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Main Course

Walnut Pomegranate Persian Chicken

Chicken is cooked in a luscious sauce made from chopped walnuts, pomegranate juice, molasses, and cinnamon, for a rich, sweet-tart dish.

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In the first edition of my book, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, I wrote that if pomegranate juice were an actress, it would be considered a “rising star.” Not any more. Today, it’s a genuine superstar.

The health benefits of pomegranate juice have been the subject of a ton of research, and the results have been impressive, to say the least. It’s protective against both heart disease and cancer, and has even been called “a natural Viagra”!

But the pomegranate is just the beginning of the healthy ingredients found in this recipe. Walnuts are the only nuts that contain significant amounts of omega-3, specifically the plant-based omega-3 known as ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which is also found in flax, chia, and hemp seeds. Research shows that ALA reduces inflammatory and cardiovascular risk factors, at least in a study of men and women with elevated cholesterol. Walnuts also have a nice nutrient profile, with copper, folic acid, phosphorus, vitamin B6, manganese, and vitamin E in the mix.

And as sweeteners go, it doesn’t get much better than blackstrap molasses. Molasses is actually the by-product of sugar refining, but it’s the stuff white sugar producers leave behind because nobody wants it. Yet it actually contains all of the nutrients from the raw sugarcane plant, including iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and copper. Blackstrap molasses has the least amount of sugar of the molasses family, but it’s more than enough to impart a delicious taste of unusual sweetness to this terrific chicken dish.

Dr. Jonny

Featured Nutrient: Pomegranate Extract

Controversy exists about whether pomegranate extract in pill form “works” as well as the juice. Since the bulk of the research has been on the juice itself, some wonder if the same benefits apply to the supplement form. No one really knows, but my guess is that supplements are very beneficial. The compounds in pomegranate have been researched for their effects on oxidative stress, inflammation, atherosclerosis, prostate cancer, hypertension, and erectile dysfunction, and for the most part, the results are uniformly positive. To me, that’s a great reason to supplement with pomegranate extract, particularly if you’re not a daily consumer of pomegranate juice.

Notes from the Clean Food Coach on the Health Benefits of Pomegranates

Pomegranates have a tough, inedible outer skin filled with piquant little ruby red seeds called arils. The arils are nested in a network of white pith. To seed a pomegranate, slice it in half across the middle “around the equator.” Submerge the fruit in a clean sink or large bowl of fresh water and, using your hands, pull each half apart, pressing your thumbs into the skin to turn it inside out. Gently scrape off the seeds from the skin and white pith with your thumbs. When the seeds have all been released, carefully pour off the water and pith (the seeds will sink to the bottom), and enjoy the seeds or store them in the refrigerator for later use.

 

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2½-3 lbs. chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 2 medium yellow or sweet onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 cups toasted walnuts, finely chopped or coarsely ground
  • 2/3 cup pure, unsweetened pomegranate juice
  • ½ cup tomato sauce
  • 1½ cup sodium-free chicken broth
  • 1½ Tbs. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs. blackstrap molasses
  • ½ tsp. each salt and cracked pepper
  • ½ cup fresh pomegranate seeds (arils), optional, for garnish

Preparation

  1. In large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken, and cook, turning occasionally, 12 minutes or until browned on all sides. Transfer to plate.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low and scrape up any brown bits. Add onion to skillet, and sauté about 8 minutes, or until soft. Stir in cinnamon and walnuts, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute more.
  3. Stir in pomegranate juice, tomato sauce, broth, lemon juice, molasses, and salt and pepper. Increase heat, and bring mixture to a boil. Add chicken, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Garnish with pomegranate seeds, if using, to serve.

Nutrition Information

  • Calories 940
  • Carbohydrate Content 26 g
  • Cholesterol Content 220 mg
  • Fat Content 57 g
  • Fiber Content 6 g
  • Protein Content 83 g
  • Saturated Fat Content 7 g
  • Sodium Content 880 mg
  • Sugar Content 15 g
  • Trans Fat Content 0 g
  • Unsaturated Fat Content 0 g