Thursday, November 15, 2012

cranberries: nature's little helper

Cranberries don’t get as much press as they deserve. They might be sour and somewhat reclusive in traditional cooking, but their health benefits go far. Also called “bounceberries”, for their ability to bounce when ripe, these little powerfruits pack quite a bit of nutrition and health benefits aside from their well-known ability to cure a urinary tract infection.

Blocking Bacteria from Sticking Around in your Body 

Proanthocyanidins, or PACs, are a natural component found in cranberries. These condensed tannins inhibit the adhesion of infection-causing bacteria within the urinary tract. Recent research shows that these PACs may act elsewhere in the body preventing other infectious diseases. According to The Cranberry Institute,

     “The adhesion of the different types of bacteria that cause both stomach ulcers, and periodontal gum disease, have been shown to be inhibited in the presence of cranberry, and it is likely that others susceptible bacteria will be found as well [...] Not only may regular consumption of cranberry products help maintain health, but in the process will reduce the number of infections in a given population, and thereby the doses of antibiotics which are needed. It is becoming increasingly clear that a reduction in general antibiotic use also reduces the likelihood of the bacteria becoming resistant to those very same antibiotics, which is a public health problem of global proportions.”

It has been accepted by medical communities worldwide that antibiotics lower immune function in children and resistant bacteria has become a serious issue. Cranberries very well may be to solution here.

Cranberries: Good for your Teeth?

Plaque is simply bacteria that have attached to your teeth and gums. Much like cranberries ability to break up the adhesive purposes of bacteria in urinary tracts, cranberries contain a substance known as a nondialysable material (NDM) that has demonstrated the ability to break up oral bacteria that causes tooth decay and gum disease. According to Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition,

    “clinical trial using a mouthwash containing cranberry [...] showed a two order of magnitude reduction in Streptococcus mutans colony forming units compared with the placebo group (unpublished data). A large percentage of dental caries (cavities) can be attributed to S. mutans.”

Antioxidant Packed Little Disease Fighters

These simple little berries pack a lot of antioxidants in a small space. Cranberries contain more antioxidants than any other common fruits. These antioxidants fight off the free radicals we are exposed to daily by consuming them and removing them from the body, in laymen’s terms. They are believed to fight off heart disease and cancer. Eating cranberries helps the body maintain a healthy level of antioxidants even under high stress.

Cranberries May Be the Fountain of Youth

Research supports theories that aging is caused by free radicals destroying cells in your body. It has been found that antioxidants and other phytonutrients provide protection against these free radicals that cause chronic age-related afflictions including loss of coordination and memory. As said before, cranberries are high in antioxidants. Preliminary studies in animals have shown that cranberries protect brain cells from free radical damage and subsequent neurological damage.

Cranberries are also a rich source of the flavonoid quercetin that has been shown to inhibit development of breast and colon cancers. Drinking cranberry juice has proven benefits to your heart as well by breaking up “bad cholesterol” or lipoproteins. Cranberries have also been known to reduce the bacteria associated with peptic stomach ulcers, benefit the eyes and improve cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy, and prevent kidney stones by preventing the calcium and phosphate from binding together.

Eating Cranberries

High in vitamin C, cranberries support immune function along with providing antioxidant and antibacterial benefits to your body; however, these effects are nearly depleted by the addition of high amounts of sugar. So how can you include them in your diet? Aside from drinking cranberry juice, you can mix them with other naturally sweet fruits or add a zip to your meals and use them like you would lemon. Dried cranberries can be added to an array of common foods including cereal and trail mix or if you just don’t favor the flavor you can always take a cranberry supplement. Other ways to include cranberries in your diet?

  • use them in a vinaigrette
  • throw some on your salads
  • grab some dried cranberries on the go
  • add them in bread  and muffins
  • add them to your spicy meals
  • or even, make a cosmopolitan 
Sauce it Up

You can make some cranberry sauce in ten minutes. Serve this with cottage cheese, yogurt, or ricotta cheese for breakfast or a snack. It’s also good with cheeses and nuts and as we all know, cranberries go great with turkey, but it also compliments a good chicken dinner or pork roast. Here is a recipe for a healthy chutney to accommodate any meat dish or add to your morning oatmeal

Kate Hunter is a writer at Everlasting Health Center, Reno’s best vitamin, supplement, herb and health food store since 1995. She enjoys organic gardening, whole food cooking, and following up on the latest health food news. Katie obtained B.A. in English with an emphasis on writing from Southern Oregon University and has been writing about nutrition, healthy living, cooking, and gardening for over nine years. She is a mother of three and spends her time baking, canning, growing and drying herbs, and, of course, reading food labels.

photo: Melodi2

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