Cranberries are readily available from September until November each year. While most cranberries that are grown in Canada and the United States are processed, turned into juice, jam, sauce, or sweetened and dried, you can also find incredible health benefits from fresh cranberries.
Cranberries’ natural harvest season falls (pun intended) perfectly in line with Thanksgiving and Christmas, where cranberry sauce is a regular feature along with turkey on these two major holidays. Unfortunately, processed cranberry sauce contains a lot of sugar, and is better left in the can. That being said, you can still enjoy fresh cranberries this holiday season in their natural state.
These berries grow on creeping shrubs in sandy bogs or in fields/beds that can be flooded. The plants are grown in moist soil and are flooded in autumn to help facilitate harvest. The fields remain flooded for the winter to protect the plants during the cold winter.
Health Benefits of Cranberries
Cranberries are a good source of vitamin E and K, and are a great source of dietary fibre, manganese, and vitamin C.
This fall berry is also relatively low in sugar. There are 4g of sugar in ever 100g serving. While it is important to take note of this sugar, it isn’t unreasonably high.
There are 5g of dietary fibre in a 100g serving, which is great for your digestive tract, and can help expel toxins from the body. Unfortunately, because cranberries have a rather tart flavour, most cranberry products are packed with sugar to make them more appealing to the masses. This is a shame because as soon as you start adding sugar to these berries, they become less and less healthy. Cranberry juice is more sugar water than actual cranberry, and cranberry sauce is just as bad. You shouldn’t settle for anything less than fresh cranberries.
While the vitamins in minerals in these berries are great, they aren’t the main contributor to the health benefits of cranberries.
Cranberries are one of the best natural sources of anti-inflammatory antioxidants. The phytonutrients and antioxidants are so rich in these berries, and can have significant health benefits.
They contain anthocyanins, quercetin, benzoic acid, and epicatechin, which can destroy free radicals, reduce inflammation, acne, allergies, joint pain, and can even reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Cranberries also have an antibacterial effect that has proven to be useful for treating urinary tract infections (though you’ll still want to see your doctor if you’re experiencing any signs of a UTI). Fresh cranberries and concentrated cranberry juice have both been used as a natural substitute for antibiotics for UTIs, which could be beneficial for gut health, but it is important to take to a physician about this course of treatment to make sure that it is right/safe for you.
Cranberries have also shown to be good for oral health. Eating cranberries can prevent oral Candida biofilms from forming. There is an anti-adhesion agent in the berries that prevents yeasts from building up in the mouth, keeping your mouth fresh and healthy. In addition to being able to fight off yeast, research has shown cranberries help protect against oral disease and cavities. That is largely thanks to the anti-bacterial and anti-inflammation properties in these small red berries.
It should be noted that cranberries could increase your risk of developing kidney stones. If you’re prone to kidney stones, you may want to limit your cranberry intake.
Next time you’re planning on serving cranberries with a holiday meal skip the cans of jellied sauce and serve fresh berries instead. Your health will thank you.