Eat a Cranberry Day
Eat a Cranberry Day is celebrated on November 23rd of each year.It was created in order to promote the health benefits of cranberries.
Since the early 21st century within the global functional food industry, there has been a rapidly growing recognition of cranberries for their consumer product popularity, nutrient content and antioxidant qualities, giving them commercial status as a “superfruit”.
The name cranberry derives from “craneberry”, first named by early European settlers in America who felt the expanding flower, stem, calyx, and petals resembled the neck, head, and bill of a crane. Another name used in northeastern Canada is mossberry. The traditional English name for Vaccinium oxycoccos, fenberry, originated from plants found growing in fen (marsh) lands.
In North America, Native Americans were the first to use cranberries as food. Native Americans used cranberries in a variety of foods, especially for pemmican, wound medicine and dye. Calling the red berries Sassamanash, natives may have introduced cranberries to starving English settlers in Massachusetts who incorporated the berries into traditional Thanksgiving feasts.
Cranberries are a group of evergreen dwarf shrubs or trailing vines in the subgenus Oxycoccus of the genus Vaccinium. In some methods of classification, Oxycoccus is regarded as a genus in its own right. They can be found in acidic bogs throughout the cooler regions of the northern hemisphere.
Cranberries are low, creeping shrubs or vines up to 2 metres (7 ft) long and 5 to 20 centimetres (2 to 8 in) in height; they have slender, wiry stems that are not thickly woody and have small evergreen leaves. The flowers are dark pink, with very distinct reflexed petals, leaving the style and stamens fully exposed and pointing forward. They are pollinated by bees. The fruit is a berry that is larger than the leaves of the plant; it is initially white, but turns a deep red when fully ripe. It is edible, with an acidic taste that can overwhelm its sweetness.
Cranberries are a major commercial crop in certain American states and Canadian provinces (see cultivation and uses below). Most cranberries are processed into products such as juice, sauce, jam, and sweetened dried cranberries, with the remainder sold fresh to consumers. Cranberry sauce is regarded as an indispensable part of traditional American and Canadian Thanksgiving menus and some European winter festivals.
Since the early 21st century within the global functional food industry, raw cranberries have been marketed as a 'superfruit' due to their nutrient content and antioxidant qualities.
Etymology and history
The name cranberry derives from 'craneberry', first named by early European settlers in America who felt the expanding flower, stem, calyx, and petals resembled the neck, head, and bill of a crane. Another name used in northeastern Canada is mossberry. The traditional English name for Vaccinium oxycoccos, fenberry, originated from plants found growing in fen (marsh) lands. In 17th century New England cranberries were sometimes called 'bearberries' as bears were often seen feeding on them.
In North America, Native Americans were the first to use cranberries as food. Native Americans used cranberries in a variety of foods, especially for pemmican, wound medicine and dye. Calling the red berries Sassamanash, natives may have introduced cranberries to starving English settlers in Massachusetts who incorporated the berries into traditional Thanksgiving feasts. American Revolutionary War veteran Henry Hall is credited as first to farm cranberries in the Cape Cod town of Dennis around 1816. In the 1820s cranberries were shipped to Europe. Cranberries became popular for wild harvesting in the Nordic countries and Russia. In Scotland, the berries were originally wild-harvested but with the loss of suitable habitat, the plants have become so scarce that this is no longer done.
About 95% of cranberries are processed into products such as juice drinks, sauce, and sweetened dried cranberries. The remaining are sold fresh to consumers.
Cranberries are normally considered too sharp to be eaten plain and raw, as they are not only sour but bitter as well.
Cranberry juice is a major use of cranberries; it is usually either sweetened to make 'cranberry juice cocktail' or blended with other fruit juices to reduce its natural severe tartness. Many cocktails, including the Cosmopolitan, are made with cranberry juice. At one teaspoon of sugar per ounce, cranberry juice cocktail is more highly sweetened than even soda drinks that have been linked to obesity.
Usually cranberries as fruit are cooked into a compote or jelly, known as cranberry sauce. Such preparations are traditionally served with roast turkey, as a staple of English Christmas dinners, and the Canadian and US holiday Thanksgiving. The berry is also used in baking (muffins, scones and cakes). Less commonly, innovative cooks use cranberries to add tartness to savory dishes such as soups and stews.
