Cranberries: Cancer-Fighting, Heart-Protecting SuperFruit

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Don’t wait for the holidays to come around. Cranberries are superfruits that pack a nutrition punch all year long! Tweet This.

Super Powers & Health Benefits

  1. Antibacterial
  2. Radical scavenging
  3. Cancer-fighter
  4. Cardioprotective
  5. Fights urinary infections

Secret Compounds

  1. Polyphenols – organic compounds which are believed to exhibit antioxidant qualities in the human body.
  2. Vitamins - look for moderate quantities of Vitamins A, C, E, K and B complex (b1, b2, b3, b5, b6, b9).
  3. Minerals - you’ll find calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, sodium and phosphorus.

Finding the Cranberry

Vaccinium oxycoccos is the dwarf shrub that bears the rather popular cranberry fruit. Cranberries need no introduction as they are pretty much a staple in the western diet. While you may not actively consume these on a regular basis, chances are you’re familiar with products derived from them – be it cranberry juice, cranberry sauce, cranberry jam, apple & cranberry pie and so on. Unlike most super fruits which tend to be exotic and a little inaccessible, cranberries and cranberry derived products are available all year round in most supermarkets. They are highly popular and thus highly in demand.

The Nom-nom Factor

The fruit is a small and round berry that is red in colour. It is unusual for the fruit to be eaten raw because in all honesty, it doesn’t taste that nice. It’s no secret that cranberries are characteristically sour. Normally, a sour flavour can be quite pleasant and all the more interesting as bland fruits like Persimmons can be quite tiresome to eat. The problem with the cranberry is that it’s also quite bitter and that makes eating these on a regular basis a challenging prospect.

Unlike most super fruits, cranberries are probably best consumed as a juice. Juices are widely available all year round as the fruits can be frozen and readily juiced for up to 9 months. Getting the fresh fruit would means waiting for it to be in season. Furthermore, the flavour of the fruit is challenging and may be off putting to some. That being said, there seem to be endless ways to get cranberries into your diet. There are a variety of jams, sauces, yogurts and cordials available.  It’s no surprise that the raw fruit and the juice are the most potent and reliable source of nutrients but the more cranberry goodness you get into your diet, the better off you are!

Cranberries: The Bitter-sweet SuperFruit that Packs a Punch

Folklore tells us cranberries get their name from cranes. One theory is that people started calling them that after noticing cranes were fond of them. Another suggests pilgrams thought the berries looked very similar to the bird’s head. Bird-brained history aside, you’ll want to keep your eagle-eyes on this superfruit.

So you’re probably wondering why the cranberry is regarded as a super-fruit. And we’re going to dive straight into that!

Research from the Lab

Unlike other super fruits that have unbelievably high concentrations of one or two nutrients, what you’ll find in the cranberry are moderate concentrations of a LOT of nutrients. It has an unusually broad spectrum of nutrients and respectable quantities of just about all of them. Much like all the other super fruits, cranberries are notable sources of vitamins. In cranberries you’ll find moderate quantities of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K and B complex vitamins (b1, b2, b3, b5, b6, b9).

The mineral list is also impressive: you’ll find calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, sodium and phosphorus. This is referred to as a ‘balanced profile’ with the health circles and it makes the cranberry a great food item to have as a staple.

Like the lychee, the cranberry is a great source of polyphenols. Polyphenols are organic compounds which are believed to exhibit antioxidant qualities in the human body.

Antibacterial. Cranberries contain plaque fighting compounds that help prevent tooth decay.

Radical scavenging. Researchers believe cranberries contain a special class of antioxidants called radical scavengers. These unique antioxidants work by stabilizing certain polymers and stopping the oxidation process. By doing so, cranberries significantly inhibit the spread of bacteria and other diseases caused by unstable chemical environments.   

Cancer-fighter. Several studies show cranberries have anti-cancer properties, especially when it comes to prostate, breast, colon, lung, and other cancers. Researchers believe the berries win the fight by encouraging cellular death in the cancer-ridden cells.

Cardioprotective. Cranberries are attributed with heart-healthy protective forces like preventing clots, lowering blood pressure, and preventing LDL oxidation….all risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Researchers now believe these secret forces are driven by its flavanoid-rich structure.

Fights urinary infections. By far the most notable benefit of cranberry juice is protection from urinary infections. There is evidence to support this notion as it is believed that consuming 1 ounce of cranberry juice on a daily basis may prevent bacterial infections in the bladder. Furthermore, cranberries are said to be rich in flavonoids. These compounds are thought to have anti-cancer properties.

Research References

  1. Berries as symbols and in folklore.
  2. Neto CC. Cranberries: ripe for more cancer research? J Sci Food Agric. 2011. Oct;91(13):2303-7. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.4621. Epub 2011 Aug 30. Review. PubMed PMID: 21910124.
  3. Cote J, Caillet S, Doyon G, Sylvain JF, Lacroix M. Bioactive compounds in cranberries and their biological properties. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2010. Aug;50(7):666-79. Review. PubMed PMID: 20694928.
  4. Yamanaka-Okada A, Sato E, Kouchi T, Kimizuka R, Kato T, Okuda K. Inhibitory effect of cranberry polyphenol on cariogenic bacteria. Bull Tokyo Dent Coll. 2008 Aug;49(3):107-12. PubMed PMID: 19129685.
  5. Bodet C, Grenier D, Chandad F, Ofek I, Steinberg D, Weiss EI. Potential oral health benefits of cranberry. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2008 Aug;48(7):672-80.Review. PubMed PMID: 18663617.
  6. McKay DL, Blumberg JB. Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) and cardiovascular disease risk factors. Nutr Rev. 2007 Nov;65(11):490-502. Review. PubMed PMID: 18038941.
  7. Ruel G, Couillard C. Evidences of the cardioprotective potential of fruits: the case of cranberries. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007 Jun;51(6):692-701. Review. PubMed PMID: 17492799.
  8. Neto CC. Cranberry and its phytochemicals: a review of in vitro anticancer studies. J Nutr. 2007 Jan;137(1 Suppl):186S-193S. Review. PubMed PMID: 17182824.
  9. Duarte S, Gregoire S, Singh AP, Vorsa N, Schaich K, Bowen WH, Koo H. Inhibitory effects of cranberry polyphenols on formation and acidogenicity of Streptococcus mutans biofilms. FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2006 Apr;257(1):50-6. PubMed PMID: 16553831.

 

  • http://www.facingcancer.ca/ Catherine

    Ah! Cranberries – for some reason I’d forgotten about these little dried delicious bits. Thanks for this reminder  And great blog by the way.