Cranberries are a common side dish this time of year with
20% of all the cranberries grown consumed during Thanksgiving week alone.
Rumored to have been served at the first Thanksgiving in 1621, cranberries have
been known in the health and wellness industry for many years.
You can find cranberries in sauces, dried, blended with
other fruits juices, and even in powdered form used in supplements. Because
cranberries are extremely sour, they are very rarely eaten raw. Cranberries are
90% water, the remaining 10% is carbohydrates and fiber. Loaded with vitamins
and minerals, especially vitamin C, cranberries are an excellent way to boost
the nutrition to any dish.
Cranberries are an excellent source of antioxidants, which
has been linked to improved urinary health and the prevention of urinary tract
infections. There have been numerous studies indicating that drinking cranberry
juice or taking cranberry supplements may reduce the risk of UTIs in both
children and adults. It is important to point out that these studies support
cranberries role in preventing
infection, not treating an infection!
Cranberries have one of the highest amounts of antioxidant activity
of any fruit or vegetable, falling just behind blueberries. The antioxidant
proanthocyanidins (PAC) helps to prevent certain bacteria from sticking to the
urinary tract wall. Cranberries are among the richest sources of
proanthcyanidins and give cranberries their bright red color. This antioxidant
has also been shown to possibly lower your risk of stomach cancer and ulcers by
significantly reducing H. pylori from
attaching to the lining of the stomach.
It is important to note that cranberry juice is usually
sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners and has no health-promoting
fiber. Look for juices that list cranberry juice as the primary ingredient for
the most benefit, but aim for a 4 oz portion. Craisins, or dried cranberries,
often have added sugars too. Remember to check the ingredient list for sugar,
compare labels, and choose the product that is the lowest in sugar.
Ideas to increase your intake of cranberries are to add them
to salads, cereal or oatmeal, mix into muffin batter or a smoothie, or add to a
grain side dish. If you are on Coumadin or are prone to calcium oxalate-type
kidney stones, you should talk with your physician before increasing the amount
of cranberries in your diet.
While we say good bye to the fresh berries over the summer,
we welcome the cranberry into our meals this fall and winter!