Cranberries....not just for Thanksgiving |
Cranberries....not just for Thanksgiving

Even though election season has (thankfully) ended, I’m here to campaign for the cranberry! Forget that it’s one of only 3 native fruits to North America, this berry deserves year-round respect for its health benefits alone.

For eleven months of the year, this much-maligned fruit waits patiently for its moment to shine. Never has there been a more synonymous pairing than cranberries and Thanksgiving. (Well, except for maybe the turkey!)

Following hours, sometimes even days, of cooking and baking, it’s finally time for this little red gem to take its place on the table, next to the main event. Whatever form it has taken for the day--relish, sauce, or the familiar tin can-shaped blob of gel--it remains the obligatory fruit among an otherwise food pyramid-crushing calorie-fest.   

Then, after the plates are cleared, dishes done, and leftovers stashed in the fridge, the sun sets on its day of glory, sending it, once again, to the bottom of the fruit barrel until we do it all over again next year.

You’ve no doubt heard someone say drinking cranberry juice can help a bladder infection (UTI). It’s one of those long-running remedies that everyone knows about, but no one really knows why.

So, how does it work?

For a UTI to occur, bacteria must adhere to and invade the lining of the bladder. Cranberries contain a micronutrient called proanthocyanidins (PACs), which interfere with the bacteria's ability to adhere to the bladder wall, reducing the likelihood of infection. Clearly, your mom knew what she was talking about, and now you know why! 

However, this berry is no one-hit-wonder. Recent studies have identified over two dozen antioxidant phytonutrients in cranberries which have been shown to help raise the overall antioxidant capacity in our bloodstream. This improves the body’s response against free radicals, helping to further reduce the risk of oxidative stress. Again, that sounds good. But what does it mean? Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. When this occurs, the free radicals can start doing damage to fatty tissue, DNA, and proteins in your body, causing a vast number of health concerns.

Think of free radicals as a bus full of kindergarteners on a field trip to a museum. If left up to just the teacher, something is bound to go wrong; broken statues, sharpies on the Mona Lisa, a dinosaur bone catastrophe, perhaps. But, add a few chaperones (antioxidants) to the mix and now everything and everyone is kept under control--even Billy who needs to use the bathroom for the 5th time.

So, this year when you’re sitting around the Thanksgiving table, give that bowl of cranberries a little more credit. For these reasons and others, cranberries deserve full recognition as a health-supportive fruit that can bring health benefits to your life all year long, not just once a year on Thanksgiving!

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