really possible. The goal with cake batter is to gently support a more delicate sponge like texture for air bubbles without a tough fabric dough formation.)

  • 2 1/2 cups Vegetarian Soup Stock or Water
  • (4 teaspoons of Apple Cider Vinegar or Lemon Juice if Pomegranate Extract is not used)

The dough should be moist and able to be rolled or spooned into a sticky round shape that doesn’t crumble – a soft playdough-like consistency.

Sprinkle a counter top with some brown rice flour and roll the dough into a thin 1/8th to 1/4 inch thick sheet and cut into squares – or roll spoonfuls of dough into rounds and then flatten on a surface that is sprinkled with brown rice flour or sprayed with oil using a flat glass or plate. Place the crackers on a baking sheet that is covered with oil or sprinkled with brown rice flour. Brush the surface of the crackers with a lightly salted water mixture. Bake at 400’F for about 20 minutes, rotating the pans at a half way point, or until crispy.

Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of Fair Use. While I am a Registered Dietitian it is not intended to provide individualized health care guidance. Please seek an individual health care professional for the purpose of individualized health care guidance.

 

Pomegranate extract – Master Chef Challenge update

For anyone following along with the pomegranate peel experiments  (previous post)- update, I had a lot of pomegranate extract thawed at the same time and for a dietitian that means reheat to steaming to assure food safety. So it was an opportunity to experiment some more with trying to adjust the acidity again. When baking soda is added to a hot acidic liquid there is an obvious bubbling reaction and change in color of the liquid. I have pH strips to check acidity and did manage to adjust the acidity of the extract. The taste is still not great but chronic illness and mood issues are not great either. After three cups of experimental attempts my mood is awesome *(see additional note) and I have some recipe details:

6 cups of pomegranate extract  (previous post)

2 Tablespoons Cardamom powdered spice

1 teaspoon Gumbo File powdered spice (Sassafras Leaves, powdered and used in Gumbo’s in Creole style cooking)

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

  1. Add the Cardamom and Gumbo File to the Pomegranate Extract and stir well to break apart any dry lumps of the powdered spices. The Gumbo File acts as an emulsifier and is a digestive aid and the Cardamom adds flavor, phytonutrients and would help alkalize the mixture in addition to the alkalizing power of the Baking Soda.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Add the Baking Soda and stir. Remove the mixture from the heat and keep stirring. It will froth up and stirring helps keep it from frothing over the top of the pan. The color changes from pinkish to brown from the Cardamom spice.
  4. To drink as a beverage dilute with equal parts water to Pomegranate Extract.

This would be an acquired taste – aka “not good” until you get used to it, or not good at all but the mood and health benefits are worth for me at least. It is also a diuretic which means it is like beer or coffee in the way it increases kidney activity and urine production so it is best to have it earlier in the day followed by plenty of glasses of water early in the day so that you aren’t waking up in the middle of the night as much. Overly acidic, dehydrated body fluids can increase work for the kidneys and result in a frequent feeling of needing to go urgently but then not producing much quantity – drink plenty of water early  in the day and produce plenty of dilute quantity early in the day and a diuretic can help cleanse toxins from the body instead of being a middle of the night problem.

Since pomegranate growing season is limited the powdered spice made from Sumac might be a health substitute. It has been shown to have a range of health benefits, and is also a diuretic. Its phytonutrients are similarly colored suggesting there might be some similar antioxidant content as well. The gallotannin group of phytonutrients are in common and would likely promote Nrf2. (More about Sumac in this post) (a series of posts on Nrf2)

To put a financial perspective on this – for my health needs the pomegranate extract or pomegranate seeds and cardamom powder and a few other good sources of phospholipids are adequate replacements for my medical marijuana which cost me around $1000-1200 per month. The medical effects are slightly different and not quite as good for pain killing properties but the negative psychological effects that can occur with withdrawal for some people are also not present.

To review – cannabinoids are a group of chemicals that are made within the cells of most species and are similar to the group of cannabinoids found in the cannabis plants commonly known as marijuana or hemp. Medical marijuana has a euphoria producing one known by the chemical initials THC while hemp has only non-euphoria producing cannabinoids. Both types can have medical or other basic health benefits. Cannabinoids are found throughout membranes and add to cell wall flexibility and help with messenger chemical type activities that can help reduce inflammation and fight infection. Some people such as myself can have genetic differences that make it impossible to make the chemicals internally as in average health. I have had minor health problems since infancy and having external dietary sources of phospholipids or cannabinoids helps my body and mood and immune system. More information about the topic is available in the post/article Is it Addiction or Starvation?

People with problems with binge eating disorders, alcohol abuse tendencies, meth or heroin/opioid abuse tendencies, or seem to have an excess use of marijuana, and nicotine to a lesser extent all may actually have underlying genetic differences that leave them in need of increased dietary sources of phospholipids/cannabinoids. The article Is It Addiction or Starvation? has some legal food sources in addition to pomegranate seeds and cardamom spice. It doesn’t mention the Middle Eastern spice Sumac but it might help also.

*Additional note – three cups was likely to large of a serving, an awesome mood for someone with unstable mood issues was too much of a good thing – Newton’s Law of Gravity may apply metaphorically, “What goes up must come down.” I had a worse mood problem later in the evening. Today (the next morning) I’ve enjoyed a few spoonfuls of the spicy, creamy slightly thickened mixture in my coffee and it is good to my “acquired taste.” The thing about having acquired an acquired taste for something is that you then want to acquire more – pun intended.  The pomegranate season in Australia turns out to also be November to March so that isn’t much help. Processing pomegranate peel during the growing season would be necessary if I hope to continue to be able to acquire pomegranate extract all year long. It has medicinal benefits according to the research that is available, (see links in earlier posts on this site).

New Zealand isn’t ideal for pomegranate either as the summer length may be too short some years, however their harvest season is February-April: “Pomegranates grow best in areas with cold Winters and long hot, dry Summers.” (Pomegranate Wonderful)

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.