You’ll all be pleased to know I had a fabulous vacation. As I’m catching up on the thousands of emails I received while away, I’m honored to bring you one last guest post from one of my favorite bloggers, Katie of Girl Meets Nourishment. Thanks, Katie!
Cranberries are underrated. To me, these little red berries are a superfood when in their simple, whole, and natural form.
The way they are processed in today’s modern food does not do them justice. You can get cranberry juice off the shelf at the store, that’s more-times-than-not been pasteurized (essentially making a completely denatured sugar water devoid of any nutritional value) or a can of cranberry-like jelly you see around Thanksgiving.
I firmly believe in buying cranberries in their natural berry form and making what I need from them myself. This way I can control how the cranberries are prepared, protecting the amazing benefits, nutrients, and antioxidants of such a lovely little fruit. Let’s dive into the cranberry bogs and learn more!
What are Cranberries?
Cranberries, a relative of the blueberry, are small, red, and acidic. There are two types of cranberries. First is the small-fruited cranberry which are a dark red color and are about the size of an uncracked peppercorn. The small-fruited cranberry is found mostly in the marshy wetlands of Asia, central and northern Europe, and the northern parts of North America.
The second type of cranberry, and more commonly known, is the American cranberry. It is found mostly in the Northeastern and Northwestern part of the United States. These berries are much larger, usually around the size of a marble, and range in color from a hint of pink to deep maroon.
How are Cranberries Grown?
Cranberries grow in bogs, which are marshy wetlands. They grow on long green vines and reach their peak of ripeness in the Fall season. Cranberries were originally painstakingly picked by hand off the vines, but over time cranberry growers began “wet harvesting” the berries but flash flooding the bogs. This caused the berries to release from the vine and float to the surface.
Like most commercially grown produce, cranberries are also grown with pesticides and can be genetically modified (just say no to GMOs!). It’s important to buy organic cranberries whenever possible as this is the only way to ensure it is GMO-free and grown free of pesticides.
What’s so Great about Cranberries?
Cranberries may be little, but they sure pack a nourishing punch! Pilgrims believed that the berries prevented scurvy and Native American’s used the berries for medicinal purposes, often to fight infections. They are packed with vitamin C, fiber, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant power. But hold up! It’s time for a mini-lesson in antioxidants so you can truly grasp how great these little berries are:
Antioxidants is a word you’ve undoubtedly heard before. It seems like everything now-a-days has antioxidant properties! But what exactly does the word antioxidants mean? Eating foods that have antioxidants in them are believed to protect the body from “free radicals”, which are cells that have been damaged. These “free radicals” are missing an important molecule, so they wreak havoc on your body by searching out a healthy molecule to pair with; which in turn robs that molecule of what keeps it healthy and damages that cell’s DNA. Antioxidants help keep “free radicals” in check. Composed of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, the antioxidants help repair the damage to cells that free radicals have gotten a hold of and helps keep your immune system strong.
In the case of antioxidants, cranberries outrank almost all other fruits and vegetables out there (beating out the likes of cherries, red grapes, and broccoli)! It doesn’t get any better than these little red berries.
Another component in cranberries also helps to prevent very painful urinary tract infections by binding with bad bacteria (like staph and E. Coli), and stopping it from attaching to cell walls.
Cranberry Superfood Spread
After we switched to real food, my husband and I stopped buying jam and jelly from the store. I started to miss the deliciously sweet fruit spread and thought I would experiment in the kitchen to make something jam-like to spread on sourdough toast and on sourdough peanut butter and jellies. I came up with this delicious cranberry spread that is husband and health approved!
- 2 cups organic frozen or fresh cranberries
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil (where to buy coconut oil)
- 1/4 cup water
- 6 tablespoons of rapadura (or more if you like it sweeter) (where to buy rapadura)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (where to buy authentic, fresh, out-of-this world cinnamon)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- dash of sea salt (optional) (where to buy real sea salt)
1. Place the cranberries, water, rapadura, salt, and coconut oil in a pot and cook over medium heat for fifteen minutes.
2. Add in the cinnamon and cook another ten minutes or until the water has evaporated completely and the cranberries have “popped” open and start to thicken. Turn off the heat and mix in the vanilla.
3. Place in a mason jar and allow to cool completely on the counter. Cover tightly with the lid and store in the fridge for up to a week (if it lasts that long!).
1. Merriam Webster: Cranberry
2. WebMD: Cranberry Superfood
3. WebMD: Antioxidants
4. WebMD: How Antioxidants Work
5. NBC News: Cranberry Benefits
6. NPR: Cranberries
7. Ocean Spray: How Cranberries are Grown
9. USDA: GMOs