Cranberries are a star fruit in North American cuisine. In recent decades, its popularity has exploded in Europe where it is appreciated, above all, for its health benefits. In the kitchen, it allows you to create dishes that are healthy, colorful, and delicious.
- An exceptional source of antioxidants;
- Rich in vitamin C;
- Good source of dietary fiber;
- Prevents cystitis and urinary tract infections;
- Promotes digestive and cardiovascular health.
Nutritional and caloric values of cranberries
From a macronutrient point of view, cranberry is a very interesting little fruit. Although its protein and lipid contents are negligible, it is a source of carbohydrates that are quickly assimilated by the body. Cranberries are also a source of soft fiber, ideal for promoting transit and intestinal comfort.
However, it is the micronutrient content of cranberries that is particularly noteworthy. It is an excellent source of antioxidant vitamin C, beta-carotene, potassium, and vitamin K. It, therefore, has its place as part of a varied and balanced healthy diet.
For 100 g of raw cranberries:
|Dietary fiber||5,13 g|
|Glycemic load: Moderate (cranberry cocktail)|
Data not available for raw cranberry
|Antioxidant power: Very high|
The benefits of cranberries
The tangy flavor of the cranberry makes it an original ingredient to add to small daily dishes. Filled with antioxidants, its refreshing juice would prevent urinary tract infections and the appearance of several diseases.
Exceptional antioxidant power
The antioxidant capacity of cranberries is now unanimously accepted by the scientific community.
After the blueberry, it would be the fruit with the best antioxidant activity, with values higher than those of many fruits such as apple, red grape, strawberry, grapefruit, and peach. Among these antioxidant compounds, we can cite the following:
- Flavonoids. Cranberries contain different types of flavonoids, powerful antioxidants that neutralize free radicals in the body and thus prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and various diseases related to aging. The 3 main classes of cranberry flavonoids are anthocyanins (which give the red color), flavonols, and proanthocyanins. These would also prevent the adhesion of E. coli bacteria causing infections to the walls of the urinary canal;
- Resveratrol. Cranberries contain resveratrol, a polyphenol from the stilbene class. Although the antioxidant activity of resveratrol in red wine is well documented, little research has been done on this active compound in cranberries. According to one study, the concentration of resveratrol in cranberry juice is comparable to that present in grape juice;
- Ursolic acid. Cranberries contain ursolic acid, a molecule of the triterpene class. This molecule would have an anti-cancer potential by inhibiting the proliferation of certain types of cancerous cells (liver and breast).
Consumption of cranberry juice or taking cranberry tablets would be particularly effective in women to prevent urinary tract infections.
On the other hand, to date, no study has been able to demonstrate that the consumption of juice or other cranberry products can cure urinary tract infections (see our Urinary tract infection sheet).
To find out the recommended doses for people prone to urinary tract infections, see our Cranberry (psn) sheet in the natural health products section.
Before turning red, the cranberry is white.
If picked at this time, it produces a colorless juice. It is slightly less tart than red but is said to have roughly the same nutritional value and the same total antioxidant power.
On the other hand, it is not known whether it provides all of the beneficial effects of red cranberry juice on health.
Studies indicate that regular consumption of cranberry juice may prevent Helicobacter pylori infections in the stomach. This bacterium is a cause of several stomach problems, including chronic gastritis and gastric and duodenal ulcers.
Adding cranberry juice to a conventional treatment would more effectively eradicate the bacteria.
The consumption of cranberry and its various compounds would reduce the formation of dental plaque, dental caries, and periodontal diseases. On the other hand, most commercial juices available on the market have a high sugar content and high acidity. They are therefore not beneficial with regard to oral hygiene.
Various compounds isolated from cranberry could be used as supplements to improve oral health.
Flavonols and proanthocyanidins extracted from cranberries have been shown to inhibit acid production by a bacterium involved in the development of dental caries (Streptococcus mutan) and reduce the formation of dental biofilm that causes dental plaque.
Several studies indicate that the consumption of flavonoids in food and beverages can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, the process leading to the onset of cardiovascular disease.
In vitro research shows that the flavonoids extracted from cranberries prevent the oxidation of LDL (bad cholesterol) as well as the aggregation of blood platelets, markers linked to cardiovascular disease.
In addition, the consumption of cranberry juice would increase HDL (good cholesterol). Consumed at a rate of 500 ml (2 cups) per day, the low-calorie cranberry cocktail would significantly reduce blood pressure.
Several epidemiological studies show that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of certain cancers. In vitro studies show that cranberry extracts and compounds can inhibit the growth and proliferation of different types of cancer including breast, colon, prostate, and lung.
Cranberries, like blueberries, have been linked to protective effects on neurons (nerve cells). Animal studies indicate that eating multiple berries can inhibit or reverse the loss of communication between brain cells.
