by: Heidi Fagley
Native to America and part of the blueberry family, fresh cranberries are at their peak and sold in markets October through December. Easy to store in the freezer, they can be thawed and turned into a delicious dish created in minutes.
Cranberries are grown in bogs and float in water during harvesting. Researchers have found that the anthocyanin content of this berry (the flavonoid pigments that give cranberries their red color) is increased due to the amount of natural sunlight reaching their skin. As a result, water harvesting actually enhances the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the cranberry.
An important aspect of cranberries is that they carry a special combination of five separate types of antioxidants. Also special to the makeup of this fruit is the combination of resveratrol, piceatannol, and pterostilbene. These particular phytonutrients naturally found in cranberries provide maximum antioxidant benefits only when consumed in combination with each other. It's no wonder this powerhouse berry is supporting so many bodily systems in gaining health.
URINARY TRACT HEALTH – Researchers have found that proanthocyanidins (PACs) found in cranberries are "anti-adhesion" compounds that help prevent microorganisms from adhering to cells of the urinary tract.
DENTAL HEALTH – The same PACSs help prevent bacteria from forming in the mouth. They support the reduction of harmful plaque that leads to gum disease.
CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH – Phenols in cranberries support the reduction of LDL cholesterol levels and raise levels of HDL cholesterol in the blood, help to reduce blood pressure, and prevent the formation of blood clots.
ANTI-CANCER – Scientists have established the answer behind the fruit's anti-cancer properties: the ability to trigger off programmed cell death in tumor cells. They have determined that certain compounds in the fruit can inhibit the formation of cancer cells.
ANTI-ULCER – Tannins found in cranberries can prevent the adhesion of ulcer-causing bacteria in the stomach.
Choose deep red, plump berries without scaring or bruising. Nicknamed "bounceberries" because they bounce when ripe, they are at their best when firm to the touch.
Since processing and heating cranberries reduces their nutrient and enzyme levels as well as the flavor, consuming the berry uncooked is best. Because the skin of the cranberry contains the bulk of its nutrients, eating the whole fruit is by far the healthiest way to consume this nutritious berry.
Below is a simple relish recipe perfect any time of year.
Raw Cranberry Relish
3 red delicious apples
3 ripe bananas
1 bag fresh/frozen cranberries (if frozen – do not thaw before processing)
Optional: sweetener to taste
Fork-mash bananas and set aside.
Wash and cut apples into chunks. In a food-processor or blender, pulse-blend apples and cranberries one handful at a time making sure to keep the fruit slightly chunky. Scoop out mixture as necessary.
Mix ingredients together. Best when chilled.