Cranberry was first coined as an English word by Missionary John Elliot, in 1647. The root of the word is the German “kraanbere”, and it has long been said that the name developed as a result of the flower, stem, and petals of the plant resembling the head of a crane bird.
The Cranberry quickly won favour amongst many peoples, particularly amongst Native Americans who perceived the berry to not only have a delicious taste, but also a variety of medicinal properties, as well as finding use as a dye.
It’s a little known fact that the berries are actually white to begin with, they only form their vibrant red colour when they become fully ripe – and it’s a colour that has long been used for a variety of dying purposes since the berry’s popularity began to develop.
Like many other berries they make an excellent candidate for drying and dehydrating which makes them a highly convenient snack, as well as containing a variety of useful and beneficial properties.
The Nutritional Content
Before we examine the uses and benefits of dried cranberries, we should take a look at what dried cranberries look like in terms of its nutritional content and what the benefits of those are.
In dried cranberries you’ll find:
- Calcium– Essential for healthy teeth and bones, as we know, calcium is also essential for healthy hair and nails.
- Magnesium– An essential element that is used all over the body, particularly in the kidneys, the muscles, and the heart.
- Potassium– In conjunction with sodium, potassium serves to maintain the balance of fluids and electrolytes in the body, and maintain healthy blood pressure.
- Phosphorous– A potentially important aspect in maintaining a healthy weight and combating the effects and instance of obesity.
- Vitamin C– A highly important vitamin that is essential for building and maintaining a healthy immune system, as well as wound healing and iron absorbtion.
- Choline– This serves to improve liver function, brain function and development, as well as improve movement through healthy muscles and nerves.
- Vitamin K– For the formulation of healthy bone structure and to aid in the development of insulin, as well as preventing calcification.
- Vitamin A– Helps to keep the surface of the eye healthy as well as for maintaining clear vision. Also helpful in keeping the skin tight and youthful.
The Benefits of Dried Sweetened Cranberries
Dried sweetened cranberries are host to a number of health benefits when consumed in moderation, and as a part of a healthy diet.
Let’s go through a few of the benefits of eating dried sweetened cranberries.
Antioxidants– Cranberries are rich in antioxidants which are essential for the healthy function of your body. They keep your organs, your skin, and your muscles work healthily, as well as promoting a healthy immune system to keep infections at bay.
Cranberries have been shown to contain more antioxidants than strawberries, red grapes, cherries, apples, raspberries, and even spinach – so a small helping a day is a convenient way of keeping your body functioning healthily.
Prevention of UTIs– Urinary Tract Infections occur in everyone but are a problem often suffered more by women. Cranberries have often been known as something of a cultural cure, and while there is no evidence to prove they don’t work the issue is still debated by many.
The presence of the powerful antioxidant proanthocyanidins (PAC) in cranberries however suggests they do work as it helps stop bacteria from clinging to the walls of the urinary tract, which is what causes the infection in the first place. However cranberries are not a replacement for getting a medical diagnosis and prescription from your doctor.
Keeping Teeth Healthy– This ability for cranberries to help to deal with bacteria can also help them ensure you keep a healthy and happy smile by helping to prevent both a degree of tooth decay and gingivitis, in conjunction with proper oral care.
They do this by preventing the formulation and the development of harmful bacteria along the teeth and the gums, helping keep teeth clean and breath fresh.
Inhibiting Cancer– The presence of ursolic acid and proanthocyanidins may help to control the growth of various tumours by inducing apoptosis, which is when the cancerous cells die off. This could help tumours growing too large, and of course spreading.
There have been links to cranberries being helpful in stifling the development of growths in the breast, cervix, lung, mouth, prostate, and colon, amongst many others. While it’s obviously no substitute for medical attention, anything that helps is a bonus.
How to Use Dried Sweetened Cranberries
Like many dried fruits, and as is obvious from the name, dried sweetened cranberries have sugar added to them.
On their own, cranberries are known for being quite tart and sour, and while some enjoy this it’s definitely an acquired taste which is why many prefer the sweetened versions.
This means of course that you need to be mindful of the sugar content, however when you enjoy them amongst other healthy fruits and vegetable they make for an interesting and delicious alternative to processed snacks – and much healthier too!
The upside of adding sweeteners is that they can be enjoyed on their own as a healthy and convenient snack. Dried fruits of course keep much longer than fresh, so are ideal for taking to work, on a long journey, on walks or family days out, amongst many more activities.
They’re also perfect for adding to a variety of fresh salads as a beautiful garnish with a unique flavour. Dried cranberries can even be frozen and used in place of, or in conjunction with, your favourite cocktails and soft drinks.
They’re also of course ideal for adding to breakfast cereal, oatmeal, or even yoghurt for a healthy and heart breakfast that will provide you with a slow energy release throughout the day.
And of course there’s nothing wrong with just grabbing a handful to enjoy as a healthy snack.
Dried sweetened cranberries are an ideal addition to any kitchen, which will stay fresh and edible for up to a whole year – though they’re so delicious, there’s little chance of them staying around that long!