Food of the Month: Crushing on Cranberries
Care of Ashley Sauve
Cranberries are a seasonal favorite during the holidays, an icon of festivity. They’re also a staple dried fruit used in trail mixes, granolas, and even salads. While we generally see cranberries as complement, condiment or side, this tiny berry actually packs a solid nutritional punch and brings to the table a host of health benefits.
Like all berries, cranberries are a potent source of anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. This means that they can support immune function, protect against cardiovascular disease, and play a role in cancer prevention. Cranberries in particular have a long-standing reputation for protecting against Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). This effect is seen both in humans, and even in our companion animals (especially cats), and is thanks to a compound in cranberry called proanthocyanidin. This compound in cranberries prevents bacteria from adhering to the walls of the urinary tracts, where they settle and multiply contributing to UTI symptoms. There is also research being done on these anti-adhesion effects potentially preventing stomach ulcers, which are also caused by bacteria settling on stomach lining.
Cranberries are naturally very tart, and most enjoyable when sweetened slightly. However, many dried and canned cranberries are completely filled with refined sugars. To get the most health benefit out of cranberries, it is best to enjoy them in their most natural state. This means buying them whole, fresh or frozen and sweetening them to taste yourself, with healthy sweeteners such as maple syrup. Fresh cranberries are amazing in smoothies, made into a sauce, and even roasted with root vegetables and maple syrup.