Native Americans actually ate cranberries cooked and
sweetened with honey or maple syrup—the beginnings of the traditional cranberry
sauce, as we know and love. Cranberries were also used as a red dye, but
more importantly–as a medicine, they were used as a poultice for wounds and for
preventing infections. The powerful tannins in them help to contract the
tissues and stop bleeding, and some of the compounds in cranberries also
contain some powerful antibiotic effects as well.
Cranberries and cranberry juice have a reputation for
helpful in preventing or treating urinary tract infections.
The most recent studies now suggest that this little red superberry is
beneficial for the gastrointestinal tract, prevents cavities, helps prevent
kidney stones, aids in recovery from strokes, prevents cancer, and lowers LDL
(bad) cholesterol and raises HDL (good) cholesterol.
Compounds in cranberry juice can actually disable the
dangerous E. coli bacteria–even the antibiotic-resistant
strains. E. coli, is actually a class of powerful microorganisms
that are responsible for a wide variety of illnesses that can run the gamut
from urinary and kidney infections, to gastroenteritis (nausea and vomiting),
and even tooth decay. These bacteria are altered by particular tannins (called
proanthocyanidins) that are found in cranberries. The tannins actually prevent
the harmful bacteria from adhering to our cells in the body, which is the first
step in any infection.
Cranberries are also pretty powerful fighting
viruses—something that antibiotics just can’t touch. Antibiotics can only fight
bacteria. When researchers exposed three different viral species of E.
coli and the GI-related rotavirus SA-11, to commercially available
cranberry juice, the viruses were all completely neutralized. This type of
response, however, is dose-dependent, and you have to drink at least 20%
unsweetened, undiluted cranberry juice (Phytomedicine, January, 2007).
You know that probiotics are great for gastrointestinal
health, but did you know that cranberries also benefit the healthy probiotics
that grow in your digestive tract, while killing off more harmful bacteria
such as Listeria (responsible for food poisoning) and h.pylori (responsible for
Also published in this same journal was a study noting that
compounds isolated from cranberry juice actually prevent the major
cause of tooth decay. Of course, if you eat cranberries loaded with
sugar, you will defeat that benefit, since sugar is responsible for the growth
of tooth decay. Only blueberries had the same benefits, but their protection
was much weaker.
Cranberries contain quinic acid, which is an acidic compound
that is not broken down in the body, but actually comes out unchanged through
the urine. Quinic acid causes urine to become slightly acidic, which is
sufficient to prevent
kidney stones from forming. In patients who have recurrent kidney
stones, cranberry juice has been shown to reduce and break down calcium in the
urine by more than 50%, and calcium is the primary substance of kidney stones.
Cranberries have also been shown to have a significant
reduction in LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), and increased HDL
cholesterol. In one study, participants’ HDL increased an average of 10% after
drinking three glasses of cranberry juice per day–an increase that corresponds
to about a 40% reduction in heart disease.
In this same study, subjects’ overall antioxidant levels
increased by as much as 121% after three servings of juice per day. Increased
antioxidant levels are associated with a decreased risk of cancers,
aging, Alzheimer’s, and many other diseases, as well as heart disease. Cranberries
also improve blood vessel function, so they can help individuals who already
have atherosclerosis (clogging of the arteries).
These pretty, red, phytochemical powerhouses are packed
with 5 times the antioxidant content of broccoli, and rank highest
among most fruits and vegetables. Compared to 19 other common fruits,
cranberries were found to contain the highest level of antioxidant phenols and
the highest free-radical scavenging capacity of all of them! Cranberries were
followed by by apples, red grapes, strawberries, pineapples, bananas, peaches,
lemons, oranges pears and grapefruits.
Several newly discovered substances in cranberries have been
found to be toxic to a cancer tumor cells—including lung, cervical, prostate,
breast and leukemia cancers. The same Cornell study that confirmed cranberries
as having high levels of antioxidants also found that cranberries had the
strongest ability to stop the spread of cancer cells, as well as stopping tumor
Cranberries have a pretty short season—they are harvested
between Labor Day and Halloween and show up in your grocery store around
October through the end of December. Fresh cranberries, which contain the
highest levels of nutrients and phytochemicals, arrive just in time to add
their bright red festive hue, tart tangy flavor and numerous health benefits to
holiday meals. When cranberry season is over, cranberries are available as cranberry
juice, or dried or frozen.
