A glossy, scarlet red, very tart berry, the cranberry belongs to the same genus as the blueberry, Vaccinium. (Both berries also belong to the food family called Ericaceae, also known as the heath or heather family.) Like blueberries, cranberries can still be found growing as wild shrubs in northern Europe, northern Asia, and North America. When cultivated, however, cranberries are grown on low trailing vines atop great sandy bogs.
Cranberries have also been called “bounceberries,” because ripe ones bounce, and “craneberries,” a poetic allusion to the fact that their pale pink blossoms look a bit like the heads of the cranes that frequent cranberry bogs. The variety cultivated commercially in the northern United States and southern Canada, the American cranberry, produces a larger berry than either the Southern cranberry, a wild species that is native to the mountains of the eastern United States, or the European variety.
Cranberries have long been valued for their ability to help prevent and treat urinary tract infections. Now, recent studies suggest that this native American berry may also promote gastrointestinal and oral health, lower LDL and raise HDL (good) cholesterol, aid in recovery from stroke, and even help prevent cancer.
Fresh cranberries, which contain the highest levels of beneficial nutrients, are at their peak from October through December, just in time to add their festive hue, tart tangy flavor and numerous health protective effects to your holiday meals. When cranberries’ short fresh season is past, rely on unsweetened cranberry juice made from whole berries and dried or frozen cranberries to help make every day throughout the year a holiday from disease.
Benefits of Cranberries:
1. Cranberries are full of antioxidants
Antioxidants help us stay healthy during cold season. They also protects cells from damage by unstable molecules called free radicals. The National Institutes of Health is funding research on the cranberry’s effects on heart disease, yeast infections and other conditions, and other researchers are investigating its potential against cancer, stroke and viral infections.
2. Drinking Cranberry Juice Can Block Urinary infections
Cranberry juice is known to cling to bacteria that attempts to grab on to cell walls. While women often drink unsweetened cranberry juice to treat an infection, there’s no hard evidence that it works.
3. Cranberry Mouthwash Is Being Developed to Prevent Tooth Decay
A compound discovered in cranberries, proanthocyanidine, prevents plaque formation on teeth and so mouthwashes containing it are being developed to prevent periodontal disease.
4. H. Pylori Bacteria Can Be Warded Off With Cranberries.
In some people, regular cranberry juice consumption for months can kill the H. pylori bacteria, which can cause stomach cancer and ulcers.
5. Drink Cranberry Juice to Lower Bad Cholesterol
Preliminary research is showing that if one drinks cranberry juice every day, it is possible to increase levels of HDL, or good cholesterol, and reduce levels of LDL, known as bad cholesterol.
6. Cranberries Could Potentially Slow Down Tumor Growth
Cranberries may prevent tumors from growing rapidly or starting in the first place.Extracts of chemicals in cranberries prevent breast cancer cells from multiplying in a test tube, but whether that would work in women is unknown.