Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) are small, red berries that grow in damp bogs and swampy areas of North America. The cranberry plant is a perennial evergreen vine that is closely related to the blueberries and bilberries, as they belong to the same genus Vaccinium. It is described as a low-growing, woody perennial with small, oval leaves borne on vine-like shoot.
The raw red berries have an unique acidic taste that can overwhelm its sweetness, often taste too tart. Because of this, most cranberries are processed into products such as sauce, jam, juice drinks, and sweetened dried cranberries. Only a small percentage of the cranberries are sold fresh to consumers. Whether these fruits are enjoyed fresh, dried, or in juice form, cranberries are one the most nutritious fruits that offer many positive health benefits.
Cranberries are packed with powerful antioxidants called proanthocyanidins, which are responsible for the red color of cranberries. These antioxidants can neutralize free radicals, which damage cell membranes and contribute to aging.
Health Benefits of Cranberries
1. Prevent Cardiovascular Disease
Regular intake of cranberries may benefit your heart in several different ways. It helps to lower the LDL (bad) cholesterol levels which can clog the arteries. It also helps to prevent plaque from forming on the arterial walls, which can lead to cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and stroke.
2. Treat Urinary Tract Infections
Cranberries have long been known to help treat urinary tract infection (UTI). Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins that can prevent E. coli bacteria from sticking on the bladder wall. If you suffer from frequent urinary tract infections, eating more cranberries may be helpful.
3. Prevent Cancer
The proanthocyanidins found in cranberries can inhibit the growth of breast, lung, and prostate cancer. These compounds have the ability to fight free radicals, and prevent micro-tumors from growing and spreading.
4. Anti-aging Properties
The antioxidants present in cranberries will help your body to get rid of free radicals which contribute to the aging process. A recent study suggests that a diet high in antioxidant may prevent chronic age-related problems such as loss of coordination and memory.
5. Prevent Scurvy
Cranberry is extremely high in Vitamin C and hence can help prevent scurvy, a condition caused by a lack of vitamin C. The high level of vitamin C in cranberry also helps in making collagen, which is crucial for the proper functioning of tissues and organs.
6. Protect Your Teeth Against Dental Problems
A research has showed that cranberries juice may help prevent tooth decay and cavities. Scientists found that a compound in the fruit can block the bacteria from sticking onto the teeth, preventing the formation of the dental plaques.
However, you should limit the intake of cranberry-containing products as many of these products contained large amounts of sugar which could lead to tooth decay.
7. Protect Against Stomach Ulcers
Regular consumption of cranberry can kill helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that responsible for most stomach ulcers. Cranberries are rich in a potent antioxidant called proanthocyanidins, which have been shown in multiple studies to help eliminate H. pylori in people prone to stomach ulcers.
When buying cranberries, choose the really red, shiny ones that are firm to the touch and avoid soft berries as this indicates that they’re decay or rot.