Belonging to the genus–Vaccinium as the blueberry, the cranberry comes from Ericaceae food family. The resemblance of the flower, stem, calyx, and petals to the migrating cranes, made the early Europeans settlers name it craneberry. Also called mossberry in North Canada and bearberries in New England, the traditional English name fenberry for Vaccinium oxycoccos, originated from plants found growing in fen or marshlands.
Like blueberries, cranberries can still be found growing as wild shrubs in northern Europe, northern Asia, and North America. When cultivated, however, cranberries are grown on low trailing vines atop great sandy bogs. The cranberry most cultivated as a commercial crop is an American native. The variety cultivated commercially in the northern United States and southern Canada, the American cranberry, produces a larger berry than either the Southern cranberry, a wild species that is native to the mountains of the eastern United States, or the European variety.
By the beginning of the 18th century, the tart red berries were already being exported to England by early American colonists. Cranberry cultivation soon spread not only across the U.S. through Wisconsin to Washington and Oregon.
The berries are used to produce beverages and many other food products, as well as dietary supplements in the form of extracts, capsules, or tablets.
TOP 12 JUICY SECRETS OF CRANBERRIES:
- Fights Cardiovascular Disease: The anti-oxidants found in cranberry juice can help prevent the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol, which stimulates formation of atherosclerotic plaques, the leading cause of cardiovascular disease, stroke and heart attack.
- Cures Diarrhea: The anti-diarrheal effect of cranberry juice is due to its antiseptic properties, as well as to its content in tannins and anthocyanins which prevent the bacteria (like E coli) from adhering to the intestinal walls and then grow and proliferate.
- Digestive Heath: Cranberry juice contains organic acids that help stimulate the secretion of saliva and gastric juice, as it contains the enzymes responsible for digestion of starch and proteins.
- Enhances Vision: Anthocyanins in cranberries act on eye’s capillaries by improving the blood flow to the retina, thereby helping to improve sight and treat certain types of retinal degeneration.
- Prevent Kidney Stones: Cranberry juice helps excrete oxalic acid and uric acid from the kidneys. It contains quinic acid that is useful to prevent kidney stones formation in kidneys.
- Probiotic: Cranberries are both anti-biotic and probiotic. While it can kill certain viruses, bad bacteria and pathogens, it can also act as a natural probiotic to help breed the good bacteria, promoting a healthy intestinal flora.
- Skin Care: Cranberry extracts used as creams and other skin formulations are used to prevent and treat skin irritations, eczema, couperose, as well as many other skin conditions associated with weak capillaries.
- Soothes Varicose Veins: Anthocyanins present in cranberries, help protect and strengthen the walls of veins and capillaries, thereby improving the symptoms of varicose veins and swollen legs.
- Prevents Urinary Tract Infections: Fresh cranberry juice is particularly helpful to prevent urinary tract infections, especially cystitis (bladder infection) from E. coli by “stripping” off the bacteria from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract and preventing its growth.
- Nutrient SuperStore: Cranberries have the highest anti-oxidant content, and excellent source of phytonutrients anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, resveratrol and tannins.They are rich in vitamins A, C and E; and a good source of organic acids (such as malic, succininc and citric acids), selenium, manganese and copper, just to name a few important trace minerals. They also provide moderate amounts of the B vitamins, folate and iron.
- Anti-aging: Due to their high content in anti-oxidants, cranberries can help prevent and fight such free radical-induced damages and hence protect the body against the risk of developing aging-related diseases and conditions.
- Fights Anemia: Cranberries are an excellent source of vitamin C which enhances the intestinal absorption of iron and also contain moderate amounts of iron and folate, which are essential for the synthesis of hemoglobin and the maturation of red cells and hence prevents anemia.
Side effects and Precautions:
- Despite their low oxalate content, cranberries, due to their acidic nature, are able to increase the amount of both oxalates and calcium in the urine, shooting up calcium oxalate concentrations. Individuals at risk of calcium oxalate kidney stone formation will most likely want to avoid cranberries for the above reasons.
- In lab studies, cranberry juice has repeatedly been shown to inhibit the breakdown of Warfarin, an anticoagulant medication, by the detoxification enzyme family, CYP2C9. Consult your GP if you are on blood thinning medications.
- Excessive consumption of cranberry juice could cause gastrointestinal upset or diarrhea.
- People who think they have a urinary tract infection should see a health care provider for proper diagnosis and treatment. Cranberry products can prevent infection but should not be used to treat infection.