It would also prevent certain age-related deficiencies that can affect various motor and cognitive aspects. In addition, the consumption of fruit and vegetable juices, and in particular of cranberry, blueberry, and blueberry extracts, could have a protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease.
Antioxidant compounds would be more abundant in dried cranberries than in fresh cranberries, because of the concentration related to drying. However, they would retain the same properties. But their added sugar content is often high, so it is better to consume them in moderation.
How to choose the right cranberry?
The cranberry, or cranberry, is also commonly referred to as the North American lingonberry. Indeed, its small bright red berries look like lingonberries. Very popular in North America, its consumption has been on the rise in Europe in recent years, where it is appreciated for its therapeutic properties.
Cranberry ID Card
- Family: Ericaceae;
- Origin: North America;
- Season: September/October;
- Red color ;
- Flavor: Sour.
Choosing the right cranberry
Given the tart flavor of the berry, sugar (glucose, fructose) is often added to cranberry products. It is therefore essential to read the label carefully to ensure that the product contains as little as possible or none at all.
Cranberry cocktails typically contain more water than juice, and it’s not uncommon for artificial flavors and colors to be added. From a nutritional point of view, it is preferable to obtain pure juice or concentrate and to measure the amount of water you want to add yourself.
Storing the cranberry
- Refrigerator: fresh berries can be kept for a few weeks and even a few months in the refrigerator, which is quite exceptional for a small fruit;
- Freezer: freeze them individually on a metal plate, then bag them and put them back in the freezer. Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary to add sugar to them before freezing them.
How to prepare the cranberry?
In Europe, we mainly know the cranberry in dried form, or in the form of juice. Fresh, is an ingredient to discover and allows you to make delicious recipes that are as healthy as they are colorful. Be careful, however, its marked acidity requires a few good gestures in the kitchen in order to be able to take full advantage of it.
An ideal fruit for original salads
Do not hesitate to add cranberries to fruit and vegetable salads: for example with apples and celeriac; with lamb’s lettuce and sweet onions; with dandelions and duck breast; chicory and walnuts, etc.
Cranberry in sauce version
- Sauce: they are simply simmered with a little honey in butter; if desired, flambé with cognac or rum;
- You can use the juice in vinaigrettes, to deglaze a pan, for the preparation of glazed carrots or onions, in sorbets and ice cream;
- Cranberries go well in coulis, sauces, chutneys, or compotes ;
- Use honey or maple syrup instead of refined sugar, reducing the proportions recommended in recipes. Or mix cranberries with other sweeter fruits. You can also use them in clafoutis with plums or cherries, or dip them in hot chocolate with other fondue fruits;
- Dried Cranberry Sauce: Soak raisins, dried apricots, and dried cranberries in lukewarm water. Sauté onion or minced shallots and garlic, add pieces of walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds or any other oilseed of your choice (pumpkin or sunflower seeds), dried fruit, and a little water or wine. Cook until the liquid has evaporated. Serve with poached or baked fish.
A touch of acidity always appreciated at breakfast time
Decorate your pancakes with a sauce made up of dried cranberries, orange juice, and maple syrup that you have simmered for about twenty minutes in a little butter;
Use dried cranberries in place of raisins in muffins, bread mixes, cookies, etc. Add them to muesli or other granola-type preparations, couscous, or tajines.
The cranberry in the salty version
- Stuffing for poultry: sauté minced onion and pine nuts in a pan; add fresh or frozen cranberries and apples. Simmer for a few minutes, then add cooked wild rice and season with herbs of your choice. Stuff the poultry with this preparation;
- Crab with orange, cranberries, and hazelnuts: cook the cranberries in a little water until they burst. Melt the butter, and add the crab pieces, diced avocado, hazelnuts, orange segments, orange juice, and cranberries. Cook for a few minutes and serve over rice or short pasta.
Cranberry contraindications and allergies
There are few contraindications to cranberry consumption and very few known allergies. However, because of its great richness in vitamin K, cranberry consumption must be strictly limited in the context of certain anticoagulant treatments in order to avoid the risk of bleeding.
In 2009, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in the United Kingdom highlighted the possible interaction between warfarin (an anticoagulant marketed under the name Coumadin) and cranberry juice. Indeed, it has been shown in vitro that cranberry juice could increase the anticoagulant effect of the drug and cause bleeding.
More recent studies, however, call into question the conclusions of previous clinical studies.
Although the evidence showing an interaction between cranberry juice and warfarin is weak, it is still suggested that patients taking warfarin, or any other blood thinner, be cautioned and limit or avoid consumption of cranberry products. cranberry.
