The cranberry grows on shrubs that are found mostly in Europe, the northern United States and Canada. They were historically grown in bogs or marsh land. Now they are cultivated in areas with a low water table but grown in garden beds especially built for their cultivation.
The scientific name for the northern cranberry is Oxycoccus palustris found mainly in Europe and Asia. The large or American cranberry is the Oxycoccus macrocarpus.
They are harvested in the fall but you can purchase them frozen year round. This fruit has a distinct tart flavor that makes it unique from other fruit.
Serving cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving is a holiday tradition in the United States and in Europe on Christmas day. But there are many other options.
A small majority are sold fresh in food markets but most are processed into juice, sauce, and jam. They are also used in recipes such as bread or muffins or added to meat dishes such as pork or chicken.
Dried cranberries are often sweetened to enhance their flavor so beware of the sugar content. They can be eaten as a snack or added to cereal.
Fresh cranberries can be frozen and used as flavored ice cubes in summer drinks. They can also be added to salsa recipes for a unique taste twist.
You can roast cranberries to use on salads or in rice or a stir fry.
Though the flavor is tart compared to most other fruits, that also means the sugar content is lower than most fruits but the benefit of many nutrients is still available. Fresh only contain 44 calories per cup.
Health Benefits of Cranberries
Cranberries are high in antioxidants that improve digestive health by helping to flush toxins out of the system. This includes fighting off free radicals that can cause numerous health problems including cancer. They also help the body build a strong immune system that fights off infections.
Eating this fruit helps to promote oral health and prevent gum disease and plaque formation on teeth.
The citric acid in cranberries helps prevent bladder and kidney problems including kidney stones.
Cranberries are good for your cardiovascular system because they help to lower bad cholesterol levels which can block arteries. This helps prevent strokes and aids in the recovery period after a stroke.
This fruit has been known to relieve stress, lift moods and improve concentration. It can also lower inflammation and benefit those who suffer from arthritis.
Cranberry juice can be drunk to prevent and cure urinary track infections. One glass a day is usually all that is needed to prevent these infections. The juice is also credited with the ability to fight E. Coli. Some studies have found that stomach ulcers can be prevented with this juice.
It is best to make your own juice using fresh cranberries or at least buy the no sugar added juice. Like most fruit juices, it should not be consumed in large quantities or it can cause stomach issues.
Whether fresh, frozen or juiced – cranberries can offer a wide variety of health benefits to your diet.