Since researchers linked cranberries to healing urinary tract infections in the early 1990s, the bright red bog berry has claimed a variety of remarkable healing properties, especially for women. Because cranberries don’t grow in the subtropical climate of southeast Asia, I didn’t discover them until I moved to the United States. I like their tart flavor, and I eat them raw (in cranberry-orange relish), cooked (see my Cranberry Compote recipe in my cookbook FoodTrients: Age-defying Recipes for a Sustainable Body), or dried (they make a great snack!).
But in addition to their taste, I value the many health and wellness benefits cranberries provide. Cranberries are loaded with antioxidants. They rank very high on the ORAC scale, which determines a food’s ability to absorb free oxygen radicals. As we know, getting rid of those extra oxidizing agents can help keep us looking younger on the outside and functioning better on the cellular level. The particular antioxidants contained in cranberries are called flavonoids, which shield against environmental toxins, promote artery health, and reduce the risk of blood clots.
Cranberries are also a good source of lutein, which has been shown to help prevent macular degeneration, and quercitin, which supports the immune system and reduces inflammation inside the arteries. They’re even high in vitamin C, which helps the body to resist infection, prevent cataracts, and aid in tissue regeneration. Cranberries also contain fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin K, manganese, and a bit of resveratrol—that heart-friendly nutrient found in red wine, which protects the heart, fights cancer cells, and improves blood flow in the brain. No wonder I’m amazed by the berry’s dietary benefits!
If you’re cooking cranberries, use nonreactive cookware, such as copper or enamel-coated cast iron, to keep the acid that cranberries produce from interacting with the metal. If you have only aluminum cookware, here’s a neat trick my mother taught me: drop a few cleaned pennies into the pot. The copper in pennies keeps the acid from reacting with the aluminum. Just remember to remove the pennies before serving!
Because cranberries are harvested in September and October and last through December, my Cranberry Compote recipe, which calls for fresh cranberries, is perfect for the holiday season. Serve it on your Thanksgiving table or brighten your Christmas meal with its deep, rich color. Either way, the holidays are a perfect time for appreciating cranberries’ health-giving benefits.