Page 1: The Benefits Of The Pomegranate Superfruit & Juice
CAPSULE REPORT: The pomegranate is an ancient fruit, originating in Persia. It has ben cultivated in the Mediterranean region for several thousand years. Remains dating back to 1,000 B.C.E. have been found in Armenia. Yet, the pomegranate was an oddity in the U.S. until recently, an exotic fruit enjoyed largely by immigrants and Americans who discovered it abroad. The debut of Pom Wonderful juice, and the subsequent announcement of research that showed the high antioxidant values and potential anti-carcinogenic properties of pomegranate changed all that. Suddenly, everyone wanted pomegranate and the flavor appeared in everything from ice cream to salad dressing. Brand after brand of juice proliferated to meet America’s desire for healthy foods with high-antioxidant benefits. Intrepid taster Alissa Dicker evaluated all the pomegranate juice she could get her hands on—more than 50 juices, although only the top 19 have been recommended. They include 100% pure pom juices plus blends with blueberry, cranberry, mango and other juices, as well as brands that are organic and kosher. Read her tasting notes in Part II of this article. But start by learning all about the pomegranate. This is Page 1 of a three-page article. Click on the black links below to visit other pages.
With the constant talk of superfoods in the media, hundreds of new pomegranate beverages entering the market each year, and celebrities like Oprah declaring “pom-tinis” their signature cocktail, it’s easy to forget that the American infatuation with all things pomegranate began only recently.
Marketing campaigns by POM Wonderful are largely responsible for the boom in pomegranate juice’s popularity. The San Joaquin Valley, California-based company, which owns half of the state’s commercial pomegranate acreage, has been growing, picking, juicing its own pomegranates, and cleverly bottling its product since September 2002. POM was the first refrigerated 100% pomegranate juice on the market, and has set the benchmark in the pomegranate juice industry. In addition to advertising, POM has sponsored $23 million in well-publicized studies on the health benefits of drinking pomegranate juice.
The category originator, POM Wonderful, in its signature, unmistakable bottle.
The studies suggest that the juice may lower cholesterol, improve blood flow, aid in erectile function, and even slow the growth of prostate cancer. Pomegranate juice is praised for its high levels of antioxidants, called polyphenols. Antioxidants are believed to fight off free radicals, which can cause cellular damage and disease. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, pomegranate juice contains higher and more potent polyphenol levels than any other beverage, including red wine, Concord grape juice, and even other superfoods like blueberry and açaí.*
*NOTE: These medical tests have been conducted exclusively with the POM Wonderful variety of pomegranate.
Wishing to “cheat death,” as one POM ad states, consumers have embraced pomegranate juice. Sensing this growing demand, more and more companies have introduced pomegranate juices into the market. Product Scan Online, a database of new products, reports that around 350 new pomegranate beverages were introduced in 2006 alone. If that doesn’t cheat death, it can certainly fill the shelves of a small boutique.
A Proliferation Of Pom
Browsing the libraries of pomegranate juices in our local Whole Foods Market, Food Emporium, Morton Williams, and Trader Joe’s supermarkets, we began to wonder how the products compared. Just looking at the jars, we saw that color and viscosity differed. Were all poms created equal? Were some juices best suited for straight drinking while others might be better for cooking? Toward that end, would the acidity levels vary? Would one make the perfect gin cocktail?
After sampling dozens of juices and, perhaps, becoming somewhat healthier (albeit a bit loopy from all that sugar—pomegranates are naturally high in it), we found that the juices span a spectrum of flavors that may suit any number of uses as well as personal tastes. While POM Wonderful, for example, presents a rich, full-bodied and well-balanced juice (sweet, with a slightly bitter finish), other juices offer light and fruity playfulness, utterly drinkable juiciness, and even the sweet sensibility of gourmet fruit punch. In addition to 100% pomegranate juices, we tasted a number of pomegranate juice blends; for clarity, we’ve reviewed the two categories separately. You’ll see the tasting notes in Part II of this article.