Joys of Pomegranates

Until this weekend I had only enjoyed pomegranates in a pomegranate martini. That changed when my sister brought me a bag full of pomegranates from our neighbor’s pomegranate tree. I didn’t even know that this fruit grew in Georgia! I dug out The Essential Eating Well Cookbook (350 recipes from that great magazine, EatingWell) to figure out what to do with, what the Food Lover’s Companion calls “nature’s most labor-intensive fruit.”

The fruits were ripe and laden with ruby red seeds and juice. It took a lot of work to get some juice (6 pomegranates are needed for 1 cup of juice) and I barely got a cup of juice, but did harvest hundreds of seeds (a testament to the part of the name “grenate” for many-seeded.)

Pomegranates are loaded in antioxidants–those helpful compounds that fight diseases like cancer and heart disease. The longer we live the more damage from oxidation can occur in the body (like rust on on old car) so eating foods rich in antioxidants is a smart move for those of us who have a few miles on our bodies. Antioxidant supplements have not proven to be as effective in fighting disease as researchers had hoped, but eating foods rich in antioxidants has many benefits. These foods tend to have the whole package for good health: low in calories, low in saturated fat, high in fiber, vitamins and mineral, and loaded with antioxidants. Pomegranates are also high in potassium, a mineral that can help lower blood pressure.

I made 2 dishes with my pomegranates–a chicken tagine (a Moroccan-inspired recipe from the Eating Well cookbook) and a dessert with apples and pomegranate seeds. The chicken dish used both pomegranate juice (which I had to supplement by using POM Wonderful juice) and seeds for crunch and a tart flavor burst. Both were yummy and I saw no empty plates from my dinner guests.

This special fruit is only available October through December, so try it for yourself and enjoy the taste and nutrition of pomegranates this fall.

Cancer Survivors and Lifestyle Changes

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and I just reached survivor status this month by being cancer-free for 5 years. The American Cancer Society estimates that there are 11 million cancer survivors and by the year 2020 there will be 20 million of us.

Every cancer survivor celebrates beating cancer but also worries about it coming back. The good news is that simple lifestyle changes can stack the odds in your favor. Try these 5 things to help fight your cancer from coming back.

1) Be active every day. Exercise can help control your weight and excess weight increases levels of estrogen and insulin–two hormones that fuel cancer cells. Exercise also fights other chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis.

2) Eat and least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables every day. It is easier than it sounds because a small glass of juice, blueberries on your breakfast cereals, a veggie-packed salad at lunch, and an apple gives you the 5 servings needed for good health. One on my favorite quick dinner meals is a saute of veggies (green and red peppers, broccoli, asparagus, and onions) with olive oil and tossed with spaghetti noodles and sprinkled with fresh grated Parmesan cheese. Yummy and a 2 to 3 serving of vegetables meal.

3) Decrease or eliminate processed meats–no more bologna (I grew up on bologna and fried bologna sandwiches were a staple in my family), bacon, sausage or processed luncheon meats.

4) Get more the of the sunshine vitamin–vitamin D. This nutrient is showing promise as a cancer fighting vitamin. Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D level to get a baseline before you start supplementing with vitamin D pills. But eat vitamin-D rich foods every day such as fatty fish and dairy foods fortified with vitamin D. Yogurt is a popular dairy food for its calcium and protein but did you know that not all yogurt has vitamin D? Turn the carton over and look for vitamin D and don’t be surprised if you find zero vitamin D in your yogurt. The exception? Yoplait yogurt has 20% of the daily value of vitamin D in a serving so kudos to Yoplait. And, Yoplait also is a big supporter of breast cancer research–their save the lids campaign benefits Susan G. Koman for the Cure and so far they raised over $1.6 million from this year’s campaign. So dig your spoon into that!