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Cranberries - for super antioxidants

Abridged from information supplied by the Cranberry Media Bureau

Cranberries are a little red berry that is a healthy super-fruit – they pack a powerful punch of antioxidants that work wonders for the health of the urinary tract, mouth, stomach and heart, as well as being anti-ageing.

Compared with other common fruits, cranberries possess one of the highest flavonoid concentrations and are recognised for their high antioxidant capacity.

They could be considered a super-fruit because they contain a unique flavonoid mix that includes anthocyanins, the pigments that give cranberries their vibrant red colour, and proanthocyanidins (PACs), which signal the presence of powerful bacteria-blocking properties. PACs prevent certain bacteria from adhering to mucous membranes.

In fact, cranberries are renowned for their effectiveness with urinary tract infections (UTIs). Their anti-adhesion capability causes bacteria to be flushed out of the urinary tract before an infection in the bladder or kidney can occur.  

Cranberries are widely recognised for UTI prevention and have a wide array of additional health benefits.

A RANGE OF HEALTH BENEFITS

Cranberries and urinary tract health

One in two women and one in 20 men will suffer from a urinary tract infection (UTI) in their lifetime, while one in three women will suffer a troublesome UTI before the age of 24.

Studies suggest that a daily glass of cranberry juice or two cranberry supplements a day could help prevent UTIs from recurring.

Cranberry preparations have been used to treat UTIs and other illnesses for centuries. Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins (PACs), and it is these unique compounds that are pivotal in the prevention of UTI’s. PACs inhibit the adhesion of infection-causing bacteria,(1),(2) such as Escherichia coli, to the urinary tract lining and hence prevent infection.

This property of the cranberry is referred to as ‘anti-adhesion’. While many fruits contain similar compounds, only the PACs of cranberries have been shown to exhibit this effect.

Cranberries and dental health

The anti-adhesion properties of cranberries may help inhibit certain oral bacteria responsible for plaque and periodontal disease.

Dental plaque is composed primarily of bacteria that have attached themselves to the tooth and gum surfaces. This biofilm may be comprised of hundreds of species and can be resistant to saliva and mechanical brushing which would normally remove them. Plaque is a major cause of periodontal disease.

A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association reported that a unique cranberry juice component has the ability to inhibit and reverse the co-aggregation of certain oral bacteria responsible for dental plaque and periodontal disease in vitro.(3) [‘In vitro’ means in the test tube.] 

Cranberries and heart health

The high level of antioxidants has the potential to protect against heart disease.

The abundant flavonoids are potent antioxidants contributing to the body’s defences against atherosclerosis,(4),(5),(6) which is the primary condition in cardiovascular disease.

Cranberries and cancer

One of the proanthocyanidins in cranberries has been found to inhibit metastasis, the process of cancer cells breaking away from a tumour and starting a malignant growth elsewhere in the body. The compound has been shown to reduce tumour cell development by 50 percent, inhibiting growth in lung, colon and leukaemia cells.(7)

Cranberries and ulcers

Cranberries may help prevent peptic ulcers by inhibiting bacterial adhesion to the mucous lining of the stomach.

Peptic ulcers are increasingly being attributed to infection by Helicobacter pylori bacteria. The anti-adhesion constituent of cranberry juice has been shown in vitro to inhibit the adhesion of H. pylori to human gastric mucus.(8) This suggests that cranberries may be beneficial in the prevention of peptic ulcers.

In addition to ulcers, H. pylori infection has been linked to stomach cancer, acid reflux problems and gastritis (inflammation of the stomach).

Cranberries and anti-ageing

Cranberries have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits, which seems to make them a true anti-ageing food. The antioxidants protect cells from free radicals which not only accelerate the ageing process, but can also lead to the development of degenerative diseases. Recent research suggests that cranberries can bring an improvement in short term memory. Cranberry extract may help ward off memory loss and improve brain health.

A bit about antioxidants

Antioxidants are compounds that neutralise free radicals. The human body is capable of producing certain antioxidants naturally, but the majority need to come from food. Vegetables and fruits, including cranberries, are excellent sources of nutritional antioxidants.

A free radical is an extremely reactive compound that triggers a chain reaction of oxidative damage to adjacent molecules. Cell walls contain fat and cholesterol that are very prone to oxidation by free radicals. Cells that are attacked can become injured, die or even become malignant.

The benefits of cranberries

By consuming two portions of cranberries a day (juice, frozen, dried or sauce) you can tap into these remarkable health properties. This should be easy, given the versatility of cranberries in either savoury or sweet dishes.  The anti-adhesion effect begins approximately two hours after consumption, and remains for up to ten hours.

For more information and recipe ideas (look for the vegetarian ones) – check out www.cranberries.com.au .

WHERE DO CRANBERRIES COME FROM?

The large majority of the world’s cranberries are grown across the northern part of the United States. This region grows 88% of the world’s crop in a growing season from May to October. Cranberries grow on low-lying vines in beds layered with sand, gravel and clay. These beds are commonly known as ‘bogs’ or ‘marshes’ and were originally created by glacial deposits.

The cranberry season begins in the northern winter when growers flood the bogs with water that freezes over and insulates the vines from frost. As the winter snow melts and spring arrives, the bogs are drained. Shortly after this, blossoms begin to appear, and following many weeks of summer sun, there are red, ripe cranberries. The berries are harvested in September and October and can be stored for up to a year under proper conditions.

AVAILABILITY

The fresh fruit are not normally available in Australia because of the distance from the growing areas and the fact that preserved forms are readily available.

Cranberry juice. Most of the harvested cranberries are processed into juice or juice concentrate. Due to the tart flavour, manufacturers generally combine cranberry juice with other products to form a tangy, sweet beverage. The juice, juice blends and juice concentrates are available in a variety of container sizes. When purchasing a juice, check the ingredient list for refined sugar. The pure juice is strongly preferred.

Frozen cranberries. The frozen fruit retain most of the quality of the fresh berries and can be used year round. They are available in supermarkets.

Dried cranberries offer a unique alternative to raisins/sultanas. They retain much of the goodness and are available in varying sizes with different moisture contents.

Whole cranberry sauce. The vibrant colour and rich texture make whole cranberry sauce a nice complement to a variety of dishes. It can also be used to add a tart and tangy flavour to dressings or sauces. Cranberry sauce can often replace fresh or frozen cranberries in recipes.

NUTRITIONAL PROFILE

Fresh and frozen cranberries are low in carbohydrates, have a low glycaemic index and qualify for low-carb dishes.

TYPICAL NUTRITIONAL VALUES OF CRANBERRIES

 

Fresh/
Frozen
(100g)
Dried
(40g sweetened)
Sauce
100g canned/
sweetened)
Juice
(237ml)

Energy (kcal)

46

123

151

144

Total fat (g)

0.1

0.5

0.1

0.3

Dietary fibre (g)

4.6

2.3

1

0.4

Protein (g)

0.4

0.03

0.2

0

Carbohydrate (g)

12.2

32.9

38.9

36.4

Sodium (mg)

2

1.2

29

6

Vitamin C (mg)

13.3

0.08

0

89.5

Vitamin A (mg)

60

0

42

10

Potassium (mg)

85

16

26

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