Nutritious Cranberries

You may have noticed this past holiday season, while sitting down to one of your many holiday meals that seem to continue long after the holidays are over, a delicious, gelatinous red mass in the corner of your plate. Cranberry sauce is as much a part of a holiday meal as the turkey itself. But don’t relegate this sweet and tart jelly to the category of “guilty pleasure”. Although it does contain sugar (which I’m experimenting with replacing with agave nectar or stevia), cranberries are some seriously healthy little fruits.

40,000 acres of Northern U.S. and Canada are dedicated to growing these delicious and healthy berries. North America grows an average of 300 million pounds per year. B.C. and Quebec are main provinces that grow cranberries.

Cranberries are rich in fiber and are an excellent source of vitamin C, here are main health benefits of cranberry juice you can know. They’re also loaded with phytonutrients like flavanoids and proanthocyanidins, the same nutrient in red wine that neutralizes free radicals and which researchers have theorized accounts for the low heart disease and diabetes rates in France (although, I would think this is also attributable to the French people’s distaste for processed foods and use of healthy saturated fats instead of hydrogenated oils). One thing cranberries have over red wine is that they don’t come with alcohol, the digestion of which uses up many of the antioxidants for which the wine is praised.

Proanthocyanidins have been found to be 20 times more powerful an antioxidant than vitamin C and 50 times more powerful than vitamin E. These little nutrients are also responsible for strengthening blood vessels, improving delivery of oxygen to cells, reduce histamine production (for allergy treatment), slow collagen breakdown and the creation of wrinkles in the skin and even work as an internal sunscreen, protecting the skin from the harmful rays of the sun. All this in one nutrient found in cranberries.

A lot of the folk wisdom surrounding cranberries focuses on their ability to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs). Recent research has uncovered that the folk wisdom is proving correct – cranberry juice is a great remedy for urinary tract infections. Researchers are looking into the antibacterial and “antiadhesion” properties unique to cranberries. This anti-adhesion property prevents the bacteria from adhering to the cell walls. This potentially could affect other bacteria aside from those that cause UTIs, such as stomach ulcers and gum disease.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association components in cranberries stopped bacteria responsible for dental plaque and periodontal disease from adhering to the teeth and gums. The antibacterial quality of cranberries has been shown to be effective against H. pylori, a bacteria associated with stomach ulcers, acid reflux disease, gastritis and stomach cancer. In fact, the flavanoid components found naturally in cranberries may be helpful in fighting leukemia, breast, lung and colon cancer.

When enjoying cranberry sauce, I always recommend people make their own. Not only is it really easy, but by making your cranberry sauce fresh you can get the maximum benefits of all the nutrients. You can also control the amount of sugar you’re using (or replace it with a natural sweetener). As well as cranberries in sauce form, cranberry juice and dried cranberries are also a delicious and healthy way to enjoy the berry’s natural health benefits. Juicing or drying the berries ensures the maximum nutrient retention, as the cooking of the sauce will destroy much of the vitamin C.