One of the most reliable signs of the season starts popping up in grocery stores right around now: bags of fresh cranberries (and cans of the somewhat frighteningly jiggly, solid stuff) are everywhere. But cranberries shouldn't be just a one-day accompaniment to the big event: cranberries are among the most powerful and antioxidant-packed foods. Here are five reasons this pretty little berry deserves a spot on your table year-round:
- They fight bad bugs: We all know the old wives' tale about drinking cranberry juice to ward off persistent urinary tract infections. That's actually rooted in truth; they appear to have compounds that act as Teflon for our cells against harmful bacteria like staph or E. coli.
- They have anti-aging powers: Cranberries are rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, plant-based compounds that reverse damage done to our cells by everyday life.
- They stop swelling: Chronic low levels of inflammation are believed to play a role in everything from heart disease to cancer, and acute flare-ups cause pain in various ways all over the body. Anthocyanins, a pigment that lends cranberries their rich red color, can actually get into cells and reduce inflammation.
- They build strong teeth: One study has found they are better than other fruits at fighting bacteria that cause tooth decay.
- They protect your tummy: Contrary to what some people believe, stomach ulcers are caused by a bacteria called H. Pylori, not by eating acidic foods or by stress. Cranberries have been shown to keep bacteria from sticking to stomach mucus and causing the damage.
While they are seasonal in the fall, it's easy to find juice and dried cranberries year-round. Just steer clear of those with a lot of added sugar or artificial flavorings.
What's your favorite use of cranberries?
Image via Andrew Yee (Half Chinese)/Flickr