Foundation Diet and Health
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The best perspective for your health
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Fresh cranberry

The raw cranberry, also known as fenberry, is very often used in Germany as an ingredient in baking. Unprocessed cranberries taste hard and bitter.
Water 87.3%  95/04/01  LA : ALA
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There are about 175 known varieties of cranberry, with dark red to black colored fruits. Cranberries can be consumed both fresh and cooked.The Vaccinium macrocarpon, also known as the American cranberry and bearberry, is native to North America and is commonly cultivated in the United States, Canada, and Chile. In contrast, Vaccinium oxycoccos, also known as the bog cranberry, is widespread in the UK and in Northern Europe.

Culinary uses:

Ripe fresh cranberries are rarely available in supermarkets in Europe; they are usually sold frozen. What do cranberries taste like? Cranberries have a very sour flavor because of the high amounts of fruit acid that they contain and the tart flavor caused by their tannins. Dried cranberries have usually been sweetened with sugar.

In North America, cranberry sauce is an essential part of Thanksgiving. Cranberries are similar to lingonberries and can be made into jam, compote, and juice.

Dried cranberries can also be used in desserts, being a popular substitute for raisins and sultanas. You can add sweetened or unsweetened dried cranberries to stollen, cakes, tarts, biscuits, and muesli bars. You can also add cranberries to salads and smoothies.

If you are using dried cranberries to replace fresh fruits in a recipe, use about 50 g of dried cranberries as a substitute for every 100 g of fresh fruit in the original recipe. You can also soak dried berries in cranberry juice or apple juice for a few hours then drain and eat them like fresh berries.

Recipe for Banana Bread with Fresh Cranberries:

Ingredients: 150 g brown sugar, 150 g wheat flour or spelt flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 large ripe bananas, 80 mL canola oil, 100 g fresh cranberries.

Preparation: Peel the bananas and mash in a bowl with a fork. Mix the dry ingredients (sugar, flour, and baking powder) in another bowl, then add bananas and oil and knead until the mixture forms a smooth dough. Add the fresh cranberries to the dough. Pour the mixture into a greased baking mold or small muffin tins. Bake at 170 °C for about 25 minutes.

Tea with fresh cranberries:

To make one liter of tea, you need about 150 g fresh cranberries. Wash the cranberries thoroughly and squeeze out their juice before use. Alternatively, crush the berries and boil them in water for about 5–8 minutes. Let the berries steep for 20–30 minutes and leave the tea to cool down. Cranberry tea is especially delicious when sweetened with honey or brown sugar.

Purchasing — where to shop?

Fresh cranberries can only be found in selected supermarkets and online shops. However, most supermarkets stock dried cranberries all year round, such as Walmart, Whole Foods Markets, Kroger, and Safeway (United States); Extra Foods, Metro, and Freshmart (Canada); Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi, and Lidl (Great Britain); and Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, and Harris Farm (Australia). Cranberries are sometimes added to nut mixes with a variety of nuts including cashews and almonds. Dried cranberries are usually sweetened with sugar, and sometimes are even sweetened with pineapple juice or other fruit juices.

You should ideally purchase organic cranberries because non-organic cranberries grown on monoculture plantations are sprayed with lots of pesticides.1 Organic fruit should nonetheless be washed well before consumption.

You may be able to find dried cranberries that have not been treated with sulfur, oil, or separating agents in health food stores and organic supermarkets.

Finding wild:

You can find the Vaccinium macrocarpon (North American cranberry) in raised bogs and moor heaths in North America.2 The Vaccinium macrocarpon was introduced to Germany and the Dutch islands Terschelling and Vlieland.3

Storing:

Fresh cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator for 2–3 months without spoiling, as long as they are not bruised and are not packed too tightly together. You can test how fresh cranberries are through the bounce test. If you drop a cranberry from a height of about 20 cm onto a kitchen table and it bounces back, it is fresh.

Dried berries keep for a year or longer if stored in their original packaging or an airtight container in a cool and dry place.

