December 1, 2004
Yes, Thanksgiving has passed, but this is still fresh cranberry season. So why not enjoy these delectable little gems well into December?
Cranberries have become a year-round healthy treat. They’re available frozen, canned, dried and in juice, so there’s no excuse for excluding them from your menus.
When you eat cranberries, you’re helping your body in many ways, including:
• Boosting your urinary tract health. Natural substances in cranberries prevent bacteria from sticking to healthy cells. This is especially true in the urinary tract — a fact that should be of particular interest to women. Although men can get urinary tract infections, women’s anatomy make them more susceptible: One in five women will get one every year. You can prevent urinary tract infections by drinking about 10 ounces of cranberry juice per day, or eating some 10-ounce combination of cranberry products. Canned cranberry sauce doesn’t count — there is not a high enough cranberry content to offer any health benefits, and the sugar may "feed" infections. But fresh cranberry sauce, made with whole cranberries and no sugar, will work.
If you’ve never made fresh cranberry sauce, you’ll be surprised how easy it is. Fresh or frozen cranberries are simmered on top of the stove until they begin to pop. (Don’t try this in the microwave unless you have really good control of your machine. Scraping exploded cranberries from the sides of the microwave is not a good way to get your exercise.) Instead of sweetening your cranberry sauce with sugar, try something more healthful, like orange juice concentrate, maple syrup, date sugar or apple juice. Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, cranberry sauce can last up to two weeks.
• Meeting your vitamin C needs. We’ve all heard about antioxidants, sometimes called "edible protection" against disease. Vitamin C is an excellent antioxidant. About 8 ounces of cranberry juice provides 130 percent of the RDA for vitamin C. Among their many benefits, antioxidants, such as vitamin C, are thought to help to prevent heart disease.
• Possibly warding off cancer. That little red berry includes vitamins C and E, thought to help in the fight against cancer.
• Gaining a little serenity. Serotonin is the brain’s chemical calming agent. Carbohydrates tell the brain to release serotonin. Cranberry juice fits the bill, as it is an efficient carbohydrate with few empty calories. Cranberry juice may help your brain to produce a little more serotonin. Lug a bottle of cranberry juice to your next yoga session for maximum relaxation.
• Improving your appearance. Not only will you have the internal glow of good health, but herbalists will tell you that cranberries help to improve the complexion.
If you are concerned about your calcium intake, combine several nutrients in one. Purchase cranberry juice with added calcium. You’ll be fighting off heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis while maintaining a healthy urinary tract and keeping your calm.