One of my favorite foods in the Holiday season has always been… well anything Cranberry really!
I love adding spoonfuls of Cranberry sauce to the Christmas day feast, sipping Cranberry Juice and/or Cranberry wine, enjoying a Cranberry-Orange salad for brunch. A favorite of mine is cranberry sauce over coconut Ice cream for dessert!
And though the Christmas season seems to hold claim to this treat, they are equally delicious enjoyed throughout the year in granolas, salads, etc. either fresh-from-frozen or dried.
You really can’t go wrong - Thank goodness they’re so healthy!
Besides our love of the crimson berry as a side-dish, cranberries have a long history of use in North America, having been used as food, as medicine, as a wound treatment, for natural red dye, as well as in ceremonies.
Nutritionally, cranberries are all-stars. They’re very low in calories (provided you’re not eating those sweetened with cane sugar), are an excellent source of vitamin C, and provide both soluble and insoluble fiber. Additionally, cranberries are a rich source of anthrocyanidins, which are the antioxidants that provide the red, blue and purple pigments to various fruits and vegetables (including blueberries, raspberries, beets, etc.).
The medicinal benefits imparted by cranberries are in large part well known and prescribed by Naturopaths and Herbalists on a regular basis.
The best-known application for this berry is against both Acute and Chronic Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs), both in terms of prevention and treatment. Proanthrocyanidins, one group of the anthrocyanidins, actually help prevent bacteria, including Escherichia coli (one of the more common pathogens involved in UTIs), from adhering to the walls of the bladder and urinary tract. If the bacteria cannot stick to the walls, they cannot break into the walls and establish themselves there, and will simply be washed away with the flow of urine. They also help to acidify urine, which makes for a less hospitable environment for any bacteria that may be present.
Cranberries are also known fro protecting against calcium-based kidney stones. This is due to its content of ‘Quinic acid’ – the component that acidifies urine. More acidic urine helps prevent calcium and phosphate ions from forming into stones.
A third benefit imparted by these little red gems is their high antioxidant value. The anthocyanidins provide exceptional antioxidant value (more than five times higher than broccoli), and cranberries have the highest amounts of these compounds as compared with most other fruit and vegetables. Antioxidants are well-known to be beneficial in the prevention of many diseases including Alzheimer’s dementia, cancers, cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis, etc (Note: see my previous blog on the benefits of Antioxidants).
Cranberries, also known by the name Vaccinium macrocarpon, are actually native to North America, not to mention grown locally here on Vancouver Island, so by indulging in this healthy fruit, you’re supporting local farmers. Cranberries are part of the same family as Blueberries, and share many of the same health promoting characteristics. As for any fruit and vegetable, in order to obtain optimal health properties it’s important to select brightly coloured fruit – this contains the most anthrocyanidin pigments, therefore the highest level of antioxidants. Additionally, steer clear of the highly sweetened juices and cranberry preparations as they not only contain the lowest amounts of antioxidants (due to the excessive processing they typically undergo), but also the high sugar content will negate any benefit you hope to achieve.
Below is a tasty recipe incorporating vitamin rich, highly antioxidant fruit with warming-stimulating spices, which is perfect both as an everyday warming punch and Holiday Drink!
Hot Spiced Cranberry-Apple Punch
3 C Unsweetened Apple Juice
2 C Unsweetened Cranberry Juice
1 Orange, sliced
1 Lemon, sliced
¼ C Whole Cranberries
¼ C Honey
2-3 Cinnamon Sticks (+ 1 for each cup)
4 Whole Cloves
Pinch each of Allspice & Nutmeg
Note: **For an adult/Holiday versions, try either substituting Dry Red Wine for the apple juice or adding ¼-½ C Brandy
Ps: There are 2 more blogs with cranberry recipes in my website… can you find them?
Dr Katarine Holewa, ND