Latin Name: Vaccinium macrocarpon (American cranberry)
Vaccinium oxycoccos (Common cranberry)
What is a cranberry?
Related to blueberries, these tart red berries are a group of evergreen shrubs or trailing vines from the genus Vaccinium that are most often found in acidic bogs throughout the cooler parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Harvested in the fall when the fruit takes on its distinctive red coloring, most cranberries are processed into juice, sauce, and sweetened dried cranberries, while the remaining 5% is sold fresh to consumers.
In North America, Native Americans were the first to use cranberries as food, and it is speculated that they introduced cranberries to the English settlers in Massachusetts. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, the colonists were exporting cranberries to England. Since then, the berries have become an essential tradition in American and Canadian Thanksgiving feasts, as well as European winter festivals.
What are the health benefits of Cranberries?
Historically, Native Americans used cranberries for food, red dye, and medicinally as a poultice for wound healing. Other traditional uses for cranberry fruits and leaves were for urinary disorders, diarrhea, diabetes, stomach ailments, and liver problems.
Nutritionally, cranberries have moderate levels of vitamin C, dietary fiber and the essential dietary mineral, manganese, as well as a balanced profile of other essential micronutrients.
Today, cranberry juice is widely used to prevent bladder infections. The cranberry contains a substance that prevents bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall, causing them to be washed out when you urinate. Cranberry juice is thought to work best when drunk regularly, which seems to reduce the amount of recurrent bladder infections in those prone to develop them.
Cranberry products have also been used to help treat Helicobacter pylori infections that can lead to stomach ulcers and to prevent dental plaque. Due to its source of polyphenol antioxidants, cranberry has also been reported to have anticancer activity and may benefit the cardiovascular system. Cranberry juice components have also been found effective against formation of kidney stones.
Where can I find Cranberries?
Cranberry and its products can be found in grocery stores, and fresh at some outdoor markets in the fall season.
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