Cranberries Beyond Thanksgiving!


A recent report by the American Chemical Society into the health benefits of cranberries revealed that after 1500 A.D., settlers to the new world were often greeted by Indians bearing cranberries.[1] The high vitamin C content of cranberries was believed to have helped the Pilgrims prevent scurvy.[2]

Most everyone is familiar with the health benefit of cranberries in fighting off urinary tract infections. In recent years, however, many other health claims have surfaced, prompting researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, to begin a multi-year study of cranberries’ health-promoting ingredients.[3]

What the researchers found was more than 150 different phytochemicals. Of interest to most health enthusiasts was recognition of the berries’ iron-binding capacity, credited largely to quercitin, which accounts not only for its anti-bacterial property, but also its anti-cancer properties. Quercitin, in other research, was found to prevent cancer cell growth, induce cancer cell death and slow oxidative stress. It reduces histamine release and the IgE level as well, thereby proving useful in correcting eczema and a variety of allergies.

Given all of these possible health benefits, it would seem reasonable to consider including cranberries in your diet throughout the year, not just at Thanksgiving. If tartness is a problem, try the naturally dried, unsweetened (hard to find, but it’s out there!) fruit or natural cranberry sauce sweetened with fruit juice. If your juice has been sweetened, make certain it is sweetened with natural fruit juice and not high fructose corn syrup. Consider purchasing the raw fruit in season, which can be easily and simply frozen for a few months. Use it freely in various dishes throughout the coming months. Personally, I like to eat the raw berries with eggs, or just as a snack. They really aren’t as tart as you might expect. To me, benefit far exceeds any concern over taste. The lone caution might be for people who are taking the blood thinner, Warfarin. If that’s you, check with your doctor before jumping right in. Otherwise, let us know your health success stories, as that is the bottom line. Too, if you happen to make fresh cranberry bread don’t forget to invite me over. Until then, here’s wishing all a happy Thanksgiving and a healthy, cran-berry new year.

[1] Halford, Bethany, “Cranberries In Your Medicine Cabinet,” Chem & Engineer News 91(46): p28-29, November 18, 2013.

[2] Every 100 grams of the cranberry fruit contains 13.3 grams vitamin C.

[3] Catherine C. Neto and Maolin Guo are both professors in the chemistry and biochemistry departments.


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