The humble cranberry, which is a close relative of the blueberry, is a small red berry with a tart flavour that for years was almost exclusively used as the basis for a sweet sauce to accompany roast turkey or chicken.
However, this small berry is packed full of goodness, not the least of which are powerful antioxidants, which help in the fight against cancer.
Cranberries, or the juice made from them also contain an antibacterial agent called hippuric acid along with other compounds that reduce the ability of E. coli bacteria to adhere to the walls of the urinary tract.
This reduces the chances of contracting urinary tract and kidney infections enormously.
There are other lesser known qualities of cranberries.
Cranberries for Natural Health
The compounds in cranberries also act as a powerful natural antibiotic and in the case of urinary tract and kidney infections has been used successfully to replace standard antibiotics.
The Journal of Science, Food and Agriculture (October 2004 issue) published studies that show that a phytonutrient isolated from cranberries is effective against the herpes simplex virus (HSV-2), the cause of genital herpes.
The antiviral compound proanthocyanidin A-1 found in cranberries, inhibits the attachment and penetration of the herpes virus in a similar manner to the way it prevents urinary tract infection by E.coli. It has to be noted that tests have not as yet been trialed on human subjects.
Cranberries also have the ability to act as a natural probiotic, supporting the health-promoting friendly bacteria that grow in the human gastro-intestinal tract while at the same time killing off the bacteria that create infections and food-borne illnesses.
Further studies have found that compounds isolated from cranberry juice dissolved the aggregates formed by many oral bacteria and were effective in reducing the level of Streptococus mutans in saliva, which is the major cause of tooth decay.
The quinic acid found in cranberry juice is not broken down in the body but is left unchanged in the urine. The slight rise in acidity level has been found to help prevent the formation of kidney stones.
More test tube research has shown that the antioxidants contained in cranberries could protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation. Animal research has provided evidence that cranberries can also decrease the levels of total cholesterol and LDL (low density lipids) while at the same time increasing levels of HDL (high density lipids).
A recent human study has also corroborated these positive results.
Consuming cranberries frequently can bring a number of health benefits while also helping to reduce the incidence of a number of problematic conditions that many people suffer from.
Enough reasons, then, to go out and buy some delicious cranberry juice (or better still, buy fresh berries and make your own juice) and make a point of drinking a glass a day. Preferably in place of orange juice, for reasons I'll go into in a future post.