Cranberries could easily be considered a "superfood" for their unique nutritional and healing properties.
The little known benefits of cranberries include easing stomach ulcers, promoting digestion function, urological health and more!
Also, cranberries have been proven to benefit a host of bodily systems, organs and processes, which we will talk about here.
But first, exactly what are cranberries and what makes this unique fruit so special?
What are Cranberries?
Cranberries are small, hard, round, red fruit with an interesting flavour that can be described as both bitter and sour. They grow on vines in freshwater bogs and related to blueberries and wintergreen.
Cranberries are considered a superfood because they are potent sources of antioxidants, especially a class of flavonoids called proanthocyanidins, which are unique to and abundant in cranberries.
In North-Eastern Canada where cranberries are extensively cultivated, they are also referred to as a "mossberry". Whilst cranberries are mainly grown and consumed in North America, in Australia and other countries, dried cranberries and cranberry juice are generally easy to source, allowing for people throughout the world to benefit from their health giving qualities.
History and Cultivation of Cranberries
In the northern hemisphere and in arctic regions, cranberries have been harvested and eaten for centuries.
Indigenous people in north America were among the first to recognise and embrace cranberries as a source of food.
Certain tribal legends tell of how cranberries were a gift from the Great Spirit sent to earth in the beak of a crane. In Massachusetts around 1620, the Native Americans are reported to have introduced the cranberry to starving English settlers, who incorporated the berry into the traditional "Thanks giving" feast.
Soon thereafter, some areas passed laws to protect the wild berries; only certain people could harvest them at certain times and lawbreakers were heavily fined. Then around 1816, Henry Hall, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War, was claimed to be the first to cultivate the cranberry commercially in the Cape Cod town of Dennis.
A key component of growing cranberries is that they require a unique environment.
The vines or shrubs thrive in layers of gravel, acidic peat soil and sand. When the berries are ripe, they float, making harvesting a matter of flooding the field, shaking the bushes, and then skimming off the berries into awaiting trucks.
A cranberry bog needs to have acidic peaty soil for fruitful berries. These bogs are widely found in areas of north America such as Massachusetts, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Quebec, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.
The Health Benefits of Cranberries
A complete list of all the benefits of cranberries would be impossible to compile since the list is so extensive.
However, here we list 7 of the most common and yet little-known benefits of this beautiful, super-food berry.
1. Promotes Urological Health
From your bladder to your kidneys, cranberries are a superfood for your urological health. Cranberries have dense nutrient properties with unusual abilities to prevent infectious bacteria from sticking to the cells lining the bladder and urinary tract.
Quality cranberry juice produces hippuric acid in the urine which acidifies the urine and prevents bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder.
Thus, cranberries are well known to help to prevent recurring urinary tract (bladder) infections.
2. Cancer Fighting Properties
Cranberries are a good source of ellagic acid, a compound that has raised high hopes in cancer research.
Ellagic acid has been shown to prevent tumours from growing and to disarm cancer-causing agents.
Cranberries also contain salicylic acid, which also has very powerful anti-cancer effects.
3. Prevention of Gum Disease
Recent studies have shown that cranberry juice can help prevent the formation of dental plaque which can eventually lead to tooth decay.
Cranberries are also known to reduce gum disease because they limit the ability of bacteria which causes gum disease, to stick to your teeth and gums. In addition, they help to cut down the amino acids on the gums that cause the bacteria to survive and thrive.
4. Prevents Stomach Ulcers
Cranberry juice contains compounds called proanthocyanidins, which are thought to help prevent Helicobacter pylori, the primary bacterium thought to be responsible for stomach ulcers, from adhering to the stomach lining.
Recent research shows that people who drink a cup of cranberry juice twice a day are three times more likely to ward off infection with the bacteria than those who don't.
5. Contributes to Good Digestion
Packed with fibre, cranberries can help improve digestion and keep you regular.
Increasing your fibre intake will improve insulin sensitivity and can also aid in weight loss.
Studies also show that people who eat cranberries have higher amounts of good gut bacteria that are essential for not only a healthy digestion system but your whole brain and body.
6. Promotes Heart Health
Cranberries are loaded with heart-healthy antioxidants, which can help lower bad cholesterol and blood pressure.
In fact, cranberries have even been shown to relax arteries clogged with cholesterol, allowing for better blood flow.
7. Boost Immune Function
One of the lesser-known benefits of cranberries is that they are high in vitamin E which is crucial for healthy immune function.
Strong immunity is vital to help your body heal faster and for delaying and preventing the onset of chronic diseases caused by an influx of free radicals, such as Arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Cataracts and more!
Where To Source & How To Enjoy Cranberries
In northern countries where fresh cranberries are readily available, they are often prepared into a jelly or compote as an accompaniment to main meals.
In Australia and in other countries outside the US and Canada, organic dried cranberries (and frozen cranberries) are generally available from good health food stores, or online for delivery to your door.
The best ways to enjoy dried cranberries include, adding a handful to your muesli, breakfast bowls or to spruce up your salads. You can also snack on them straight out of the bag on their own or with a handful of raw almonds or macadamia nuts!
For a quick and easy, super nourishing snack try our popular Cranberry Pulse Sacred Meal available in our store.
Cranberry juice is also a wonderful way to receive the health benefits of cranberries, however it's important to choose a pure, organic variety without additives and preservatives.
One of the best brands available is "Lakewood" Pure Cranberry Juice which is available from good health stores and even some large pharmacy chains.
The Main Take Away
Cranberries are a genuine super food because they deliver so many profound health benefits.
Even though cranberries are mainly native to North America, don't let that stop you from incorporating organic cranberries into your diet regularly, either in dried, frozen or juice form.
Whilst cranberries and cranberry juice won't necessarily be a food that you enjoy every single day, take the time to weave these into your monthly nutritional plan, and you'll go a long way to keeping many everyday ailments at bay, in particular, stomach ulcers, urinary health issues and digestive problems.
Tolman Self Care.