Cranberry or the Vaccinium macrocarpon is a bright red and small berry. As the old wives' tale says, it is a cure-all for Urinary tract infections. But it is so much more than this!
This History and Origin of cranberry
Previously, cranberries were known as ‘sassamanesh’ or ‘ibimi’ by various endemic tribes and natives of America. It became known as the cranberry because the new settlers thought that the flower resembled a crane bird, hence, the crane berry.
The Native Americans used cranberries for their medicinal value by using the mashed berries to draw the poison out of arrow wounds. They also used the berries in cooking and in dyeing.
The cranberry plant is a vine plant which climbs up to 20 centimetres in height, whereas the vines can reach up to 2 metres long. It’s an evergreen plant with dark pink flowers. The berries can grow to be very large, much larger than the leaves on the plant.
The majority of cranberries are grown in the USA, Canada and Chile. In fact, 98% of the world’s production of cranberries comes from these sources. This is thought to take up approximately 40,500 acres of agricultural land.
Nutrition of Cranberry
Eat your 5-a-day. I would recommend cranberries being one of these. Cranberries are a very rich source of the following nutrients:
● Vitamin C
● Vitamin E
● Vitamin K
● Vitamin B5
If you are drinking cranberry try and find a high-quality source with no added sugar. Follow the serving suggestion of no more than 250ml/day. If you are going to eat your cranberries in a dried form try to limit yourself to no more than 30g as these are very high in extrinsic sugars.
Cranberry Health Benefits
Cranberry is rich in phytonutrients such as anthocyanins, flavonols and proanthocyanins.
Moreover, it’s rich in Vitamin C, otherwise known as Ascorbic Acid. EFSA (The European Food Safety Authority) have an approved health claim for Vitamin , - ‘ Vitamin C contributes to the normal function of the immune system. Studies show that the polyphenols and phytonutrients can help to protect the gut microbiota, and stimulate the body’s immune system and anti-inflammatory functions.
One study found that a greater immune response in a group of participants that had consumed a cranberry drink. The cranberry drink had increased the T-lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
It’s one of the most well-known supplementation remedies by the general public, but
does it work and if so, why does it work? Some research has shown contradictory evidence. However, one piece of evidence suggests that post-cranberry consumption causes a decrease in bacterial adhesion that causes the infection associated with a UTI.
The reason why cranberries are so effective is that they contain D-mannose. D-mannose is a type of sugar that bypasses all normal carbohydrate metabolism. Which means it’s able to pass digestion unscathed. D-mannose is then excreted via the urinary system. It then attaches to the bacteria which makes it easier to pass in the urine. Which helps to reduce bacteria that causes the UTI.
With the increase in of Cardiovascular Disease and Coronary heart disease in an obesogenic environment more has to be done to fight ill health. Cranberries have been shown to decrease heart-related disease. This is thought to be associated with its antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory effects. One study by McKay and Blumberg states the following ‘A growing body of evidence suggests that polyphenols, including those found in cranberries, may contribute to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by increasing the resistance of LDL to oxidation, inhibiting platelet aggregation, reducing blood pressure, and via other anti-thrombotic and anti-inflammatory mechanisms’ . Another study showed that after participants consumed cranberries there was a decrease in aortic stiffness whereas an increase was shown in the placebo group that did not consume cranberries.
Whether it’s fighting a UTI or beating a cold cranberries are berry full of blessings!