This humble fall fruit, harvested in Canada, the northern US, Europe, and Asia packs a big nutritional punch! Cranberries are delicious, but they are only available for a couple of months a year. If you want to enjoy them all year long, you have to stock up while they are available. I know… you can get them all year long if you are willing to pay almost $5 for a small bag, but that’s just too much! So last year, I froze twelve extra bags and yes, I'm now finishing the last one. Cranberries, which are native to North America and grow in marshes and sandy bogs, which are flooded to make the harvest easier. They were served at the first celebration of the landing of the Pilgrims in 1796 and have been part of our Thanksgiving (and Christmas) celebrations ever since.
Cranberries are very low in calories, a very good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin C and manganese, as well as a good source of Vitamin E and K. They are also a rich source of phytonutrients, including phenolic acids (i.e. benzoic, hydroxycinnamic & ellagic acids) and flavonoids (i.e. anthocyanins, flavonols & flavan-3-ols).
The polyphenols (a class of phytonutrients) found in cranberries, may reduce the risk of heart disease by inhibiting platelet clumping, reducing blood pressure, and their anti-inflammatory effect.
Cranberries can also slow tumor progression and have shown beneficial effects against prostate, liver, ovarian, breast, and colon cancer.
Cranberries have been shown to decrease adherence of bacteria to the bladder wall, thereby helping prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs), especially recurrent ones. However, it takes a very large concentration of the fruit (total cranberry extract) for this effect to work. The antioxidant levels in commercial cranberry juice don’t come close.
Cranberries inhibit the adherence of bacteria in the mouth in a similar way, thereby helping to prevent gum disease.
Eat the whole fresh or frozen fruit when you can. Adding fresh cranberries to oatmeal, especially steel cut oats made in the crockpot, results in a lovely tart “pop” when you bite into them. Try fresh cranberry-orange relish, add them to smoothies, baked apple dishes, or savory dishes, such as stuffing. Be careful of dried cranberries, which are high in added sugar and usually contain oil.
So, forget commercial cranberry juice, which is also high in added sugar (or high fructose corn syrup), and is so processed that all the fiber and many of the beneficial phytonutrients have been removed. With a blender, some fresh or frozen cranberries, and some dates or erythritol, you can make your own, MUCH healthier juice.
Note: If you take warfarin or Coumadin, please check with your doctor before enjoying cranberries.