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Have an Extra Helping of Cranberries This Holiday

by Lynn Shapiro, Writer | December 22, 2008
Healthy and delicious
"While most food trends come and go, the cranberry continues to exert its heralded "superfood" status. When it comes to time-honored good taste, versatility and good nutrition, look no further than cranberries," says US Cranberries.com.

The cranberry is a grocery store mainstay, not a fad fruit. Its popularity dates back to the days of the Pilgrims who coveted the fruit for its many virtues. This sweet-tart berry's versatility is hard to beat. Find them in the snack aisle, the juice aisle, the canned goods aisle and from September through December, in the fresh produce section. With so many options available, it's easy to include this tasty fruit as part of a healthy diet, according to the advocacy group.

"Whether you're using cranberry juice, cranberry sauce or dried cranberries, you can add the color and taste of cranberries to your meals and snacks throughout the day," says Registered Dietitian Lisa Dorfman. "Plus, this powerful fruit helps meet the USDA's recommendation for eating two to four servings of fruit per day," she says.

Following are a few of the powerful attributes that cranberries have to offer, according to research studies:

*Antioxidants: Often identified in food by their deep-colored pigment - such as the deep red color of cranberries - antioxidants are important components in plants that are showing potential to protect the body from harmful oxidants known as free radicals, which may weaken the immune system, among other things.

*According the latest Agricultural Research Service Report from the USDA, cranberries have more antioxidants than 19 other commonly eaten fruits, with 9584 ORAC units per 100 grams of fresh fruit. And, with 2186 ORAC units, one cup of 100 percent cranberry juice blend (a combination of 100 percent cranberry juice with other fruit juices without added sugar) has more naturally occurring antioxidants than one cup of orange juice (1800 ORAC units) and apple juice (1011 ORAC units).

*Urinary Tract Health: Cranberries have a wide array of antioxidants, but one kind that is unique to cranberries is proanthocyanidins. This type of flavonoid antioxidant keeps certain bacteria from adhering to the walls of your bladder, helping to maintain a healthy urinary tract. In fact, research suggests daily consumption of cranberry juice cocktail can help maintain urinary tract health.

*Heart Health: In addition to proanthocyanidins, cranberries also contain another type of flavonoid antioxidant, called anthocyanins. While more research is needed on the effects of antioxidants on health, preliminary studies suggest flavonoid antioxidants may work by helping to maintain healthy cells, tissues and arteries, which means helping to maintain a healthy heart. And, fruits and vegetables are important for maintaining good health and reducing the risk of certain chronic diseases, including heart disease.

*Gingivitis: Drinking cranberry juice could also possibly help cut down on something that affects nearly 67 million Americans: gingivitis. Research published in the March 2008 edition of the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy revealed that natural compounds found in cranberries were shown to fight severe gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, by acting as a powerful anti-inflammatory substance.