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We all know fruits and veggies are good for us – no news there, right? If you’ve bypassed cranberries as a simple holiday adornment or just an ingredient in cranberry sauce until now, it’s time we gave you some new insight into these magical berries and what they can do for you. Quite honestly, most of us probably associate cranberries with their ability to fight urinary tract infections, which they may do, but they’re much more beneficial for that. Cranberry juice, controversial to belief, isn’t always the best way to get cranberries’ nutrition into your diet.
Beyond blueberries and more exotic berries (such as goji and acai), cranberries offer their own unique benefits others do not. A relative of the blueberry family, belonging to Heather shrub plant species, the cranberry comes from a flowering plant that grows in water bogs in Canada, The United States and Europe. They’re to be treasured as much as possible since they’re only available through October through December in fresh form. Though relatively inexpensive and easy to find this time of year, they’re a remarkable superfood we’d benefit from using all year round.
Here’s why cranberries deserve a place in your diet:
1. Cancer Prevention
Let’s start with a major benefit – cancer prevention, the topic everyone wants to know more about. Though there is no proven cure for cancer, a plant-based diet has been shown to provide major anti-cancer benefits. But just any old plant-based diet won’t do. A diet based off whole foods (leafy greens, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains) prove to have the most benefits. Cranberries and most berries, offer specific nutrients that serve as cancer’s worst nightmare. Cranberries’ most valuable antioxidants that fight cancer cells are: phenolics, proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins, flavonoids, and triterpenoids. They also contain: resveratrol, piceatannol, and pterostilbene. All these fancy antioxidants fight cancer cell growth, improve immunity, and ward off disease.
2. Tumor Cell Death
Not only can cranberries improve your chances against getting cancer thanks to their antioxidant benefits, but they have also been found to destroy cancer cell growth when consumed on a regular basis. They’ve been found to promote Phase 1 detoxification in the body, which triggers tumor cell death. Cranberries have specifically been linked to: breast, colon, prostate, and lung cancer prevention.
3. Liver Cleansing
Cranberries are one of the best foods to cleanse the liver, though also one of the most overlooked. Their famous ability to improve urinary health and reduce urinary tract infections (UTI’s), is likely due to their antibacterial and antiviral properties that also promote Phase 1 detoxification within the liver. Your liver is the most important organ in your body for filtering out toxins that lead to disease. Cranberries have specifically been found to not only cleanse the liver but also cleanse the blood (which is important since it passes through your liver daily.) Here are 10 more foods that improve liver health further.
4. Reduce Stomach Ulcers
Cranberries kill harmful stomach bacteria including E. Coli and H. plylor (also referred to as Helicobacter pylor). Both lead to stomach disorders, virus development, and stomach ulcers. Cranberries come to the rescue with specific compounds that result in the death of this harmful bacteria and offer protection for the stomach lining. Their high Vitamin C content is another benefit that helps improve immunity. Since the immune system is largely housed in the digestive tract, eating foods that protect your body will also improve digestive health as a bonus. Cranberries even go a step further and help prevent future attachment of stomach bacteria when consumed on a regular basis.
5. Very Low in Sugar
Per 1/2 cup of berries, cranberries only contain 2 grams of sugar, with 3 grams of fiber, which is far less sugar than blueberries coming in at 16 grams, raspberries coming in at 13 grams, strawberries coming in at 8 grams, and blackberries coming in at 13 grams. While fruit from berries isn’t bad for you, it’s always a plus when such a nutritious food like berries offers lower sugar benefits. Eating fruits and vegetables with a low-glycemic index and plenty of fiber-rich, whole plant-based foods is an excellent way to fight off Type 2 diabetes.
6. Protect the Heart
Cranberries’ antioxidants have also been found to improve cardiovascular health, resulting in less arterial plaque, improving cholesterol, and improving blood health. Cranberries also improve blood pressure levels, which also increases heart health and prevents heart disease even further.
7. They’re Delicious and Cheap!
Cranberries have a wonderful, delicious tart flavor, with a sweet undertone once you start chewing them. They’re spectacular to include in breakfast dishes as a great, low-glycemic way to start the day. Cranberries go beautifully in oatmeal (overnight or cooked), quinoa porridge, or make a nice ingredient in a healthy pancake recipe. You can also bake muffins or bread with them, toss them into puddings and smoothies, or even use them as a nice garnish for a meal-worthy salad. They’re also cheap! Per 16 ounce bag of frozen organic cranberries at Whole Foods, you’ll only spend $3.00 off your hard earned dollars, which is about $2 less than a bag of blueberries or blackberries (though those are tasty too!) and $1.00 less than strawberries. Get your hands on them now though and stock up so you’ll have a nice stash year round!
The Best Way to Eat Cranberries:
It’s said to eat cranberries raw since processing destroys their nutrients and decrease enzymes that improve their absorption in the body. This is another benefit to eating frozen cranberries, which are frozen at their peak harvest. That doesn’t mean you can’t bake with cranberries from time to time, but do be sure to enjoy them raw when you can, especially if you’re eating them solely for health benefits.
Avoid those trendy, pricey juices made from cranberries (which are heated and highly processed), along with any type of granola bar or other processed foods that include dried cranberries coated with sugar. If you buy dried cranberries, please read the label. Almost every brand (except most organic brands) are processed with added sugar- even the popular Craisins you’re all probably fans of. Since sugar has been linked to cancer, weight gain, and contributes to Type 2 diabetes, it’s just not smart to add sugar to such a nutritious food. Wouldn’t you agree?
Here are some healthy recipes to enjoy cranberries with:
- Cranberry and Pumpkin Breakfast Loaf
- Spinach and Apple Noodle Salad With Pecans and Cranberries
- Cranberry Coconut Smoothie
- Wild Rice Pilaf with Butternut Squash, Cranberries and Pecans
- Oatmeal and Quinoa Breakfast Bowl
- Autumn Harvest Slow Cooker Oatmeal
- Cranberry Kale Smoothie
Don’t limit cranberries to sugary sauces and drinks alone, and certainly don’t reserve them just for the holiday season. Enjoy them all year round in so many, delicious ways!
Do you eat raw or frozen cranberries?
Image Source: Andrew Yee/Flickr