The cranberry, a crimson, jewel-like, tart-tasting fruit, is one of those foods that dramatically takes over supermarkets’ produce sections during the pre-Thanksgiving season, just as people’s minds turn to feasting.
This native American fruit grows on trailing vines which thrive in wetland areas, commonly referred to as bogs or marshes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recognizes the North American cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) as the fresh-cranberry standard.
But in addition to its huge popularity as a juice and side dish to accompany turkey, cranberries are loaded with antioxidants. There’s no reason not to add this healthy fruit to your meals, or take it as a supplement, all year round.
Here’s a sampling of what’s available:
1. Cranberry extract. Cranberries, an excellent source of vitamin C, contain an array of antioxidant phytochemicals, including anthocyanins ““ the natural pigment responsible for the red and blue colors of certain fruits ““ and proanthocyanidins. Antioxidants protect healthy cells from free radical damage.* For nearly a century, scientists have studied cranberry preparations to promote bladder and urinary tract health.*
2. Cranberry complexes. Because of extensive scientific research which ties cranberries to urinary-tract health, cranberry is included as a key ingredient in some multi-nutrient formulas.* For example, Vitacost Urinary Support Complex is an all-natural blend of five herbs plus cranberry fruit concentrate. Solgar’s Cran Flora with Probiotics combines cranberry, L-acidophilus and vitamin C to help support urinary tract, digestive and immune health.*
3. Cranberry juice concentrate. For consumers who like the idea of having cranberries available all year round, a juice concentrate is a great way to go. Add it to water with a splash of lemon or lime for a quick, refreshing drink, or mix some into your morning smoothie. You can also use it as an ingredient in some dessert recipes, or mix into water and freeze for healthy homemade ice pops.
4. Tea. Cranberry flavors have become a popular ingredient in teas. In one caffeine-free tea, the fruit is combined with red clover blossom and chicory to support weight loss. Or try cranberry in a green-tea product.
5. Body wash. It’s now possible to take cranberries into the shower with a body wash that contains cranberry oil. And for oilier complexes, try an exfoliating cleanser such as MyChelle Dermaceuticals White Cranberry Cleanser, which combines cranberry, pomegranate and willow bark to cleanse skin and help naturally bring it into healthy balance.
Do you have a favorite cranberry recipe? Share it with us in the comments below.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist who specializes in women’s health. She is the co-author of Great Sex, Naturally: Every Woman’s Guide to Enhancing Her Sexuality Through the Secrets of Natural Medicine and co-author of Natural Choices for Women’s Health: How the Secrets of Natural and Chinese Medicine Can Create a Lifetime of Wellness.