For most of us, the only time we think about eating an actual cranberry is during Thanksgiving dinner. But there are a lot of reasons to get more familiar with this little red berry. Fresh cranberries are low in calories (they only have 44 calories per cup) and sugar, high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, an excellent source of vitamin C, and a good source of manganese and copper.
But, like other fruits such as grapes, cranberry's benefits aren't readily apparent from looking at the nutrition label. Cranberries are a rich source of anthocyanidins, antioxidant pigments that give blue, purple, and red pigments to fruits and vegetables. In fact, studies show that fresh cranberries have some of the most potent antioxidants of any common fruits. Cranberries have anticancer and antibacterial properties, as well as inhibit the growth of common foodborne pathogens. Because of cranberry's antibacterial properties, it is known to aid in the prevention and cure of urinary tract infections, fight the formation of dental plaque by helping to reduce the bacterial adhesion to teeth, and prevent ulcers by stopping certain disease-causing bacteria from sticking to the lining of the stomach.
Cranberries are high in phenols (also known as phenolic acids) which are plant chemicals known to be very good protection against several health problems and diseases. Cranberries are one of the highest fruit sources of phenols: a half cup of fresh cranberries has 373 phenols per serving, which is more than red grapes, apples, strawberries, or blueberries.
Cranberries have also been shown to help prevent kidney stones. Kidney stones are made up of calcium salts, and cranberries help to decrease the amount of ionized calcium. There is a component of cranberries called quinic acid that is not metabolized by the body and is therefore excreted unchanged in the urine. This increase in the acidity of the urine prevents calcium and phosphate ions from forming insoluble stones, or kidney stones.
There are many benefits to eating cranberries year round, but remember, these benefits are at their highest when actual fresh, raw cranberries are eaten. Once you dry them, can them, or sweeten them, they may still have some of their beneficial compounds intact, but many will be lost. Compounding the problem is the increase of calories and sugar in dried, canned, and sweetened cranberries. It is also important to note that the deeper the red color of the cranberries, the higher the concentration of healthy anthocyanin pigments and the higher the amount of other antioxidants and nutrients.
Two 12 ounce bags of organic cranberries
3 large organic apples that have been peeled (a sweet variety)
1/2 cup water
One cinnamon stick
Lemon juice – a few squirts from a fresh lemon
1/4 cup raw honey (vegan option: coconut syrup)
Get the directions for this recipe at Real Food Forager
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