Antioxidants are those pesky little vitamins and minerals that work overtime to protect our bodies against the damage that free radicals can wreak upon the organs and cells they attack. Antioxidants can be found in fruits, vegetables, raw nuts and seeds. Chief among those fruits are cranberries and raspberries.
Many of us load up on cranberries around the holiday season whether it be as an adjunct to the Thanksgiving turkey or a fresh cranberry salad. But many also forget about the health benefits of eating this fruits throughout the year. Cranberries are a rich source of phytochemicals which work overtime in the prevention of cancer. Studies have shown that natural compounds found within the cranberry can stop the growth of several different types of cancer in the laboratory without harming normal cells. (1)
Of course, it is easier to stop the growth of the cancer cell in a petri dish that it is in the human body. And, it will probably take higher levels and doses of cranberries in the body to get the same effect, but researchers also theorize that it can help prevent cancers as well.
Recent research also suggests that cranberries are a good source of pterostilbene, a chemical that activates cells associated with fat metabolism. It is also effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels without the side effects of drugs manufactured in the lab. (2)
Another study also indicated that cranberry juice will help to increase levels of HDL in men who drank 8 ounces per day and that the antioxidant will also help to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol which causes plaque formation in the arteries leading to coronary artery disease and heart attack. (3)
Women have long known that drinking cranberry juice can help reduce the number of urinary tract infections they suffer. Now researchers understand that it is because what is excreted through the urine will keep bacteria are from sticking to the bladder wall. While most of these studies have been small there have been a significant number of case studies which indicate that women do reap the benefits. If you suffer from frequent urinary tract infections drinking 8 ounces a day of cranberry juice may be worth a trial run.
The second best berry is the raspberry. In a recent study, researchers found that consumers ranked raspberries at number two on their list of favorites, second only to strawberries. Other fruits including bananas, apples and watermelon all trailed behind the raspberry in this study of over 1500 consumers who ranked 13 different fruits in order of preference.
The respondents in the survey were also familiar with many different forms of raspberries. They appeared to enjoy the convenience, consistent quality and the value of individually quickly frozen raspberries as opposed to other types of berries.
Raspberries rank in the top five of the antioxidant high fruits. They are also high in ellagic acid which is believed to slow the growth of certain types of cancer cells. One serving of raspberries has only 70 calories but it actually can provide 50% of a days requirement for vitamin C, 32% of a days requirement for fiber and 4% of a days requirement for calcium, niacin and zinc. (4)
Raspberries are popular in restaurants and appear on the menus of the top 200 restaurant chains and top 100 independent white tablecloth restaurants.
It is important to choose some of the freshest berries in order to take full advantage of the antioxidant load they carry. Your first choice should be a farmers market that offers berries harvested that same day. In some instances you may be able to find a berry farm which allows you to pick your own berries. This is easier to find with strawberries than it is with many others.
Berries can also be found in the produce aisle at your local grocery store as well as canned or frozen. When choosing fresh berries look for those which are ripe and colorful but, have no signs of mold or mushy spots. Once frozen berries have been thawed they will not be as firm as a freshly picked berry but they are still good for you. Frozen berries are excellent for use in smoothies, drinks or desserts.
Raspberries and cranberries are an excellent way of improving your health with very little calories, very little effort and packed with flavor. Both are fruits that can be used in a multitude of ways in your diet. Experiment with fruit smoothies, cranberry salads and as an addition to your yogurt. It won’t be long before you’ll be reading the benefits you’ve been begging for.
CRANBERRY – RASPBERRY SALAD
1 (6 oz.) pkg. raspberry Jello
2 c. boiling water
2 pkg. frozen red raspberries
1 c. jellied cranberries
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. sour cream
Dissolve Jello in hot water. Stir in cranberry sauce, raspberries and walnuts. Spread in a 9 x 13 inch pan and chill until jelled. Whip the cream cheese until creamy. Add sour cream and spread over the top of the salad. Can be topped with more chopped nuts or reserved berries for color. Serves 12.
(1) American Chemical Society: Holiday Fruit Ranks Number One in Antioxidants
(2) Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: Resveratrol, Pterostilbene and Piceatannol in Vaccinium Berries
(3) Tufts Journal: A Different Cocktail for the Heart
(4) Nutrition Research: Red raspberries have antioxidant effects that play a minor role in the killing of stomach and colon cancer cells
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: Antioxidant activity in fruits and leaves of blackberry, raspberry, and strawberry varies with cultivar and developmental stage
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: Antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of raspberries
American Society for Horticultural Science: Antioxidants in Midwestern Black Raspberries Influenced by Where They Grow
The Cranberry Institute: The Health Benefits of Cranberries and Cranberry Products