These glossy, scarlet red berries are tart and closely associated with treating urinary tract infections (UTIs). They are mainly water-harvested, which means that the cranberries are grown in bogs and floated in water to allow for easy harvesting. In addition to easier harvesting, the high exposure to natural sunlight increases the concentration of the phytonutrients that are responsible for its health benefits.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Urinary tract infections (UTIs): The abundance of the phytonutrient proanthocyanidin (PAC) is responsible for cranberries’ ability to heal and prevent UTIs. The PACs have a special structure that make them more difficult for certain types of bacteria such as E.Coli from latching onto the urinary tract linings.
Anti-inflammatory: For the cardiovascular system and for many parts of the digestive tract, cranberries have been shown to provide important anti-inflammatory benefits. Proanthocyanidins (PACs), anthocyanins (the phytonutrients that give cranberries their vibrant red color), flavanols, and phenolic acid are some phytonutrients that lower the risk of inflammation. In the gums, the anti-inflammatory properties can help lower the risk of periodontal disease.
Immune support: Due to the high vitamin C and manganese content, as well as the abundance of proanthocyanidins (PACs), cranberries improve the immune system and lower the frequency of cold and flu symptoms.
Cardiovascular health: Following decreased risk of urinary tract infections, increased cardiovascular health is the second most researched area for cranberries’ health benefits. The combined impact of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and antioxidants is what is responsible for cardiovascular support from cranberries. Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation can place blood vessels in risk of damage.
Cancer prevention: There are multiple mechanisms that fight cancer growth from increased consumption of cranberries’ antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. Some mechanisms include blocking expression of matrix metalloproteinases, inhibiting ornithine decarhoxylase enzymes, and triggering apoptosis (programmed cell death) in tumor cells.
Good source of:
Vitamin C, fiber, manganese
Purchasing, storing, & enjoying:
Purchasing: Cranberries have a short season and can be found in markets from October through December. Choose fresh, plump cranberries deep in color. The deeper the color, the more highly concentrated the cranberries will be in anthocyanin compounds. Dried cranberries are sold year-round. Canned cranberry sauce is also available in the canned food aisle.
Storing: Fresh, ripe cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 20 days. Before storing, discard any soft, discolored, pitted or shriveled berries. If freezing, first freeze the cranberries on a cookie sheet to prevent the berries from sticking to one another. Once fully frozen, store them in a durable plastic bag for up to several years.
Enjoying: Fresh cranberries are quite delicate so they should be handled with care. Cranberries retain their maximum nutrition and taste when they are eaten fresh. Take advantage of the tartness by using them in replace of vinegar or lemon juice when dressing your salads. Dried cranberries can also be added to salads, baked goods, oatmeal, or granola.
Resources & recipes:
Apple Cranberry Oatmeal Bake: http://joythebaker.com/2012/11/vegan-apple-cranberry-oatmeal-bake/
Cranberry Sorbert: http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2007/11/fresh-cranberry-sorbet.html
Kale, Pear, and Cranberry Salad: http://theshiksa.com/2012/10/12/kale-pear-and-cranberry-salad/
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