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cranberries

I found myself craving cranberry juice.  Really craving it and I was drinking a couple glasses of fresh (not from frozen) organic cranberry juice that I bought at Trader Joe’s everyday.

This made me curious why my body wanted it so bad, so I started researching the health benefits of cranberries.  It turned out that cranberry juice is good for two conditions that I had trouble with: gum disease and a stomach lining infection.  But that’s just a small part of what they are good for!

Cranberries are native to the United States with Wisconsin being the largest producer of cranberries followed by Massachusetts.  It’s notable that only 5% of the cranberries grown are sold fresh,  The rest are used in juice, cranberry sauces, and dried sweetened cranberries.

This is due in part to their seasonal nature.  They are usually only available in grocery stores in the fall months.  It’s also due to their tart taste.  You aren’t likely to bite into a fresh cranberry the way you would a strawberry or sprinkle them on your cereal.

This is unfortunate.  Cranberries are actually higher in anti-oxidants and lower in sugar than other berries and fruits.  Much of that benefit is lost when they are eaten in processed form such as canned cranberry sauce or sweetened juices and dried cranberries We’ll talk about a number of delicious ways to enjoy fresh cranberries later in this post.

Cranberries are best known to help prevent urinary tract infections.  It’s because cranberries are loaded with an antioxidant called proanthocyanidins.

Believe it or not the tiny little red berries are high in fiber and thus good for digestion.  The proanthocyanidins (PACs) in cranberries are also what help prevent gum disease.  PACs are high anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial anti-oxidants. I’ve read that cranberries even help prevent plaque from forming on teeth!

Cranberries are also said to boost your immune system due to high vitamin C content.  However, I would say any immune boosting capacity is due to all of the nutrients in the berries, not just the vitamin C.

I have come to believe this of all vitamins, minerals, nutrients and anti-oxidants.  I used to reach for the supplement bottle for nutrients I thought I needed more, and I still believe there are some you might not be able to get enough from out of foods.  But I’ve also learned that the single most important thing you can do to improve your health and well being is to eat fresh whole foods that have been prepared at home (so you know there are no unwanted added ingredients!).

If you find fresh cranberries too tart, try combining them with other fruits in salads and smoothies.  Oranges, bananas, apples and pears help balance the flavor.   We created a sinfully delicious Cranberry Date Jam that is as delicious as it is healthy.  Using that recipe as a base we also created a Cranberry Banana Date Smoothie with Strawberries and Ginger that is seriously delicious and good for you.  Oh, and don’t forget to make homemade cranberry sauce instead of opening a can!

The message here is take advantage of all the fresh cranberries in the stores right now.  Your body will thank you for it.