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Updated: Jul 28, 2020

American Indians enjoyed cranberries cooked and sweetened with honey or maple syrup. Cranberries were also used by the Indians decoratively as a source of red dye, and medicinally as a poultice for wounds.  

The cranberry belongs to the same genus as the blueberry, Vaccinium. Although several species of cranberries grow wild in Europe and Asia and have always been enjoyed in these parts of the world, the cranberry most cultivated as a commercial crop is an American native. Fresh cranberries are at their peak from October through December.

You should include berries at least 3-4 times per week within your fruit servings. To obtain the maximum health benefits from cranberries eat them in whole form rather than in purified cranberry extracts as a liquid or dried supplement.

Nutrient Profile: Cranberries contain a rich array of phytonutrients. They are a very good source of vitamin C, dietary fiber, and manganese, as well as a good source of vitamin E, vitamin K, copper, and pantothenic acid.

Health Benefits:

  • Protection against Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)- The presence of the phytonutrient, proanthocyanidin is responsible for combatting unwanted bacteria in the urinary tract by preventing their adherence to the urinary tract lining. These benefits have been seen mostly in middle-aged women who have experienced recurrent UTIs. There is greater than 1/3 reduction in UTIs in this age and gender group.

  • Anti-Inflammatory Benefits- The incredible variety of phytonutrients in cranberries is especially effective in lowering the risk of unwanted inflammation. 

  • Cardiovascular Benefits- The combined impact of cranberry antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients is responsible for cardiovascular benefits. 

  • Antioxidant Protection- The phytonutrients and conventional antioxidant nutrients like manganese and vitamin C in cranberry provide maximal antioxidant benefits only when consumed in combination with each other. When cranberry processing disrupts this antioxidant combination, health benefits from cranberries are decreased.

  • Anti-Cancer Benefits- The cancer-preventive benefits of cranberry are especially likely in the case of breast, colon, lung, and prostate cancer. These benefits are due to the presence of the unique antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient composition of cranberries.

  • Digestive Tract Benefits- Cranberries help reduce the risk of periodontal disease, stomach ulcers and colon cancer. Recent research has also shown that cranberries may be able to help optimize the balance of bacteria in our digestive tract.

Selection, Storage and Cooking: Choose fresh, plump cranberries, deep red in color (indicator of more highly concentrated anthocyanins), and quite firm to the touch. Firmness is a primary indicator of quality. Fresh ripe cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 20 days. Before storing, discard any soft, discolored, pitted or shriveled fruits.

Just prior to use, place cranberries in a strainer and briefly rinse under cool running water. When using frozen berries in recipes that do not require cooking, thaw well and drain prior to using. For cooked recipes, use unthawed berries since this will ensure maximum flavor. Extend the cooking time a few minutes to accommodate for the frozen berries.

Cranberries retain their maximum amount of nutrients and their maximum taste when they are enjoyed fresh and not prepared in a cooked recipe. This is because the various nutrients are unable to withstand the temperature (350°F) used in baking.

Individual Concerns: Cranberries and Warfarin- Warfarin is a prescription anticoagulant medication that has widely been used to help prevent formation of blood clots in individuals with a strong tendency toward clotting. There have been a small number of published case studies reporting cranberry juice-related problems by individuals taking warfarin. The various studies are somewhat confusing, and to err on the safe side, it is encouraged that all persons taking warfarin consult with their healthcare provider before incorporating cranberries or cranberry juice into the diet.

Recipe Suggestion:

This is a wonderful and tasty cranberry orange almond muffin from Pamela Salzman.

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