By: Nutrition Expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.
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Cranberries may be tangy and delicious, but don’t believe they are just a pretty plant. Cranberries are loaded with health benefits that stretch through the whole human body. cranberries due to their high nutrient and antioxidant content are often referred as Super food.
Nutritional Benefits of Cranberry:
Cranberries are rich in nutrients like Vitamin C, Fiber and Vitamin E.
Vitamin C being a powerful antioxidant blocks some of the damage caused by free radicals. It also helps in boosting immunity and building up resistance against infectious diseases. In old times sailor used to carry cranberries to avoid Scurvy.
Intake of high fibres in high amounts significantly reduces the risk of coronary heart diseases, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and some intestinal diseases. It also helps to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and enhance weight loss for obese individuals.
Vitamin E due to its antioxidant nature helps in preventing or delaying chronic diseases related to free radicals.
Apart from this, cranberries also contain Vitamin K, manganese and a large variety of phytonutrients which help prevent free radicals. They also have anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventing properties.
Cranberry and Urinary Tract Health:
Over 50 years of research shows that cranberries are associated with reduced risk of UTIs, a painful condition that afflicts some 11 million American women each year and costs over $1.6 billion dollars annually to treat. The PACs found in cranberries inhibit the fimbrial adhesion of bacteria, including E. coli, to the urinary tract epithelium and therefore the subsequent reproduction required for infection.
Recent reports show that one 8 oz. serving of cranberry juice cocktail prevented E. coli from adhering to the bladder cells in a group of volunteers.
Cranberries and Heart Health:
Cranberries can help to support cardiovascular health and are the perfect addition to a heart-healthy diet. Whole cranberries are a good source of dietary fiber, and all cranberry products contain flavonoids and polyphenolics, natural compounds that offer a wide range of potential heart health benefits.
Cranberries contain significant amounts of flavonoids and polyphenolic compounds that have been demonstrated to inhibit low density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation and favourably affect platelet function. On-going research suggests that cranberries may offer a natural defence against atherosclerosis.
Cranberries and Ulcers:
Similar to the ability to prevent the adhesion of bacteria to the urinary tract, cranberries may prevent adhesion of the bacteria H. pylori to the lining of the stomach. By preventing H. pylori bacteria from attaching to the stomach wall, cranberries can help reduce the risk of stomach ulcers.
American Cancer Society, H. pylori bacteria is a major risk factor for stomach cancer. Recent research on digestive health suggests that cranberry juice can be as effective as probiotics in maintaining good digestive health.
Polyphenols influence starch digestion in the gut and slow the release of glucose in the bloodstream thereby reducing spikes in blood glucose and insulin levels. They can also make muscle cells more efficient in how they use blood glucose and in this way bring overall blood glucose levels closer to normal.
Benefits come in a Variety of Forms!
A natural, wholesome fruit, cranberries provide myriad health benefits and all commonly enjoyed cranberry products contain the beneficial antioxidants. Research shows that 8 oz. of 25% cranberry juice cocktail provides the amount of antioxidants equivalent to 1½ cup fresh or frozen cranberries, 1 ounce sweetened dried fruit or ½ cup cranberry sauce. Any one of these types of cranberry-based products will be a healthy addition to a well-balanced diet.
Although not usually consumed raw, cranberry intake can be marked because of its presence in juices and sauces as well as its use as a dried fruit in cereal bars, cheeses and chocolate and other confectionery. Also, cranberry powders and extracts are now used in foods products and dietary supplements.
Thus, when consumed as part of a well-balanced diet containing a variety of foods, cranberries may provide positive health benefits.