Nutrients — nutritional information — calories:

Cranberries’ nutrients are very similar to lingonberries. They contain just 46 calories per 100 g, with 0.13 g fat and 0.46 g protein per 100 g. Cranberries are approximately 12% carbohydrates.4

Cranberries contain a lot of vitamins. While they do not contain a particularly high content of vitamin C (14 mg/100 g), when eaten in combination with other vitamin-C rich fruits and vegetables they can contribute to your daily dose of vitamin C. Quince and prickly pears contain similar amounts of vitamin C, while seaberries and Malpighia glabra are two of the richest edible fruits in vitamin C, with 450 mg/100 g and 1678 mg/100 g respectively.4

Vitamin E is an important antioxidant found in cranberries, with 1.3 mg/100 g. Vitamin E is fat soluble and protects against free radicals. It is primarily found in nuts (almonds: 25.6 mg/100 g) and vegetables (cabbage: 2.3 mg/100 g), but fruit can also be a good source of vitamin E (for example, kiwi: 1.5 mg/100 g).4

American cranberries contain 5 µg of vitamin K per 100 g. Other berries contain considerably more vitamin K, for example blackberries and blueberries contain almost 20 µg/100 g, red currants contain 11 µg/ 100 g and raspberries contain 7.8 µg/100 g. Vitamin K is fat soluble and is important for blood clotting and bone metabolism.4

Both Vaccinium macrocarpon (American cranberries) and Vaccinium oxycoccos (bog cranberries) contain approximately 80 mg/100 g potassium. Bananas have the highest content of potassium of all the fruits, with 360 mg/100 g. Herbs, legumes, and nuts contain far more potassium, for example, parsley contains 2,680 mg/100 g and white beans contain 1,795 mg/100 g.4

Manganese is important for healthy connective tissues, cartilage, hair, and nails. Cranberries contain 0.27 mg/100 g, which is comparable to the quantity found in bananas. You can get your daily dose of manganese in a vegan diet by eating nuts (hazelnuts: 6.2 mg/100 g), seeds (pumpkin seeds: 4.5 mg), and whole grain cereals (rolled oats: 3.6 mg).4

Ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in berries:

Cultivated berries and wild berries usually have a very good ratio of omega-6 (linoleic acid, LA) to omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid, ALA). In general, berries contain very little fat and accordingly the amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 are also low.

The body absorbs alpha-linolenic acid and uses it to produce eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of which have anti-inflammatory effects. On the other hand, the body absorbs linoleic acid to produce arachidonic acid, which promotes inflammation. Raspberries’ healthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is another reason why they are considered a healthy food.

Detailed information on the amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in a variety of berries (source: USDA, Önwt, Debinet).

Fresh Berries Omega-6 Fatty Acids (g/100 g) Omega-3 Fatty Acids (g/100 g) Ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 Fatty Acids (LA:ALA) Total Fat (g/100 g) Source
Sea buckthorn 2.6 1.8 1.5:1 7.1 Önwt
Elderberries 0.6 0.5 1:1 1.7 Önwt
Blackberries 0.19 0.4 0.36 0.09 0.3 0.26 2:1 1.25:1 1.3:1 0.34 1.0 1.0

USDA Önwt Debinet

Wild blackberries 0.4 0.3 1.25:1 1.0 Önwt
Lingonberries 0.2 0.2 1:1 0.5 Önwt
Cranberries 0.3 0.2 1.5:1 0.7 Önwt
Blueberries 0.2 0.22 0.2 0.15 1:1 1.5:1 0.6 0.6

Önwt Debinet

Raspberries 0.25 0.1 0.2 0.15 1:1 1.5:1 0.6 0.6 USDA Önwt
Wild strawberries 0.1 0.1 1:1 0.4 Önwt
Wild raspberries 0.1 0.1 1:1 0.3 Önwt
Boysenberries 0.11 0.08 1.5:1 0.3 Debinet
Black currants 0.11 0.07 1.5:1 0.26 USDA
Strawberries 0.09 0.06 1.5:1 0.21 0.4 USDA Debinet
Gooseberries 0.27 0.05 5:1 0.4 USDA
Currants (red and white) 0.05 0.04 0.04 0.03 1:1 1.25:1 0.13 0.2 USDA Debinet

