Cranberries: Cooking, Baking, Vitamins, Minerals, Weight-loss and Antioxidants

What comes to mind when you think of cranberries? I'm willing to bet that, amongst the first associations you come up with, turkey, cranberry sauce, cranberry juice, Christmas and Thanksgiving are pretty high up on your list. This attractive little red berry, not sweet but a culinary and nutritional marvel, belongs to the genus vaccinium and the family Ericaceae. It is grown largely in the Northern Hemisphere.



In folk medicine the cranberry is famous with respect to the treatment of urinary tract infections and the prevention of such, and the juice aisles in your local supermarket are almost certainly stocked to the gills with cartons of it (and often at a rather steep price since it became the alternative therapy automatic choice for such problems, as with the fresh berries). But remember, if you have an infection of any kind then your doctor is the first place to go for advice and treatment. Personally antibiotics are still my foremost preference when it comes to infections (although I'm happy to drink cranberry juice in the hope that it will act as a preventative)!



At Christmas and during other festivities, the consumption of turkey is almost unthinkable if it isn't accompanied by lashings of cranberry sauce. Easy to find commercially made, there are also plenty of recipes out there if you fancy having a go at making your own. Why not have a culinary adventure?



Cranberries!

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Are there useful or interesting nutrients to be found in your jar of cranberry sauce or carton of cranberry and blueberry juice? Raw cranberries contain zero grams of fat per one hundred and ten gram portion (which is surely potentially great news for slimmers!), and five grams of fiber. Useful to know if you're making sauce! Its Vitamin C and manganese content is also notable.[4]


In terms of antioxidants and other phytonutrients, do cranberries contain any interesting chemicals? A 2006 study by Duthie et al suggests that there are doubts about the antioxidant capacities demonstrated in vitro by cranberry juice translating to ameliorating effects regarding cancerous cell changes and heart disease.[2]


What can you make if you're planning on cooking with cranberries or adding them to your diet? Certainly the aforementioned sauce is a great option, providing a tangy accompaniment to savoury dishes, or a lovely no-prep sauce for icecream or pie. Other alternatives include cranberry muffins, cranberry cookies, cranberry stuffing for fowl and cheese flavoured with cranberries. There are lots more options out there! Why not try adding cranberries to your diet soon and see what variety and benefits they can offer?



References


[1] Vinson, J.A., Bose, P, Proch, J., Al Kharrat, H., Samman, N. 'Cranberries and Cranberry Products: Powerful in Vitro, ex Vivo, and in Vivo Sources of Antioxidants'. Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry. 56:14; 2008, pp. 5884-5891.


[2] Duthie, S.J., Jenkinson, A. McE., Crozier, A., Mullen, w., Pine, L., Kyle, J., Yap, L.S., Christen, P., Duthie, G.G. 'The effects of cranberry juice consumption on antioxidant status and biomarkers relating to heart disease and cancer in healthy human volunteers'. European Journal of Nutrition. 45:2; 2006, pp. 113-126.


[3] Elias, T., Elias, T.S., Dykeman, P.A. 'Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods'. New York; Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.: 1982, p. 163.


[4] Nutritiondata. 'Cranberries, raw'. Nutritiondata website. 2009. Available at <http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1875/2> Accessed on 18/10/2010.

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