Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
Why not try some fresh cranberries this festive season and benefit from their nutritional properties?
Don’t be fooled by their size, these berries are power-packed with amazing health benefits. Cranberries are full of antioxidants including vitamin C and E, and also conatin manganese, vitamin K and an array of important phytonutrients including phenolic acids, proanthocyanins, flavonoids, and anthocyanins. What’s not to like?
The antioxidant level in cranberries is one of the highest found in most fruit and vegetables including: apples, raspberries, strawberries, broccoli, cherries and red grapes.
What are the health benefits of consuming cranberries?
Cranberries offer an array of health benefits. Not only do they perk up any meal with their natural sweetness, cranberries also have anti-inflammatory properties that reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases (they help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise the good (HDL), plus they also have been seen to slow down tumour progression in studies. They help to promote heart health, oral health, healthy skin and gut health.
Cranberries are well known by the fact that they often seem to help relieve kidney and bladder issues. Cranberries also have a unique combination of compounds including Proanthocyanidins (or PACs), which provides an antibacterial effect by preventing bacteria from sticking. They help to prevent Urinary Tract Infections (choose fresh cranberries where possible as sugar loaded cranberries juices will only contribute to making these infections worse).
And what about fertility?
When it comes to fertility the antioxidants found in cranberries help protect sperm and egg cells from oxidative stress caused by free radicals – helping to slow down cell ageing. Vitamin C is one of the most abundant antioxidants in sperm, and it contributes to the maintenance of healthy sperm by protecting the sperm’s DNA from free radical damage. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps protect the sperm’s cell membrane from damage. Studies have indicated that vitamin E improves sperm motility (movement). Vitamin C functions to regenerate vitamin E; thus, these vitamins may work together to improve sperm function. Vitamin C has been shown to increase sperm count, motility, and morphology.
Other than during the festive season in sauce…cranberries can be enjoyed throughout the year on cereals in the morning (dried),in granola, in salads (dried), in juices and smoothies or added to some meat dishes.
Pomegranate and cranberry sauce
1 pomegranate – seeds only
10 oz cranberries
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch of ground cloves
½ pint of orange juice
Zest of 1 orange
Place the sugar, orange juice and zest, cranberries, ground cloves, and cinnamon stick together in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and cool. Stir the pomegranate seeds into the cranberry mixture, and place into the fridge overnight. Remove the cinnamon sticks before serving. Make extra portions to freeze. Enjoy!
Grill panned Salmon with festive Cranberry Relish (makes 1 portion – double up as appropriate)
1 wild salmon fillet
For the marinade
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp honey
For the relish
8oz Cranberry Juice
6oz Dried Cranberries
4oz finely chopped red onion
1 tsp orange peel
¾ tsp mixed spice powder
Combine the relish ingredients together and cook gently over a medium heat until mixture boils, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, simmer for six to eight minutes or until the onion is tender and the mixture thickens. Allow to cool. Combine the soy sauce, orange juice and honey. Mix well. Add the salmon, skin side up. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Heat the grill pan and oil it. Place the salmon on the grill pan skin side down. Brush the top with the marinade.
Cook for five minutes over medium heat. Turn the fish around and cook another four to eight minutes until fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork. Remove the salmon and place on a serving platter. Enjoy with the relish.
The 4-C Salad (4 portions)
Celery, carrots, cranberry and cinnamon make this salad simply splendid. The cinnamon provides a great new twist and also helps balances your blood sugar.
8 organic carrots, scrubbed and shredded
4 stalks of celery, sliced
2oz coriander, chopped
2oz dried cranberries
2oz pine nuts or sesame seeds
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tbsp of lemon juice
Pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Scrub and grate or chop veggies, then add to a large mixing bowl. Add the cranberries and nuts/seeds to the mix. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine oil, lemon juice, sea salt, and cinnamon and shake. Toss gently over salad.
Fresh Cranberry sauce
250 ml water
12 oz fresh cranberries
(you can always add your own extras in too if you fancy … small cup of blueberries, pinch of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, pinch of allspice or orange peel).
Wash the cranberries. In a saucepan bring the water and sugar to the boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add cranberries, return to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries burst. You may then wish to add any of your own extras to the mix. Remove from heat. Cool at room temperature and then place in the fridge. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools
Please note: Due to the oxalates in cranberries people with kidney stone issues or potential calcium oxalate kidney stone formation may wish to check with their G.P/healthcare provider before consuming cranberries or cranberry juice. Those taking or about to start taking Warfarin should do the same due to a possible drug- nutrient interaction.
Blumberg et al (2013) Cranberries and Their Bioactive Constituents in Human Health. Adv Nutr vol. 4: 618-632.
Côté J, Caillet S, Doyon G et al (2010). Bioactive compounds in cranberries and their biological properties. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr.;50(7):666-79.