This popular fruit offers an antioxidant punch with several benefits.
Traditionally, cranberries are reserved a spot on the table over the holidays. They are made into sauce, desserts like tarts or pies and used as a garnish in holiday-themed cocktails. However, not only do cranberries add a festive, delicious twist to many meals, they also contain several health benefits and should be consumed all year round.
Putting the super in superfood
Cranberries can prevent heart disease, ulcers, urinary tract infections and cancer, not to mention they also have ongoing benefits from their high levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Cranberries can also improve immune function and lower blood pressure.
This pucker-inducing fruit contains low sugar, almost no fat and sodium and is high in vitamin C, manganese and high fibre—providing 20% of the daily recommended value in every serving. Additionally, they are low in calories; half a cup of cranberries contains only 46 calories, making them the perfect snack.
Cranberries are extremely high in antioxidants, beating out other superfoods like blueberries and spinach. A study done by the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that due to the potent antioxidant polyphenols content, cranberries can also destroy free radicals and protect against cancer by inhibiting the growth and spread of tumour cells; this includes tumours found in breasts, the colon, the prostate and lungs.
One thing that cranberries are notorious for is their effectiveness in treating urinary tract infections (UTIs), since cranberries inhibit bacteria from attaching to the bladder and urethra. Research shows that cranberries help prevent UTIs because of the proanthocyanidins (PACs) they contain. The structure of the PACs in the cranberries act as a barrier to bacteria that would otherwise attach itself to the lining of the urinary tract.
In fact, the Kidney Foundation of Canada found that Canadian women make nearly 500,000 visits to doctors per year because of UTIs. These infections, which affect one in every two women, caused by microorganisms like E. coli, are normally treated with prescribed antibiotics, but studies show that one to two glasses of pure cranberry juice per day can actually prevent 50% of UTI occurrences and can reduce the amounts of harmful bacteria present.
In terms of cranberry juice, it is important to buy it pure or concentrated with no added sugars (the kind you have to mix with water); it is commonly found in the organic food isle of grocery stores. Since pure cranberry juice is quite tart, many cranberry juice or cranberry cocktail brands add lots of added sugar, which can actually make UTI symptoms worse.
The PACs in cranberries that prevent UTIs also benefits dental health, by preventing bacteria from sticking to teeth. The phytonutrients in cranberries reduce inflammation in and around our gums, which reduces the risk of getting periodontal disease. Additionally, the anti-inflammatory properties in cranberries can also benefit those with digestive disorders.
Eating cranberries can maintain regular digestive function, because of their detoxifying properties. They help the body eliminate toxins and also aid in relieving water retention and bloating. Cranberries also improve the balance of bacteria in our digestive tract and help create healthy gut flora, mirroring similar benefits of Kombucha, kefir and yogurt.
So indulge in as many cranberries as your heart desires this holiday season. The ways to enjoy them are as plentiful as their benefits. Here are some of the ways to incorporate cranberries into your diet: freeze and add them to your favourite smoothie recipe, make cranberry jam with little added sweetness or create a wholesome salad with dried cranberries, spinach and pecans.