How to Choose
Choose fresh plump cranberries, deep red in color, that are
firm to the touch.
Firmness is a primary indicator of quality and freshness.
The deeper red their color, the more highly concentrated the healthy
Fresh cranberries have more antioxidants than dried; organic
undiluted cranberry juice contains a high amount of the beneficial compounds,
and bottled cranberry drinks and cranberry cocktails with added sugars or low
calorie sweeteners contain the least—plus you want to avoid the sugar and corn
syrup added to these! If you choose unsweetened cranberry juice, you can
just add stevia to
make it sweeter, but without the added sugar.
Fresh cranberries can be stored in your refrigerator or
freezer for a few months. Once frozen, cranberries keep for over a year. Once
thawed, frozen berries will be quite soft and should be used immediately in
smoothies, pies or other dishes.
Dried cranberries are sold in many grocery stores as snacks.
Look for dried cranberries without added sugars or oils if possible. For cancer
prevention, it’s better to eat whole cranberries, not just the cranberry juice.
You can take advantage of cranberries’ tartness by
substituting them for vinegar or lemon juice when dressing your green salads.
Toss the greens with a little olive oil then add a handful of raw chopped
cranberries. You can easily increase your intake by simply topping off a cup of
yogurt or green salad with a half cup of cranberries—or try tossing them into
your smoothie, or sprinkling over your cereal.
For an easy-to-make salad that will immediately become a
favorite, place 2 cups fresh berries in your food processor, along with ½ cup
of fresh pineapple chunks, a quartered skinned orange, an organic sweet apple
(such as one of the Delicious variety) and a handful or two of walnuts or
pecans. Blend till well mixed but still chunky. Dice 3-4 stalks of celery, add
to the cranberry mixture and stir till just combined.
For a delicious drink, combine unsweetened organic cranberry
juice with your favorite fruit juice and sparkling mineral water for a
refreshing spritzer. If this is too tart, try it with a touch of stevia added
as sweetener. Sprinkle a handful of dried cranberries over a bowl of hot
oatmeal, barley, or any cold cereal.
Try this awesome recipe below for dinner…It’s amazing!
Grilled Salmon with Fresh Cranberry Salsa
In a scene straight out of the TV cooking show series,
“Chopped” I was looking to make something tasty for dinner and being in a
hurry, I decided to just use what I could find in the fridge.
Hmm…an orange, cilantro, some fresh cranberries, and a piece
of frozen wild caught coho salmon. Ok!
I decided to make salsa out of the cranberries and serve it
with the salmon. I was delighted with how good it was! You will be too, when
you try this recipe.
The tart taste of the fresh cranberries mixes with the
sweetness of the orange and picks up the flavor of the salmon in a fresh new
way. Your taste buds will be absolutely delighted!
- 2-4 wild caught salmon fillets (sockeye salmon is
great with this-it has a firmer texture and sweeter taste)
- Jerk seasoning (I used a pre-made powdered rub)
- 1 cup (or so) fresh cranberries, chopped with a
knife, or lightly processed in food processor
- ½ small red onion
- 1-2 minced garlic cloves
- 1 orange, tangerine or blood orange, sectioned and
cut in pieces
- Juice of half a lime
- Hot pepper flakes, to taste
- 2-4 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
- 1 tsp or so honey or maple syrup, to taste
- Sea salt
Chop cranberries, and mix with orange, onion, lime, cilantro and
hot pepper flakes. Season the salmon with jerk seasoning, and grill
or broil till tender and flaky. Serve topped with cranberry mixture.
Enjoy! Serves 2-4.
If you want an amazing healthy dessert treat made with
cranberries, try this recipe:
chocolate bark with cranberries & pistachios
And here’s a recipe below from my good friend Danette May on
how to make healthier lower-sugar cranberry sauce that tastes great:
lower sugar cranberry sauce