Cranberries were once an important medicine for native Americans. They treated a variety of illnesses, including bladder infections, with cranberry preparations.
Today cranberries, the most American of all fruits, continue to be a superior source of nutrition and vitamins. North American women have been drinking cranberry juice cocktail for years as a traditional remedy for bladder infections and to maintain urinary tract health. Recent research has also indicated that cranberries are an excellent source of "antioxidants" -- natural plant products that may protect against cancer, heart disease and other diseases.
Nutritionists and many in the medical community believe there is a clear association between a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low risk of chronic disease. As a fruit, cranberries are a good choice for the health-conscious consumer. As a functional food powerhouse, packed full of antioxidants and other natural compounds, they promote health and wellness.
Recently, attention has turned to the relationship between cranberry consumption and cardiovascular health. Preliminary results show that drinking cranberry juice is a heart-healthy activity that's delicious too!
Researchers believe that polyphenol compounds called flavonoids, associated with foods such as red wine, are responsible for reduction in cardiovascular disease. Flavonoids act by inhibiting blood clotting, promoting vasodilation (increased interior blood vessel diameter, which improves blood flow and reduces blood pressure), and protecting oxidation of cholesterol in the bloodstream (thus, reducing atherosclerosis, or clogging of the arteries).
According to some in the medical community, cranberries contain high levels of flavonoids and research on the effect of cranberry juice consumption on cardiovascular health continues.
Studies show that raw cranberry extract has potent antioxidant properties in lab tests with low density lipoproteins. Research demonstrates that over-the-counter bottled cranberry juices also contain potent antioxidants. Cranberry juice has also been shown to increase interior blood vessel diameter in animals, suggesting that cranberry juice may have a similar effect on blood flow in humans.
Overall, studies have demonstrated that cranberry juice is equivalent to red wine with respect to polyphenol content, antioxidant activity, and vasodilator activity. Although preliminary, the results show that cranberry juice should definitely be a part of a heart-healthy diet.
Cranberries also contains a number of plant chemicals that may play a role in preventing certain types of cancers. These plant chemicals are called flavonoids and include anthocyanins (which give cranberry its characteristically deep red color), proanthocyanidins and flavonols.
In published studies, cranberries were shown to have the potential to inhibit the initiation and early stages of cancer as evaluated by laboratory screening tests. The researchers theorize that certain flavonoids identified in cranberry juice were responsible for the activity. These compounds inhibited epidermal tumor growth in mice in previous studies.
More recently, researchers have demonstrated that mice injected with human breast cancer cells showed significantly lower incidence of tumor development when fed cranberry components. The study also revealed that cranberry consumption delayed tumor development and reduced the spread of tumors to the lungs and lymph system.
Cranberry is also a rich source of the flavonoid quercetin. Quercetin has been shown to effectively inhibit the development of both breast and colon cancers.
If It's Not From The Forest, It's Not Wild!
Mike Poulin,James Bay Wild Fruit