When it comes to festive fall fruits, cranberries are king. Whether you're a fan or not, no holiday tablescape is complete without a bowl of cranberry sauce. Cranberries are also perfect for tossing into salads, serving with roasted pork loin, potatoes, baking into pies, serving on cheese and charcuterie platters, and more.
The cranberry harvest in North America begins around late September or early October, and lasts through early November, with the fresh berries remaining in season through January. Frozen cranberries, craisins, cranberry juice, and other cranberry products are available year-round. Fun fact: Cranberries are one of only three cultivated fruits that are native to North America. Native Americans used cranberries for food, medicine, dyes for clothes and blankets, to cure meat, and to draw poison from arrow wounds, as early as 1550. Some farmers at Ocean Spray come from seventh-generation cranberry families, and there are vines in Massachusetts that are more than 150 years old.
Need more reasons to love cranberries? Health-wise, we have plenty. Cranberries are a nutritional powerhouse; rich in antioxidants, polyphenols, prebiotic fibers, vitamins, and minerals. Here are the many health benefits you’ll reap from this tart-and-tangy fall fruit.
Among the cranberry’s many benefits include raising good cholesterol, improving blood pressure, and maintaining cardiovascular health. Other research has found that drinking cranberry juice daily significantly reduces triglyceride levels—which are a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
The skin of cranberries contains a concentrated amount of ursolic acid, an antioxidant with strong anti-inflammatory effects.
Cranberries are very high in antioxidants—particularly flavonol polyphenols—which is associated with the prevention of some diseases and improved digestion. Thanks to their antioxidant properties, cranberries have also been found to not only help reduce inflammation that may lead to cancer but also to block a wide range of enzymes that contribute to the formation, growth, and spread of cancer cells. Growing evidence suggests that cranberries have the potential ability to limit the development and severity of certain cancers and vascular diseases including atherosclerosis, ischemic stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases of aging.
(Potential) prevention of urinary tract infections
Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are most often caused by the bacteria E.coli attaching itself to the inner surface of your bladder and urinary tract. Cranberries contain phytonutrients known as A-type proanthocyanidins that prevent E. coli from attaching to the lining of your bladder and urinary tract, making cranberries a potential preventive measure against UTIs. More research is needed here, and keep in mind that cranberries are not effective for treating infections—they only reduce your risk of getting them in the first place.
Researchers in Canada and Japan have been investigating the effects of cranberry on bacteria that causes tooth decay and gum disease – they've found that the cranberry seems to weaken the ability of bacteria to attach to teeth and gums.
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