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Cranberries for Health

Fresh Cranberries for Health

Cranberries are Amazing!

Did you know... Cranberries are considered an herb? And that most of the commercial berries are produced in Massachusetts and Wisconsin?

Cranberries and cranberry juice have long been regarded as folk treatments for urinary infections. Cranberry is best known in the form of whole fruit, jelled fruit, and juice. Cranberry juice cocktail is a 33 percent dilution of pure juice with added sugars for flavoring.

Cranberry Nutrition

Cranberries are a great source of vitamin C, are low in calories (25 calories per one-half cup), high in fiber, contain no fat, are low in sodium, high in potassium, and can be used in many forms of cooking! They can be used in everything from relishes to desserts. Use the recipes below and your imagination and you will discover hundreds of ways to enjoy this Native American fruit.

Cranberries: America's Native Fruit

Cranberries on the branch Cranberries are as American as apple pie - in fact, even more so, for cranberries are one of only three major native North American fruits (Concord grapes and blueberries being the others). Long before the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, the North American Indians combined crushed cranberries with dried deer meat and melted fat to make pemmican - a food that would keep for a long time. They believed that the cranberry had medicinal properties. Often they would brew cranberry poultices to draw poison from arrow wounds. Native American women made their rugs and blankets colorful by dyeing them with the red cranberry juice. Later, American sailors carried barrels of cranberries on their voyages as a source of vitamin C to prevent scurvy, much like British "limeys" carried limes aboard ship.

To various Native American tribes, the berry was known by many different names. To the eastern Indians, cranberries were known as "sassamanesh". The Cape Cod Pequots and the New Jersey Leni-Lenape tribes called the little red berry "ibimi" or bitter berry, but it was the Pilgrims who gave the cranberry its modern name. To them, the shape of the cranberry blossoms resembled the heads of cranes. The berry was therefore named "crane berry", and later contracted to "cranberry.

Tannins in Cranberries

Cranberries have tannins, compounds that keep bacteria from binding to cells, preventing them from multiplying and causing infections. Tannins are also antioxidants that bond with free radicals -- compounds that damage the body -- and reduce their energy level so they are less harmful. Antioxidants may help prevent certain cancers and contribute to cardiovascular health.

Studies indicate that on a per-serving basis, cranberry juice, sweetened dried cranberries, cranberry sauce and cooked cranberries have comparable amounts of tannins. With anti-adhesion and antioxidant capabilities, cranberries have a dual-action health formula that most foods do not have.

Storing Cranberries

Store fresh cranberries in a tightly sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. As with all berries, if one starts getting soft and decaying, the others will quickly soften and decay also. Be sure to sort out the soft ones if you plan to store them for more than a few days. Fresh cranberries may last up to 2 months in the refrigerator. Cooked cranberries can last up to a month in a covered container in the refrigerator. Washed cranberries may be frozen for up to 1 year in airtight bags.

Preparing Cranberries

Cranberries are often too tart to be eaten raw. Most cranberries need be cooked before they are eaten. No matter what preparation method you choose, cook cranberries only until they pop because overcooking gives them a bitter taste.

Since cranberries are almost 90 percent water, do not thaw frozen cranberries before cooking them. Thawing, will cause the fruit to breakdown, resulting in soft cranberries.

Cranberries may be baked with a sweetener to make a topping or sauce, or they can be added to baked goods, such as muffins. They are also good chopped with oranges to make a relish.

Get the Most From Your Cranberries

Bagged Cranberries Fresh cranberries are available in stores from mid-September through December and are most abundant during their peak harvest season, October and November. Take advantage of the peak season and be sure to freeze in abundance! To freeze cranberries, double-wrap in plastic without washing. Preparing frozen cranberries for cooking is very easy. Just sort and rinse cranberries in cold water. No thawing is necessary and, in fact, best results are obtained without thawing.

For fresh cranberries, look for round, plump cranberries with smooth skin.

A 12-ounce bag yields 3 cups whole or 2-1/2 cups chopped berries. Store cranberries in the refrigerator for up to one month, or in the freezer for up to nine months.

Do not wash cranberries until just before using them to keep them at their best.

The best way to chop cranberries is to use a food processor -- they tend to roll away from you when you use a knife.

Homemade cranberry sauce makes a great gift. To give each jar a decorative touch, place a small fabric square over the top of a jar and wrap a bow over the fabric around the neck of the jar.

Cranberry Kidney Health

Cranberry Juice For over 60 years, Ocean Spray has been actively researching the cranberry and our products to understand their role in maintaining good health. Early research determined that compounds in cranberry, called proanthocyanidins or condensed tannins, prevent certain bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract. If bacteria can't stick, they cannot cause infection. This anti-stick mechanism of cranberry is key to its urinary tract health benefits.

Cranberry Aids Detox

Cranberries have powerful antibiotic and antiviral substances to help the body cleanse harmful bacteria and viruses from the urinary tract.

Cranberries are used to produce beverages and many other food products, as well as dietary supplements in the form of extracts, teas and capsules or tablets

Varieties of Cranberries

There are four major varieties of cranberries: European, American, Mountain, and Highbush.

American

This variety is the most common in the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture uses this variety as the standard for fresh cranberries and cranberries used for juice. This variety is bright red.

American Cranberries

European

This variety is smaller than the American and is eaten less often than other varieties. It is primarily ornamental.

European Cranberries

Mountain

This variety is approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter and is bright red to dark red. It is occasionally found in markets.

Mountain Cranberries

Highbush

This variety is primarily used for jellies, jams, and sauces. It is also used as an ornamental fruit.

Highbush Cranberries

NCCAM, the National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Diseases and the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research fund studies to understand whether and how cranberry may work to prevent urinary tract infections and the formation of dental plaque.

Caution

Eating cranberry products in food appears to be safe, but drinking excessive amounts of juice could cause gastrointestinal upset or diarrhea.

Cranberry Trivia

How can you tell if a cranberry is good? Before machines took over the job of checking for quality, people used to roll cranberries down stairs. The soft, undesirable berries did not have the "oomph" to make it down, so they would languish on the steps; the fresh ones made it to the bottom. For fun at home, play along by dropping one onto the counter or floor. It should bounce like a rubber ball. Not feeling that playful? Top quality cranberries float.

Folklore

When a Russian child gets a cold, the doctor recommends cranberry drinks. There are two main drinks:

  1. Mors - boiled and then filtrated red drink with sugar
  2. Kisel - mors with dissolved starch to rise nutrition and give density

In Summary

Cranberries

  • Great source of vitamin C.
  • Low in calories - only 25 calories in 1/2 cup.
  • High in fiber.
  • Contain no fat.
  • Low in sodium.
  • High in potassium.

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