Properties and Benefits of Cranberries: Though not sweet as other berries, cranberries (Vaccinium oxycoccos) are a wonderful source of potent antioxidants as well as vitamin C. According to several research papers, regular consumption of fresh cranberries can help reduce blood cholesterol levels and prevent plaque buildup on artery walls.
Moreover, it would appear that the berry helps inhibit E. coli spread, reducing urinary tract infection rates as well as other bacterial infections. Cranberries have also been shown to contain special compounds which help prevent cavities and reduce inflammatory disease risks.
What do cranberries look and taste like? Cranberries are small, round, edible pale red to deep red berries. They grow on a small, evergreen shrubs and can be found throughout Europe and Northern and Central America. Unlike most berries, cranberries are not sweet. They are quite tart, acidic which is why they are rarely eaten as they are. In order to make them more palatable, most people add sugar to them or add them to various baked goods such as pies, tarts or the popular Thanksgiving cranberry sauce.
Nevertheless, cranberries are the healthiest in their raw form and consuming them alongside refined sugar or subjecting them to high temperatures will destroy most of their nutritional value. When compared to other fruits, cranberries are rather low in vitamins and minerals, but compensate for this with an excellent antioxidant content, to which they owe most of their health benefits.
What are cranberries good for? Here is a list of the top 5 nutrition facts and health benefits of cranberries:
1) Cardiovascular health. Anthocyanins proanthocyanidins (peonidin) and quercetin are potent antioxidants found in cranberries which were shown to help reduce blood cholesterol levels and prevent plaque buildup on artery walls. Lipids (fat), calcium, white blood cells and other compounds may stick to the inside of our arteries, forming a sort of plaque which thickens the arteries, restricting blood flow to the heart and brain. This condition known as atherosclerosis increases both stroke and infarction risks.
2) Bacterial infections. According to research, cranberries may prevent bacteria such as Escherichia coli from infecting the bladder and urethra, causing what is commonly known as a urinary tract infection. Moreover, eating raw berries or drinking them in juice form interferes with the activity of the bacterium known as Streptococcus mutans preventing it from adhering to the tooth surface, causing tooth decay.
3) Inflammatory disease. Cranberries boast a high antioxidant content and supply us with good amounts of vitamin C and manganese, all powerful natural anti-inflammatory agents. Because inflammation has been linked to chronic disease (cancer, diabetes, heart disease), maintaining it within normal limits is the key to keeping in good health.
4) Antiviral properties. Cranberries provide us with 20% of the RDA of vitamin C, an excellent antimicrobial and antiviral agent. Vitamin C boosts immunity by increasing the aggressiveness of white blood cells and thus creating the premises for a better immune system response in case of a bacterial or virus attack.
5) Anticancer properties. Cranberries rank high on the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale for antioxidants, meaning they boast a high antioxidant activity. A high intake of antioxidant-rich foods is said to reduce overall cancer risks and contribute to delaying aging signs such as wrinkles or premature hair graying.
Despite not having the best nutritional profile, cranberries make a healthy snack, provided you eat then raw. A good alternative would be cranberry juice which is healthier than regular fruit because it concentrates more nutrients per serving. Just make sure you make your own. Supermarket cranberry juice tends to have too much added sugar which basically annuls the health benefits of the fruit. Adding them to your breakfast cereal or yoghurt might help you get over the bitter taste.