Cranberries will be plentiful in stores as holiday meals approach. According to researchers at Rutgers University, they are among the top foods with proven health benefits.
Cranberries are full of anti-oxidants, which protect cells from unstable molecules known as free radicals. The National Institutes of Health is funding research on cranberry’s effects on heart disease, yeast infections and other conditions.
So far, research has found that drinking cranberry juice - unsweetened is best – can help to prevent urinary infections by binding to bacteria so they can’t adhere to cell walls, especially cells lining the bladder and urethra. Once a urinary tract infection is established, however, there is no hard evidence that cranberry juice can treat it – antibiotics may be needed. Unsweetened cranberry juice in small bottles is available at the People’s Store. Dilute and drink – or gargle for your teeth and gums. Then swallow!!
A compound in cranberries – proanthocyanidine – prevents plaque formation on teeth. Mouthwashes are being developed to prevent periodontal disease. In the meantime, you can try rinsing your mouth with slightly diluted unsweetened cranberry juice.
In some people, regular cranberry juice consumption for weeks or months can kill H. pylori bacteria, which can cause stomach ulcers.
Drinking cranberry juice daily may increase levels of HDL, or good cholesterol and reduce levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol. Research is also going on about substances in cranberries that are effective against cancer.
Here’s a recent abstract from a scientific journal, reporting on work from the University of Massachusetts.
Emerging evidence is elucidating how non-nutrient phytochemicals underlie the health promotion afforded by fruits and vegetables. This review focuses on Vaccinium macrocarpon, the American cranberry, compiling a comprehensive list of its known phytochemical components, and detailing their prevalence in cranberry fruit and its products. Flavonoids, especially colored anthocyanins, abundant flavonols, and unique proanthocyanidins, have attracted major research attention. Other notable active components include phenolic acids, benzoates, hydroxycinnamic acids, terpenes and organic acids. Health effects of cranberries, cranberry products, and isolated cranberry components in humans and animals, as well as in vitro, are debated. Evidence for protection from several bacterial pathogens, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and inflammation is compelling, while neuroprotection and anti-viral activity also have begun to draw new consideration. Emerging bioavailability data is considered and potential molecular mechanisms are evaluated, linking phytochemicals to health effects through their biochemical properties and reactions.
Are you interested in stocking up on cranberries? You can freeze them and have some available all year. Worried about the amount of sugar needed to offset the sour taste? Try putting cranberries in a fruit shake, or make cranberry sauce with an orange, cloves, cinnamon and xylitol, the low glycemic sugar that comes from trees and is good for your teeth and less problematic for diabetics. Xylitol is available in many natural food stores and on line. (Try it for hot chocolate too! )
Cranberry – Coumadin interaction: if you are taking Coumadin (warfarin) to prevent blood clotting, you should avoid drinking cranberry juice daily. It may increase your risk of bleeding. Small amounts of cranberries should be safe – check this out with your doctor.
Sadja Greenwood, MD back issues at sadjascolumns.blogspot.com Check out my novel, Changing the Rules, at the Grand Hotel, Uniquities, the Stinson Beach and Point Reyes book stores, and Amazon.