Health benefits — effects:

Why are cranberries so healthy? Blue and red fruits contain high contents of phytonutrients. These water-soluble pigments (anthocyanins) are said to have cell-protective and antibiotic properties.1 For example, blueberries contain proanthocyanidins that are said to have antioxidant and anticarcinogenic effects.2

Studies indicate that cranberries can have positive effects on coronary arteries. Regularly consuming cranberries is said to protect the heart.5

Cranberries have been shown to have positive effects on lower urinary tract symptoms in elderly men. Prostate problems significantly decreased in the participants of the study.6

Cranberries can be used like lingonberries to prevent urinary tract infections and cystitis. Certain nutrients that cranberries contain are supposed to prevent bacteria from adhering to the mucous membranes of the urinary tract.2,7 However, this benefit has not been clearly proven. There are studies that disprove the effect of proanthocyanidins on E. coli bacteria in urine. The studies involved giving nursing home resident cranberry capsules for bacteriuria and pyuria.8

There are some factors that prevent a clear positive effect of cranberries on the urinary tract from being demonstrated. Firstly, cranberry juice and cranberry capsules may have different effects, and secondly, different people respond differently to cranberry products. The benefits of cranberry juice for the urinary tract are definitely significantly lower than previously assumed.

It is often the liquid that one consumes when drinking the juice that has the positive effects rather than the cranberries themselves. Study participants may also stop drinking the juice because they do not want to take it for a longer period of time, skewing results.9

Questioning the credibility of studies is important, particularly given the fact that some cranberry manufacturers also finance the studies on cranberries.

The nutrients that cranberries contain act as a mouthwash to counter bacteria such as streptococcus. This works similar to chlorhexidine.2,10 The effect of the polyphenols contained in cranberries against caries formation has also been proven, at least in laboratory studies. Clinical studies are still missing.11

American cranberries can help to fight illnesses such as diarrhea, gastritis, and bacterial skin infections, for example, those caused by the Helicobacter pylori.12 Bacteria do not appear to develop resistance when treated with red and blue fruits of the Vaccinium genus.13

Dangers — intolerances — side effects:

Although cranberries are generally very healthy, some people are intolerant to the tanning agents that they contain. Signs of intolerance include stomachaches and other problems in the digestive tract.

If you have or have had kidney stones, you should avoid cranberries. Regular consumption of cranberries can lead to new kidney stones to develop in susceptible individuals. Cranberries may also change the bleeding time (time that it takes for blood to clot) in some individuals, in which case taking certain blood thinners is not recommended if you are regularly consuming cranberries.14

There are not enough studies on the effects of cranberries during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so the general recommendation is to limit your intake of cranberries during this time.

Traditional medicine — naturopathy:

Indigenous peoples in North America have long recognized the healing properties of cranberries. Cranberry juice was, among other things, used to wash out wounds.2

Description— origin:

Vaccinium macrocarpon originates in North America. American cranberries are mainly grown on the eastern north coast of the USA and in the eastern part of Canada (Quebec, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island). Cranberries are also cultivated in Europe. Latvia is the largest European producer of cranberries, with an area of about 100 ha dedicated to growing cranberries.15

Cultivation — harvest:

Cranberries cultivated on a large commercial scale are grown in low-nitrogen and wet soils with moderate to acidic pH values. Cranberries thrive in bright locations, with the seeds requiring light to germinate. Cranberries reproduce through propagating root sprouts. The branches grow up to 1 m per year into a low growing shrub, reaching maximum heights of 10–20 cm. Their evergreen leaves have a leathery, waxy coating.14

Cranberries are harvested between September and the beginning of November. The fields are flooded, and then special harvesting machines called water reels are used to loosen the berries from the vines. The berries float on the surface on the water, making them easy to collect. Berries are taken back to the farm where they are cleaned, sorted, and stored before being packed and processed. Cranberries are almost exclusively sold dried or frozen.

