Not many other foods have the cultural power of pomegranate. For thousands of years, the fruit has inspired poets, writers, painters, and sculptors. Even the Bible and the writings of Homer discuss pomegranates, and some myths say gods preferred the fruit.
Today, the mythical fruit is taking America by storm, splashing sweet reddish pink juice in homes and restaurants across the country.
Since 2002, the fruit has found its way in marinades, cocktails, beers, smoothies, salad dressings, and on the shelves of grocery stores in the form of 100-percent juice and concentrates. According to market research firm Mintel, 40 new pomegranate juice products launched in 2006, second only to orange juice with 47.
Super-premium juice supplier POM Wonderful is largely responsible for bringing attention to pomegranate juice, positioning its juices in the produce sections of the supermarkets to highlight the fruit juice’s functional health benefits, and pure image without the intense competition found in the juice aisle. To meet this trend, in January of 2006, Coca-Cola added pomegranate to its Odwalla brand with PomaGrand 100 juices in Pomegranate, Pomegranate Mango, and Pomegranate and Berry flavors.
“I’ve never in my life seen a food item emerge so fast and quickly,” says Kyle Shadix, a registered dietician and certified chef de cuisine. “[Pomegranate] has been used in more photography than consumed in the last hundred years. It gets so much PR.”
The main reason for its publicity is pomegranate’s health benefits. According to the California Pomegranate Council, pomegranates contain minerals— calcium, potassium, and iron—plus compounds known as phytonutrients, which help the body protect against heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer. The council says powerful antioxidants in the fruit also help retard aging and can neutralize almost twice as many free radicals as red wine and seven times as many as green tea.
In the September 2005 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology, researchers released a study that examined how pomegranate juice affected patients with coronary heart disease who had reduced blood flow to the heart. After three months, blood flow to the heart improved approximately 17 percent in the pomegranate juice group.
In May 2007, Pace University scientists discovered 100-percent pomegranate juice significantly reduced microbes that commonly cause cavities, staph infections, and food poisoning, including a form of E. coli.