A relative of the beloved blueberry, cranberries are a staple on our holiday tables during our fall and winter holiday season. I have included below a favorite cranberry sauce recipe from Natural Grocers’ founder, Margaret Isely. So, what is all the fuss about these berries anyway?
Still growing as bushes, wild cranberries can be found in Europe, but the popular cultivated cranberries we eat are found as low trailing vines in sandy bogs. Cranberries have also been known as ”bounce berries,” because ripe berries will bounce, and earned the name ”crane berries” as well, because their flowers look a bit like the heads of cranes as the pink blossoms trellis along the bogs.
We get an astonishing array of plant nutrients also know as phytonutrients from these berries, including many that are free radical scavengers, protecting us on a cellular level – some that even have anti-cancer benefits. Cranberries ingredients can support a balanced makeup of our oral and gut bacteria, and strengthen the mucosal barriers in our intestinal tract.
One of the first places unwanted microbes enter our bodies is in our mouth, and we can suffer from oral inflammation in our gums and other tissues. When we maintain a healthy colony of bacteria, we protect ourselves from unwanted bacterial intruders. Studies also suggest that oral bacteria and inflammation that can lead to gum disease can impact our heart health as well.
The next barrier that protects our health is our gastrointestinal tract. The phytochemicals in cranberry provide us with additional support and protection, by supporting the production of immune supporting IgA, and support that one layer of mucous membrane we have on our intestinal wall. The constituents in cranberry also support the production of one of our most protective components of health support, glutathione in our digestive tract.
By supporting the rate of carbohydrate breakdown and carbohydrate absorption, cranberries support blood sugar balance. Studies show that cranberry supports pancreatic health, and the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin, our superstar hormone that guides sugar to our cells as needed.
One of the more well known ways our health is supported by these berries, is how the constituents in cranberries support our urinary tract health. The berries polyphenols and a sugar-like molecule called D-mannose are the stars here. These compounds have been shown to support the health of our kidneys, prostate, bladder and the upper and lower urinary tract in general. We can enhance these benefits by also adding probiotic foods and supplements to the mix.
Lastly, we can support cardiovascular health when we eat our cranberries, or include cranberry juice in our diets. Cranberry has been shown to support amino acid L-arginine conversion to nitric oxide (NO), which promotes vasodilation and relaxation of blood vessels, resulting in healthy blood flow and balanced blood pressure.
While we typically focus on these tart and health supporting berries during our coming holidays, they can surely support our day-to-day health in any season. Keep in mind that the prepared sauces and bottled juices are loaded with sugar, so opt for the unsweetened versions, or low sugar options such as Margaret’s Awesome Cranberry Sauce. Salud!
Margaret’s AwesomeCranberry Sauce
1 cup cranberries
½ cup pineapple chunks
1 orange peeled
1/3 cup water
¼ cup maple syrup, or more to taste
Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until combined, but still a bit chunky.
Pour into a small saucepan and heat to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for three to five minutes until it becomes slightly syrupy.
Store in a covered glass container in the refrigerator.
Tip: Canned pineapple will be a bit sweeter than fresh, so you may decrease the quantity used.
Another favorite option: Cranberry horseradish sauce:
Add ¼ teaspoon Bubbies® prepared horseradish for every 1 tablespoon cranberry sauce.
Mix well and use as a topping on leftover turkey, ham, roast beef sandwiches or wraps.