Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Superfruit: Cranberry

Cranberries are a group of evergreen dwarf shrubs or trailing vines in the genus Vaccinium subgenus Oxycoccos, or in some treatments, in the distinct genus Oxycoccos. They are found in acidic bogs throughout the cooler parts of the Northern Hemisphere.
Cranberries are low, creeping shrubs or vines up to 2 m long and 5 to 20 cm 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 domestic honey 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. Most cranberries are processed into products such as juice, sauce, and sweetened dried cranberries, with the remainder sold fresh to consumers. Cranberry sauce is regarded an indispensable part of traditional American and Canadian Thanksgiving menus and European winter festivals.
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".
About 95% of cranberries are processed into products such as juice drinks, sauce, and sweetened dried cranberries. The remaining 5% 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.
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 from either whole cranberries, cranberry juice or cranberry juice concentrate.
Nutrients and antioxidant capacity
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 measure 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.
Nutrients in raw cranberries, Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 46 kcal | Sugars, total 4.04 g
Fiber, total dietary 4.6 g (15.3%)
Calcium 8 mg (0.8%) | Magnesium 6 mg (1.9%)
Manganese 0.15 mg (7%) | Phosphorus 13 mg (1.9%)
Potassium 85 mg (1.8%) | Sodium 2 mg (0.1%)
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid 13.3 mg (16%)
Vitamin A 60 IU (9%) | Vitamin K 5.1 μg (6.4%)
Carotene, beta 36 μg | Lutein + zeaxanthin 91 μg
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.
Cranberry juice contains a chemical component, a high molecular weight non-dializable material (NDM), as noted above, that is able to inhibit and even reverse the formation of plaque by Streptococcus mutans pathogens that cause tooth decay. Cranberry juice components also show efficacy against formation of kidney stones.
Raw cranberries and cranberry juice are abundant food sources of the anthocyanidin flavonoids, cyanidin, peonidin and quercetin. These compounds have shown promise as anti-cancer agents in in vitro studies. However, their effectiveness in humans has not been established, and may be limited by poor absorption into cells and rapid elimination from the blood.
Since 2002, there has been an increasing focus on the potential role of cranberry polyphenolic constituents in preventing several types of cancer. In a 2001 University of Maine study that compared cranberries with twenty other fruits, cranberries had the largest amount of both free and total phenols, with red grapes at a distant second place. Cranberry tannins have anti-clotting properties and may reduce urinary tract infections and the amount of dental plaque-causing oral bacteria, thus being a prophylaxis for gingivitis.
Anti-adhesion properties
There is potential benefit of cranberry juice consumption against bacterial infections in the urinary system. Research shows that an effect occurs from a component of the juice inhibiting bacterial attachment to the bladder and urethra.
Although promising for anti-bacterial activity, long-term consumption of cranberry juice has only limited evidence for beneficial effects against urinary tract infections in women. It has also been observed to have a relaxing effect, reducing stress. 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.

Cranberry juice
Cranberry juice is the juice of the cranberry. Commercially, it is sold in either as a pure juice, which is quite tart, or, more commonly, as cranberry juice cocktail, mixed with water and sugar or an artificial sweetener (such as aspartame or sucralose), or in blends with other juices, such as apple or grape. These may also be blended with other juices or flavors.
Cranberry juice cocktail is sometimes used as a mixer with alcoholic drinks such as a Cape Cod (1+1/2 ounces of vodka to 4 ounces cranberry juice) or non-alcoholic drinks such as the Bog Grog (2 parts Chelmsford Ginger Ale [or regular ginger ale] to 3 parts cranberry juice).

Health benefits
Cranberry juice is known to have various health benefits. These include:
·    Cranberry juice contains phytochemicals, which may help prevent cancer and cardiovascula disease.
·    Cranberry juice may help prevent and relieve the symptoms of urinary tract infections by primary and secondary means. The primary means works on the bacteria directly by altering the molecular structure of the fimbriae on the pathogenic strains of the bacteria that cause the infections. The secondary means works indirectly on the bacteria by changing the intravesical pH (the pH of the bladder's contents) making it more acidic.
·    Cranberry juice is high in oxalate, and has been suggested to increase the risk for developing kidney stones, although more recent studies have indicated it may lower the risk.
Although cranberry juice may help prevent growth of bacteria, its pH may be as acidic as 2.3–2.52, which is more acidic than most soft drinks, which could potentially dissolve tooth enamel over time.

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