Fresh cranberries can be frozen at home, and will keep up to nine months; they can be used directly in recipes without thawing.
Cranberry wine is made in some of the cranberry-growing regions of the United States and Canada from either whole cranberries, cranberry juice or cranberry juice concentrate.
Potential health effects
Nutrients and antioxidant capacity
Raw 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.
By in vitro measurement of the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity with an ORAC score of 9,584 units per 100 g, cranberry ranks near the top of 277 commonly consumed foods in the United States. However, there is no scientific evidence that ORAC bears any biological significance in the human body.
Raw cranberries are a source of polyphenol antioxidants, phytochemicals under active research for possible benefits to the cardiovascular system and immune system, and as anti-cancer agents, such as in isolated prostate cancer cells. Although polyphenols have antioxidant effects in vitro, they can act as pro-oxidants in others. In addition, it is uncertain whether polyphenols and flavonoids account for the benefits of diets rich in plant-derived foods.
Cranberry juice contains a high molecular weight non-dializable material that might inhibit formation of plaque by Streptococcus mutans pathogens that cause tooth decay. Cranberry juice components also may possibly influence formation of kidney stones.
One study compared cranberries with twenty other fruits, showing that cranberries had a high amount of total polyphenols. Cranberry tannins have laboratory evidence for anti-clotting properties and may prevent recurring urinary tract infections in women, although the evidence in favor of cranberries' efficacy in treating UTIs is far from conclusive. Raw cranberries and cranberry juice are abundant food sources of flavonoids such as proanthocyanidins, flavonols and quercetin. These compounds have shown possible activity as anti-cancer agents in vitro. However, their effectiveness in humans has not been established, and is limited by poor absorption into cells and rapid excretion.
Potential anti-adhesion properties
There is potential benefit of cranberry juice consumption (300mL of cranberry juice per day) against bacterial infections in the urinary system. Laboratory research shows that a possible effect may occur from a component of the juice inhibiting bacterial attachment to the bladder and urethra.
The effect may not result from the acidic nature of polyphenols but possibly to a specific A type proanthocyanidin which is thought to inhibit adherence of Escherichia coli and other fimbriated bacteria to uroepithelial cells.
Although promising for anti-bacterial activity, long-term consumption of cranberry juice has not been adequately proven to reduce urinary tract infections. However, there is preliminary evidence for possible effects against urinary tract infections in women. It is thought that cranberry proanthocyanidins are responsible for the apparent efficacy of consuming cranberry juice against urinary tract infections. Their mechanism of action may be related to inhibition of adherence of Escherichia coli to urothelial cells. Similar applications have not been successfully proven in other clinical trials of consuming cranberry juice or tablets by people with spinal cord injury associated with bladder catheterization, neurogenic bladder or infrequent urination, any of which may be associated with increased susceptibility to bacterial infections.
In one clinical trial, cranberry juice significantly increased plasma antioxidant capacity, and decreased oxidized low-density lipoprotein and malondialdehyde at eight weeks compared to a placebo. However, cranberry juice consumption caused no significant improvements in blood pressure, glucose and lipid profiles, C-reactive protein, and interleukin-6. It was found that low-energy cranberry juice (Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc, Lakeville-Middleboro, Mass. 2 cups/day) significantly reduced lipid oxidation and increased plasma antioxidant capacity in women with metabolic syndrome.
An autumn 2004 caution from the Committee on Safety of Medicines, the UK agency dealing with drug safety, advised patients taking warfarin not to drink cranberry juice after adverse effects (such as increased incidence of bruising) were reported, possibly resulting from the presence of salicylic acid native to polyphenol-rich plants such as the cranberry. However, during 2006-8, several reviews of case reports and pilot studies have failed to confirm this effect, collectively indicating no statistically significant interaction between daily consumption of 250 mL cranberry juice and warfarin in the general population. A gene (VKORC1, CYP2C9) has been shown to change warfarin sensitivity. This gene may also contribute to bruising susceptibility as a result of cranberries for carriers of the gene. A couple of possible cases of Warfarin interaction with cranberry have been reported.