Cranberries aren't just for Thanksgiving, or at least they shouldn't be, based on the cornucopia of health benefits they bring your way. For starters, cranberries are extremely high in vitamin C and contain notable amounts of manganese, copper, iron and fiber. Mix in the berries' antibacterial and antioxidant effects, and you'll be thankful for cranberries all year long! But just wait, one of the greatest benefits of these delightful little tart berries is their ability to help prevent a number of health issues, as they are the all-star food for busting bacteria...
Burning Pee Prevention
One of cranberries' greatest claims to fame is their ability to prevent infections in the urinary tract. Anyone who has suffered from such an infection, complete with the burning side effects, should deeply appreciate this berry good function! Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins (PACs), which have anti-adhesive properties, physically preventing bacteria from sticking and multiplying to the walls of the urinary tract. These PACs are structurally different from those found in other fruits and vegetables, making this an extremely unique property of the berry. If the harmful bacteria cannot stick around, it cannot colonize and create an infection.
Stomach Ulcer Prevention
Stomach ulcers are another condition cranberries may keep at bay, thanks to the same anti-adhesion properties. In the case of ulcers, cranberries prevent bacteria from sticking to the stomach walls. This, in turn, prevents infections that can lead to ulcers.
Sluggish Brain Prevention
Ever wonder why you feel so young and refreshed after a glass of cranberry juice? When the aforementioned anthocyanidins combine with the sugar in the cranberry, they turn into anthocyanins. Cranberries give you the benefits of both substances, with the latter playing a part in your mental capabilities. Cranberries have the power to improve your motor or cognitive functions, either of which is a plus for keeping a sluggish brain at bay. In turn, they help protect from neurological diseases...and potentially even the effects of aging!
More Cheers for Cranberries!
The benefits of cranberries' don't stop there. The berries' anthocyanins (and high vitamin C content) doubles as a highly effective antioxidant, keeping cells safe from the rambling free radicals that threaten to hit you with all kinds of ailments and diseases. Anthocyanins triple as an anti-inflammatory, bringing even more positive effects. They help fortify blood vessels to prevent leakage and damage, relax blood vessels to increase blood flow, and stabilize capillaries.
Cranberries can also take a bow for their ability to improve eyesight and ocular conditions as well as inhibit the growth of certain tumor cells. Folks have even inhaled the steam of crushed cranberries boiled in water to squash asthma attacks. Your dentist will dig the berries, too, as they contain the compound proanthocyanidine, which can help to stop plaque from forming on your teeth.
Making fresh cranberry sauce is definitely a staple in my Thanksgiving spread every year. If you like to occasionally deviate from the average as I do, try this cranberry sauce that also includes apples and cinnamon... it's got such a fabulous holiday feel! And if you really want to push the limit with your Thanksgiving guests, give the Crazy Drunken Cranberry Sauce a whirl. Mangoes and dessert wine make this addition a holiday party favorite.
While the fresh berries are still in season (or they can also be bought frozen), I also love making other types of sauces for everyday meals like this Cranberry Curd which is delicious paired with fruit or atop meats.
The dried berries are incredibly versatile and are wonderful additions to things like salads, oatmeal, trail mix and yogurt. They can also add the perfect touch of sweetness to savory dishes. Two of my favorites are: Wild Rice Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Cranberries and Pepitas and Bodacious Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Dried Cranberries.
If you'd like to get the benefits of cranberries from the more potent juice form, just be sure to find one without added sugar, as cranberry juice is most often chock-full of it to tone down the tartness. While the pure form may pucker your lips and give you a funny face, the benefits are undeniable. If it is too tart for you, simply dilute it with water. I will often add an ounce or two to my glass of ice water to liven it up, or drink it from my wine glass at night instead of that second pour of wine!
What's your favorite way to get the benefits of cranberries?