Health Benefits of Cranberries

Health Benefits of Cranberries
Nutrition, Nutrition and more Nutrition
by Susan Oshel, CPM, LM

Though cranberries are tiny, they are potent. Packed with nutrition, they are high in vitamin C and in fiber. But cranberries, like their relative the blueberry, also contain antioxidants in abundance which has antibacterial effects on the body.

In documents that have survived since the 17th century we have learned that cranberries were used then, not for their nutrition, but for an assortment of medicinal purposes: stomach ailments, liver problems, and blood disorders. Cranberries traveled to sea as a protection against scurvy. Though vitamin content as part of our daily nutrition was not known at the time, it was the high vitamin C content in cranberries that was valuable.

According to the USDA’s largest study, measuring both the concentration and the antioxidant capacity per serving size, cranberries, blueberries and black berries shine as the brightest stars.

Cranberries are tart to our tongues, but they are even tarter when confronting free radicals which goes beyond the nutrition of vitamins. What are free radicals? They are atoms that scour our bodies’ cells, harming them so that the immune system is too weakened to resist disease. Plant foods provide anti-oxidants which fight free radicals. Cranberries are among the highest of the antioxidant plants. Drink cranberry juice, eat fresh cranberries in season and dried cranberries out of season. Pack in the nutrition.

Proanthocyanidins, also called tannins, prevent bacteria (including Escherichia coli) from adhering to the urinary tract. We have long used cranberries as a cure for urinary tract infections. This also protects the cranberry itself and may have evolved to prevent it in the damp climate in which it lives.

The major flavonoids in freshly squeezed cranberry juice are quercetin and myricetin.

Quercetin is found to be the most active of the flavonoids in studies. Quercetin has anti-inflammatory activity because it inhibits some of the process of inflammation at the onset.

Myricetin is a flavonoid (pigment) and is considered an antioxidant. Fighting free radicals, it is thought to have anti-cancer properties, including the ability to lower the chances of prostate cancer. Myricetin may also lower cholesterol levels.

Oxalates. Cranberries’ are high in oxalates, which can rob the body of calcium and can be a cause of kidney stones.

Terpenes create the spicy scent and combined with other phenolic compounds give it its tart, astringent taste.

Click here for a recipe for delicious Cranberry Relish.

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