History and anecdotes
The term “cranberry” appeared in the French language in 1665. Its origin is uncertain. It could derive from the English cranberry, the name that the pioneers of New England gave to the plant by allusion to its port, which recalls that of the crane (crane). The term “atoca”, which derives from the Iroquoian, appeared in 1632. It was, therefore, for a certain time, the official name used to designate the plant.
Depending on the country, region, and species, the cranberry has various names: apple of the meadows in the Magdalen Islands, cranberry or ataca in the rest of Quebec, and bilberry or pea in Europe. “Fagne” is a word of Walloon origin that means muddy marsh, where cranberries often grow.
A little history
Originally from the acid peat bogs of eastern North America, cranberry has always been consumed by various Native American nations. Native Americans picked berries from August until late fall, even during winter and early spring. Part of the fruit was eaten fresh and the rest was set aside for the winter.
They were kept in birch bark baskets or in peat moss. They were also steamed or mixed with fat, or dried, sometimes with deer meat. Cranberries were used in the composition of the traditional pemmican (traditional food of the Amerindians, composed of dried meat, fat, and dried fruit) or accompanied smoked fish.
In western America, where other species grew wild, cranberries were traded in some way. Native Americans harvested large quantities to sell in the market.
The cranberry elsewhere in the world
At least one species is found in northern Asia and Europe, but only V. macrocorpon is commercially cultivated worldwide. The first commercial operation was established in Massachusetts in 1816. It was not until the 1930s that a Quebec producer took an interest in it.
Today, production extends over more than 16,000 hectares in the northern United States and Canada (Quebec, the Maritimes, and British Columbia), the two main producing countries. Cranberries are also grown marginally in a few European countries, including Belarus and Ukraine.
An increasingly popular little berry
Traditionally, in North America, cranberries were only eaten on Thanksgiving and during the holiday season, in the form of a sauce that accompanies the essential turkey. However, since the late 1950s, cranberry juice has gradually established itself, to such an extent that today, approximately 80% of production is devoted to it.
The cranberry is closely related to the North American blueberry, the European blueberry, the mountain bilberry of Mount Ida (Island of Crete), and various other berries of the genus Vaccinium.
All these plants have in common that they are dwarf and creeping, grow in acidic soils and produce berries that are particularly rich in antioxidants. This explains their current popularity among health-conscious people.
Fresh berries are only available in season (September to December). There are also juices, concentrates, frozen berries, and dried berries on the market, some of which are flavored with maple syrup. There are also a few specialty products such as cranberry mustard and cider vinegar, as well as mixed infusions that include cranberry.
Did you know? From the 17th century to the 19th century, cranberry was widely consumed by sailors in eastern North America. They had found that those who ate it were not victims of scurvy.
It was understood much later that this was due to the richness in vitamin C of the small berry.
Cranberries can be grown in the home garden, but the soil must be acidic (pH around 4.5). In most cases, this requires artificially acidifying it, either by adding a generous amount of peat moss to the planting hole or by amending it with elemental sulfur or acid fertilizers.
It is also necessary to have a lot of water, on the one hand for irrigating the plants, on the other hand, to protect them from harsh cold (water limits the harmful effects of frost, as well as its drying action).
On the other hand, unlike commercial crops, it is not necessary to flood the plants at the time of picking, this practice is strictly intended to facilitate mechanized harvesting, which takes advantage of the fact that the fruits float.
The first harvest will take place 3 years after planting. Harvest the fruits only when their color is a deep purple or red.
Ecology and environment
Cranberries are usually grown in bogs, which raises some environmental concerns. These fragile environments are particularly vulnerable to the agricultural activities that take place there.
The need to build ponds for this crop can lead to the silting up of watercourses located downstream. In addition, the use of large amounts of water for irrigation and the flooding of cranberries at various stages of their growth inevitably affect the water table.
Residues of chemical fertilizers and pesticides also end up in the environment when pond water is drained, which can contaminate fish and other marine species. In addition, dykes intended to retain water can thwart the spawning habits of fish.
Finally, the discharge of water from basins, which is at higher temperatures than that of rivers, causes the latter to warm up, which can harm marine and aquatic life.
For now, these effects are relatively small, given the still small size of cranberry farms. In fact, urbanization and other forms of agriculture are believed to have a much greater impact on peatlands.
And, on a positive note, the cranberry bogs have been observed to support a variety of wildlife, including some endangered species: river otters, sandhill cranes, ducks, geese, bald eagles, foxes, American mink, to name a few.
For their part, producers are gradually adopting practices to reduce the impact of this crop on the environment.
For example, some recover all the drainage and irrigation water from their basins, so as not to draw it elsewhere (in particular from rivers). Others study the movement of water through the soil to develop techniques to limit runoff.
Finally, although still marginal, the organic cultivation of this berry is growing, which can only have a positive effect on the environment.
Image Credit :
Image Credit: Photo by Yulia Khlebnikova on Unsplash