Cranberries — They show up at the holiday season, but we pretty much ignore them the rest of the year. Too bad, because they might be the “fruit of youth” to keep us healthy and vigorous longer. They fight a number of diseases that we dread and fear as we grow older — like cancer, dementia, and heart disease.
One main reason these colorful berries are so good for us is their antioxidant value. The USDA rated them as tops among fruits in antioxidants.
Now, we know that antioxidants are good, but it’s a little tricky understanding why they work. It’s all about free radicals. These pesky critters are molecules in your body that are missing an electron from their structure. Where did the electrons go? Toxins, stress, and even the natural effect of breathing in oxygen, damage the molecule and “steal” the electron.
These deprived molecules now range around your body looking for an electron to make up their lack and swipe them from other cells. This is not good for the cells, and damage starts to happen. This electron burglary happens at a level far too small for you to see, but eventually you will feel the result. Oxidative stress, the condition that happens when you have been robbed too often, causes disease and signs of aging. Antioxidants, which are found in abundant supply in the foods we SHOULD be eating, like lots of fruits and veggies, supply missing electrons.
“Here you go,” they say. “No need to swipe electrons. Have some of mine.”
So the crime wave is stopped, damage is reduced and you are healthier. You look and feel younger.
That’s one reason why cranberries are good for you. There are others. One is the anthocyanins they contain. (Don’t you wish scientists would come up with names for stuff that we can pronounce?) These phytochemicals foil the free radicals, but they also work their way into our cells and direct them to stop inflammation. Inflammation is the main source of pain and makes a good environment for diseases like heart disease and cancer. If you have arthritis, an autoimmune disease, or any number of other diseases, you want to lower your inflammatory response. I have glaucoma and am working to lower the eye pressure naturally by eating to lower inflammation. More about that in a later post.
And — there’s your brain. What we undoubtedly fear most about growing older is losing the use of our minds. Scientists experimenting with rats found that cranberry-eating rats fared better on brain function tests than the control group. (That study isn’t published yet. Found this unverified “spoiler” on a Web site about cranberries.) That makes sense, because free radicals cause the aging-effect damage to the brain — and cranberries, as we said, are rich in antioxidants.
Do they help with urinary tract infections as we have heard for years? Yes, and ulcers, too. There is another unpronouncible compound in cranberries that prevent bacteria from sticking to the lining of the urinary tract so it can’t take hold and start infections. The Helicobactor pylori bacteria that causes stomach ulcers can be thwarted the same way. Or, that is the current theory, at least. Scientists are still testing.
No one is saying that cranberries cure cancer, but there are studies being done that show that, in animals, breast cancer cells show a lower incidence of tumor development when the rats had a cranberry diet. Researchers have hope that these tart little berries will turn out to be a major cancer fighter.
AND — they are good for your heart, your circulation, and may help prevent cavities.
The downside? They don’t taste so yummy, at least on their own. Sugar negates a lot of the good effects they have, as well as making them high glycemic instead of very low. Tune in tomorrow for some interesting recipe and cooking options.
Eating to live and living for Christ,
Susan Jordan Brown