The unsung health hero “hiding” on your Thanksgiving table

Last week, I started planning the menu for our Thanksgiving day feast. And the one dish that always makes its way onto the Micozzi Thanksgiving table is fresh cranberry sauce. I find it adds a tart burst of refreshing goodness to the hearty, savory meal.

(And at the end of this article, as a token of my gratitude to my dear readers, I have a special, FREE report that you’ll definitely want to see before you start thawing your Thanksgiving turkey. So, keep reading…)

Plus, cranberries are packed with potent nutrients, so they offer many impressive health benefits. In fact, in one recent study, researchers found that eating cranberries reduces your Type II diabetes risk. And in a second study, researchers found that eating cranberries helps men overcome urinary problems as they get older.

But before we delve deeper into that research, let’s focus on the origins of these festive, scarlet-red berries…

Cranberries have potent health benefits

Like blueberries, cranberries grow wild on low bushes in northern North America, northern Asia, and Europe. But they were unfamiliar to early European settlers in New England and were originally considered a Native-American food.

Today, farmers primarily cultivate cranberries in colorful “bogs.” The major areas of production are: New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Quebec.

(Of course, I’m partial to the cranberry bogs in the old, glacial wetlands of southeastern Massachusetts, the state where I grew up!)

The water in the bogs makes cranberries easier to harvest because they float on top. In addition, the intense sun exposure on the surface increases the potency of the berries’ nutritional content. (Like strong sun exposure activates our skin’s own natural production of vitamin D.)

Indeed, cranberries contain loads of nutrients, including:

  • Vitamins A, B6, C, E, and K (essential for all aspects of your health)
  • Copper (for red blood cells and your immune and nervous systems)
  • Manganese (for building bones and connective tissues)
  • Magnesium (for bone, brain, and heart health)

Cranberries also contain potent plant pigments called anthocyanins, which give fruits and berries their deep scarlet, purple, and blue colors. Anthocyanins are similar to carotenoids, including lutein and zeaxanthin, another type of plant pigment that gives fruits and vegetables their yellow-orange-red colors, and support brain and eye health.

So, when nutritional scientists encourage you to “eat a rainbow of foods” for your health, they really mean to get more of these kinds of biologically active and beneficial plant constituents.

Now, let’s move onto the new studies I mentioned earlier…

Berries reduce Type II diabetes risk

In the first meta-analysis, researchers looked at the association between berry consumption and Type II diabetes risk in eight previously published studies. Altogether, the studies involved almost 400,000 people—about 26,000 of whom had diabetes.

Overall, the researchers found that those who consumed anthocyanin-rich berries had an 18 percent reduction in Type II diabetes risk. (Side note: the analysis did not differentiate between types of berries. So we can assume the findings apply to all berries that contain anthocyanins—including cranberries.)

Plus, there was a strong “dose-effect,” meaning the more berries the participants ate, the lower their risk. In fact, for every 17 grams of berries consumed, there was a 5 percent reduction in diabetes risk. That’s quite a perk from simply eating less than one handful of berries per day.

Now, let’s move onto the second study…

Cranberries help men go with the “flow”

Most people know that cranberries can help women avoid—or even overcome—common urinary tract infections. And science now shows they also help older men who may experience urinary problems due to an enlarged prostate.

In fact, in the second study I mentioned in the beginning of this Dispatch, researchers divided men with prostate problems, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia or inflammatory prostatitis, into two groups. The first group took a cranberry capsule for six months. And the second group took a placebo.

After six months, the cranberry group had a “significant improvement” in urinary flow rate, bladder voiding, and post-void residual urine volume. They also experienced less irritation while voiding.

The researchers theorize that cranberries work by reducing inflammation, which is at the root of many chronic diseases.

Add fresh cranberries to the menu all year long

This week, I hope you, too, will add some fresh cranberries to your shopping list to make your own cranberry sauce. It’s much tastier and more nutritious than the semi-solid, jiggling, canned variety.

Here’s how I make my cranberry sauce:

  1. Bring a couple cups of water to a boil in a saucepan.
  2. Add fresh, cold—or fresh-frozen—cranberries to the boiling water. (The temperature difference will make them burst, releasing their juices.)
  3. Add “pumpkin spices”—including allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg—to taste.
  4. Add in some fresh, quartered orange slices for zest.
  5. Boil the mixture uncovered for a few minutes until it thickens, then simmer until it reaches a syrupy consistency.
  6. Take the saucepan off the burner and let the mixture cool.

The resulting sauce makes a healthy and tasty addition to a holiday meal…or any meal. You can also serve it as a healthy topping over a dessert! I suggest preparing it in advance and keeping it cold in the refrigerator. Or—store it in the freezer for use over the winter, as you can do with pickled fruits and vegetables (as I will discuss tomorrow).

P.S. As you prepare your grocery list for the upcoming holiday, be sure to remember the cranberries and to consider exactly which version of the bird to serve, as I discuss in this special, FREE report! Click here to download your personal copy!

Sources:

“Associations of dietary intakes of anthocyanins and berry fruits with risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies.” Eur J Clin Nutr. Dec 2016; 70(12):1360-1367. doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2016.142.

“The effectiveness of dried cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) in men with lower urinary tract symptoms.” Br J Nutr. 2010;104(8):1181-1189. doi.org/ 10.1017/S0007114510002059


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