This Colorful Fruit Has Unique Health Benefits
Cranberries are a holiday season tradition. Their tart taste, dark red hue, and versatility underlie their popularity. Americans are consuming more cranberries, with 40,000 acres devoted to this crop. Farmers grow cranberries in bogs or marshes, taking advantage of a natural habitat for plants and animals. Long-lived cranberry vines can bear fruit for more than 150 years!
Here are 10 benefits of enjoying cranberries fresh in season, and dried or frozen year-round.
1. Of all fruits, cranberries rank near the top in both number and amount of phytochemicals, beneficial plant substances that help protect your cells in many ways. Scientists have identified over 150 phytochemicals in this berry, with more yet to be discovered.
2. Cranberries have a well-researched, unique ability to make it way more difficult for certain bacteria to infect your body. Most people have heard that cranberries help prevent urinary tract infections by keeping bacteria from sticking to the wall of the urinary tract. What you might not know is that cranberries have a similar ability to keep bacteria from infecting your stomach (decreasing ulcer risk) and mouth (decreasing the chances of cavities and plaque).
3. If you want to reduce chronic inflammation associated with degenerative diseases of aging, cranberries are a powerful ally. Cranberries are potent antioxidants.
4. Cranberries improve the health of your artery walls, helping to ward off cardiovascular disease.
5. Although not as well demonstrated, there is emerging evidence that cranberries can fight off viral infections and reduce the risk of cancer through a variety of protective effects on cellular functioning. Researchers are also investigating whether this fruit helps shield the brain from Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Even if not fully absorbed, the beneficial substances in cranberries signal your body’s own genes and defense mechanisms to work better.
7. You will benefit from lots of fiber and vitamin C.
8. Cranberries are a gorgeous color and will make your meal look more attractive and inviting. Have fun and get the kids to help you contrast food colors and textures.
9. Cranberries are easy to cook with. You can whip up a batch of homemade cranberry sauce in 10 minutes with very little effort.
10. Tart cranberries perfectly complement the taste of stuffing, rice, potatoes, beans, and other healthy foods. The eating experience of putting these foods on the same fork exceeds the sum of the parts.
For a convenient supply of frozen cranberries, simply freeze bags of fresh cranberries (before washing them). Use the frozen cranberries in recipes without thawing first.
Don’t be misled by commercial cranberry juices. Most are quite diluted and high in sugar or artificial sweeteners. Instead, make your own juice by blending fresh cranberries with water and sweetener to taste, then filtering out any remaining pulp. Of course it’s best to eat the whole food rather than just the juice, so consider making cranberry sauce or chutney instead, or using cranberries in whole grain baked goods.
Incorporate more cranberries into your whole foods, plant-based diet and see how good you can feel.
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Blog posting by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet, the smart person’s nutrition book built on sustainable food choices. Enjoy six kinds of whole foods for permanent, hunger-free weight loss and health.