The cranberry is way more than a delicious holiday red jewel! Did you know Native Americans first used cranberries for a red dye? Also as a healing agent, a decoration and then a food! Less than a century later, the Pilgrims learned to use cranberries from the Native Americans (1). I’ve been writing and blogging about this favorite berry for years. And thought I’d dedicate this entire blog to the cranberry as an everyday food for health!
More History about the Ruby Red Jewel
In 1816, Captain Henry Hall became the first to successfully cultivate cranberries, and in the early 1820’s, cranberries were being shipped to Europe for sale (1). There are four main varieties of cranberries including European, American, Mountain, and Highbush. Cranberry sauce originated in 1864 by General Ulysses S. Grant, who ordered it and served it to his troops during the siege of Petersburg (2). Today, North Americans eat cranberries and cranberry sauce as traditional foods for both Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. And the cranberry is becoming more of a menu mainstream showing up in breads, baked goods, granolas, salsa and fun infused cocktails.
Cranberries provide us with a wide variety of antioxidants including phenolic acids, proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins, flavonoids, and triterpenoids. Antioxidants help combat oxidative stress, support cell maintenance and growth. Cranberries are also a very good source of vitamin C (good for immune health), dietary fibre (good for digestive health), and manganese (an essential mineral good for both heart and bone health).
In addition to reducing the risk of certain digestive health cancers such as colon, there is research suggesting that cranberries may prevent Helicobacter pylori infections in the stomach. Helicobacter pylori infections can lead to peptic ulcer disease and gastric cancer. One study suggests consuming 500ml of cranberry juice per day over a three month period may have a protective effect (3).
Research has demonstrated that eating cranberries may enhance the immune system due to the high concentration of antioxidants. In a study published in 2013, the authors concluded participants receiving 450 ml of cranberry juice daily had increased concentration of immune fighter cells (4). The treatment group also reported fewer influenza and cold symptoms through self-reported questionnaires.
Urinary Tract Health
There is much research identifying the role of cranberries in preventing urinary tract infections (UTI’s) by inhibiting the attachment of bacteria including Escherichia coli in the urinary tract. In a study published in the World Journal of Urology, the results showed that when the participants drank 750 ml of cranberry juice, the presence of adherent bacteria was much less than the control groups (5).
Even though the cranberry is way more than a delicious holiday red jewel with the season upon us, why not try this beautiful and delicious cranberry and pear tart recipe from bonappetit.com
- Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association. (n.d). History of Cranberries. In Cranberries. Retrieved November 25, 2014, from http://www.cranberries.org/cranberries/history.html.
- Filippone P. (n.d). Cranberry History. In Food History Resources and Recipes. Retrieved November 25, 2014, from http://homecooking.about.com/od/foodhistory/a/cranberyhistory.htm.
- Zhang L, Ma J, Pan K, Go V, Chen J, You W. Efficacy of cranberry juice on helicobacter pylori infection: A double-blind, randomized placbo-controlled trial. Helicobacter. 2005; 10(2): 139-145.
- Nantz M, Rowe C, Muller C, Creasy R, Colee J, Khoo C, et al. Consumption of cranberry polyphenols enhances γδ-T cell proliferation and reduces the number of symptoms associated with colds and influenza: A randomized, placebo-controlled intervention study. Nutrition Journal. 2013; 12: 161.
- Di Martino P, Agniel R, David K, Templer C, Gaillard J, Deny P, et al. Reduction of escherichia coli adherence to uroepithelial bladder cells after consumption of cranberry juice: A double-blind randomized placebo-controlled cross-over trial. World Journal of Urology. 2006; 24: 21-27.