Cranberries

Cranberries ~ Super Fruits

A Sauce for the Seasons

Prevent and treat urinary tract infections.

Protect cells from cancerous changes.

Reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Pity this lowly little super fruit.

Like swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano, this Thanksgiving super-food finds its way back into our diet every year, then gets lost after the holiday season is over.

And that's the pity.

These super fruits contain a number of compounds that show early promise against cancer and heart disease.

What's more, cranberry juice has finally earned the scientific stamp of approval for its traditional role in relieving bladder infections.

A Role Against Cancer

Along with raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries, these super fruits are a good source of ellagic acid, an antioxidant compound that has raised high hopes in cancer researchers.

In lab tests, ellagic acid has been shown to help prevent mutations in DNA, the genetic stuff that instructs our cells how to function.

In addition, ellagic acid has been shown to disarm cancer-causing agents and also to help prevent tumors from growing.

Indeed, one tantalizing aspect of this compound is its apparent ability to battle carcinogens on both ends, before and after they take hold.

Ellagic acid has what we call anti-initiating activity.

It inhibits the genetic damage that starts the cancer process.

Even after a carcinogen has been introduced into cells, ellagic acid helps prevent the cells from becoming cancerous.

Pure ellagic acid, the form in which it's used in laboratory studies ­doesn't get into the bloodstream very well.

However, the research suggests that this compound is better absorbed in its natural state in food, good news for those of us who enjoy their cranberries year-round.

Power From the Flavonoids

Another way in which these super fruits will help keep you healthy is by putting more flavonoids into your diet.

Flavonoids are plant pigments that put the reds and yellows into fruits and vegetables and that have powerful antioxidant abilities, that is, they help block damage from free radicals, harmful oxygen molecules that can lead to cancer, heart disease, and other serious conditions.

Cranberries contain two powerful flavonoids, quercetin and myricetin.

The darker varieties, like Stevens, Early Black, and Ben Lear, contain a third compound called kaempferol.

Each of these compounds has been shown in studies to help prevent genetic changes that can lead to cancer.

Here's a bonus.

Flavonoids, in general, and quercetin, in particular, are thought to play a role in preventing artery disease, perhaps because their antioxidant ability helps prevent damage to the linings of blood vessels.

Large studies in Finland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom have shown that people with very low intakes of flavonoids have high risks of coronary disease.

In one study of middle-age men in the Dutch town of Zutphen, those who ate a lot of fruits and vegetables and consequently

had a high in­take of flavonoids, had a 73 percent lower risk of stroke than men who consumed few fruits and vegetables.

Help for Urinary Complaints

For ages now, grandmothers and mothers, and a few wise doctors, have recommended the juice of these super fruits to clear up urinary tract infections.

Now, scientists are coming on board.

A 1994 Harvard Medical School study of elderly women found that those who drank about 10 ounces of this juice cocktail daily for six months had significantly lower amounts of bacteria in their urine and were almost 60 percent less likely to develop infections than women who drank an impostor.

Among women who already had infections, those drinking the juice were nearly 75 percent more likely to have their infections clear up.

One long-held belief was that if you could make urine more acidic, bacteria would have a tougher time growing.

This was thought to be why cranberry juice helped prevent urinary tract infections.

Following the same line of reasoning, doctors sometimes recommended high doses of vitamin-C, up to 1,000 milligrams a day, for people with bladder or other urinary infections.

It wasn't the acidity of these super fruits that helped keep bacteria in check.

Rather, it appeared to be two compounds in the juice-fructose and a second compound yet to be identified, that helped prevent bacteria from adhering to the lining of the bladder and urethra.

Incidentally, Israeli researchers found that juice from blueberries, a very close cousin of these super fruits, had the same results.

It's suggested, women who have urinary tract infections, drink two glasses (8 oz. each) of cranberry juice a day in addition to taking any antibiotics prescribed by their doctors.

For women who are prone to infections and want to prevent them, drinking one glass every day will help ward off trouble. 

In the Kitchen

Buying and preparing these super fruits is the ultimate no-brainer.

If it were any easier, they'd be called fast food.

I add the dried variety to my oatmeal each morning.

Whole, they usually come in one-pound bags.

These super fruits are long keepers; they'll last a month or more when kept in the refrigerator and over a year when stored in the freezer.

You don't even have to wash them because doing so prior to storage will actually cause them to spoil.

When preparing fresh cranberry sauce, here's all you need to do.

Put a pound of these crimson super fruits (4 cups) in a medium saucepan and cover with 2 cups of boiling water.

Return to a boil, cover the pan, and continue cooking for about 4 minutes, or until the skins burst.

Stir in sugar to taste.

Because the they're so tart, you'll probably use about 2 cups of sugar.

Return the pan to the heat and bring to a boil.

Immediately remove from the heat and serve.

Getting the Most

Eat them with relish.

Since raw cranberries contain considerably more healing compounds than cooked, you may want to try a cranberry relish.

Put a pound of these super fruits, two apples, and a large orange in a food processor and process until coarse.

Mix in honey or sugar to taste, refrigerate for several hours, and serve.

Have a drink.

Because raw cranberries have a tart taste and tough texture, you're unlikely to eat them raw.

But you can still get the nutritional payload by drinking the juice.

Commercial juice cocktail drinks are loaded with vitamin-C, with one glass containing a full day's supply.

Unfortunately, most also have a full day's supply of sugar and are rarely more than 30 percent juice.

An alternative to supermarket juice is the juice found in health food stores.

You can buy either pure cranberry juice or concentrated cranberry extract, which is used to make cold drinks or hot teas.

Here's a year round recipe for you.

Cranberry Citrus Relish

Forget the canned, which can be packed with high fructose corn syrup and calories.

Instead, take advantage of this natural super-food, which helps prevent heart disease and protects gums, and use fresh cranberries, apples, and oranges to create this homemade relish.

It’s a naturally sweetened alternative that still brings a cozy, holiday vibe into your home.

Ingredients:

1 bag (12 oz.) crimson super fruits.

1 med. apple.

1 thin-skinned navel orange.

1/2 c. sugar.

1/8 tsp. ground ginger.

Preparation;

Place the super fruits in a colander.

Rinse well with cold water.

Discard any soft or squishy ones.

Place in a food processor.

Core the apple and cut into chunks.

Add to the food processor.

Cut the orange, including the rind, into chunks.

Add to the food processor.

Process, scraping down the bowl once or twice, until finely chopped.

Transfer to a medium bowl.

Add the sugar and ginger and stir to mix.

Let stand for at least 15 minutes.

Stir before serving.

Makes 2-1/2 c.

Cook's Notes: For a sweeter relish, peel the orange.

The relish can be refrigerated in a covered container for up to 2 days.

Nutrition:

Per 1/4 c.

Calories 70

Total Fat 0.1 g.

Saturated Fat 0 g.

Cholesterol 0 mg.

Sodium 0 mg.

Dietary Fiber 1.7 g.

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