The following article is written by Lisa Marie Mercer
The colorful cranberry is synonymous with holiday happiness. This festive fruit has some interesting folklore surrounding its name. The story begins on November 20th, 1620, when a group of people called the pilgrims landed at a place known as Plymouth Rock. When they arrived, the Native Americans presented them with an odd-looking fruit, whose blossoms were shaped like the head of a crane. This inspired the pilgrims to call the fruit the cranberry.
The pilgrims soon learned that the Native Americans made a survival cake called pemmican, which was composed of cranberries, dry deer meat and melted fat. They discovered that the Native Americans had a strong belief in the cranberries’ medicinal properties. As such, they concocted cranberry brews that were designed to remove the poison from an arrow wound. Their squaws used the juice of the cranberry to make colorful rugs and blankets, while the pilgrims survived on a diet of turkey, corn and cranberries. Perhaps this is why the cranberry was a proud addition to the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621.
Eventually, people began to discover more health benefits of cranberries. For example, since the vitamin C in cranberries could prevent scurvy, American clipper ships stored them in water to serve them to the crew. Without getting bogged down, so to speak, by research, let’s explore some of the studies regarding the health benefits of cranberries.
A Cornell University study comparing different fruits found that cranberries had the most antioxidants and the most powerful phytonutrients. Antioxidants are can be considered the swat team that neutralizes the free radicals, which are the cells that cause cancer and other diseases. Phytonutrients are the carpenters of cellar repair. They boost your immunity and protect your body with their anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial capacities.
Urinary Tract Infections
It’s the phytonutrients in cranberries that prevent the adherence of bacteria to the cell membrane. This makes them useful in the prevention and treatment of urinary tract infections. A study published in the British Medical Journal (June 29, 2001) proves that this is not just folklore.
One hundred and fifty women with urinary tract infections were divided into groups. Group one received 50 ml of a cranberry and lingonberry juice concentrate daily for six months. Group two got 100 ml of lactobacillus drink five days a week for one year. After six months, urinary tract infections were reduced by 50 percent in the cranberry group. In contrast, the lactobacillus group had a 39 percent reduction.
According to a study published in the June, 2002 edition of the Journal of American Medicine, the effectiveness of cranberries in preventing the E coli virus from adhering to the bladder cells may be attributed to the proanthocyanidins. The authors suggest that the anti-adhesion effect can last up to 10 hours after cranberry juice consumption.
The anthocyanins in cranberries can also neutralize the oxidants that destroy connective tissue. This makes their consumption a nice addition to your skin care regimen. As if that were not enough, the flavanols in cranberries have been associated in reducing the risk of atherosclerosis. Tooth Whitener
A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association reported that cranberry juice can inhibit the production of the oral bacteria that cause dental plaque and periodontal disease. As such, it is now used in some mouthwashes and dental flosses.
Although the cranberry reaches peak popularity around Thanksgiving and Christmas, we tend ignore it for the rest of the year. Given its health benefits, perhaps we should include it in our daily diet.
Lisa Marie Mercer is the author of Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness and 101 Fitness Tips for Women. She lives in Summit County Colorado, where she is the owner of Mountain Sport Pilates and Fitness.