If you want to eat and sell fresh cranberries, you have to harvest them dry. In the US, only about 5–15% of the harvest is dry picked using mechanical pickers. Dry harvesting has higher labor costs, but the yield is much higher than with wet harvesting.14

Pests: The parasitic fungus Exobasidium perenne is a common pest in cranberry leaves. The Carsia sororiata, Cranberry fritillary, and the cranberry blue are all further potential pests of cranberries.

Danger of confusion:

Are cranberries and lingonberries the same? Cranberries and lingonberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) are often thought to be the same fruit, especially given their similar appearance. Both plants are of the blueberry genus, but they are two different species. Cranberries bear much larger fruits than lingonberries. They have four air chambers that make them lighter than water.

Cranberries may also be confused with the Andromeda polifolia (bog rosemary) because of their similar distribution area. The flowers and fruits of Andromeda polifolia are similar to American cranberries, but their leaves are more similar to rosemary leaves. Andromeda polifolia contains Grayanotoxin, which affects the body much like Aconitum (wolf’s-bane). It can cause burning sensations in the mouth, salivation, circulatory problems and difficulty swallowing. It can furthermore lead to dizziness and intoxication. Andromeda polifolia is used in traditional medicine to lower blood pressure.2

General information:

Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) are of the Vaccinium genus in the heath family (Vaccinium macrocarpon).

Alternative names:

Cranberries are also known as craisins, although this is actually a brand name. Native Americans referred to cranberries by various names including sassamanesh, ibimi, and atoqua.

Literature — sources:

  1. Pini U. Das Bio-Food Handbuch. Ullmann: Hamburg, Potsdam. 2014.
  2. Fleischhauer SG, Guthmann J, Spiegelberger R. Enzyklopädie Essbare Wildpflanzen. 2000 Pflanzen Mitteleuropas. 1. Auflage. AT Verlag: Aarau. 1. Auflage. 2013.
  3. Oberdorfer E. Pflanzensoziologische Exkursionsflora für Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete. 8. Auflage. Eugen Ulmer: Stuttgart, Hohenheim. 2001.
  4. USDA United States Department of Agriculture.
  5. Dohadwala MM, Holbrook M, Hamburg NM et al. Effects of cranberry juice consumption on vascular function in patients with coronary artery disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;93(5).
  6. Vidlar A, Vostalova J, Ulrichova J et al. The effectiveness of dried cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) in men with lower urinary tract symptoms. Br J Nutr. 2010;104(8).
  7. Fu Z, Liska D, Talan D et al. Cranberry Reduces the Risk of Urinary Tract Infection Recurrence in Otherwise Healthy Women: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Nutr. 2017;147(12).
  8. Juthani-Mehta M, Van Ness PH, Bianco L et al. Effect of Cranberry Capsules on Bacteriuria Plus Pyuria Among Older Women in Nursing Homes. A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2016;316(18).
  9. Jepson RG, Williams G, Craig JC. Cranberries for preventing urinary tract infections. Cochrane Database Syste Rev. 2012;10.
  10. Khairnar MR, Karibasappa GN, Dodamani AS et al. Comparative assessment of Cranberry and Chlorhexidine mouthwash on streptococcal colonization among dental students: A randomized parallel clinical trial. Contemp Clin Dent. 2015 6(1).
  11. Philip N, Walsh LJ. Cranberry Polyphenols: Natural Weapons agains Dentail Caries. Dentistry Journal. 2019.
  12. Lin YT, Kwon YI, Labbe RG et al. Inhibition of Heliobacter pylori and Associated Urease by Oregano and Cranberry Phytochemical Synergies. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2005;71(12).
  13. Roger JDP. Heilkräfte der Nahrung. Ein Praxishandbuch. Advent-Verlag: Zürich. 2006.
  14. Cranberry-ratgeber.info Cranberry Frucht, Anbau und Ernte.
  15. Abolins M, Sausserde R, Liepniece M et al. Cranberry and blueberry production in Lavia. Agronomijas Vestis. 2009;12.
  16. Wikipedia Grossfrüchtige Moosbeere.
  17. Merriam Webster Dictionary Cranberry.
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