Eat cranberries 24. September 2009 William Davis (17) Most people already know that cranberries are useful for preventing urinary tract infections. Cranberries can also be useful for preventing other sorts of infections, such as dental cavities and stomach ulcers because of cranberry's ability to block bacterial adhesion. Cranberries can also be a useful component of a heart healthy program. Several unique properties of cranberries contribute to various aspects of heart health:• Cranberries are a rich source of pectin--Pectin is a soluble fiber, the sort that binds bile acids in the intestinal tract and naturally reduces LDL cholesterol.• Cranberries are a rich source of polyphenols and flavonoids--Including the wonderfully fascinating anthocyanins, the flavonoids that confer the beautiful red color. Surprisingly, cranberries are richer in polyphenols and flavonoids than blueberries, strawberries, and grapes. Cranberry juice is also rich in these compounds. However, beware of cranberry juice "cocktail," which is diluted with other liquids such as high-fructose corn syrup. Like grapes, cranberries are a source of resveratrol, the polyphenol also found in red wines that some believe is responsible for reduced risk for heart disease and extending life. • Cranberries have high antioxidant activity--Cranberries are among the highest in antioxidant capacity against superoxide radicals, hydrogen peroxide, and hydroxyl radicals, oxidizing factors believed to underlie heart disease, cancer, and aging. Cranberries also reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol particles. • Cranberries block uric acid production--Cranberries have the unique ability to block the activity of an enzyme, xanthine oxidase, that converts xanthine to uric acid. Uric acid is believed to add to heart disease risk and is the factor responsible for gout. • Cranberries increase HDL cholesterol--Cranberry juice increases HDL by 3-4 mg/dl. Cranberries are only modest sources of sugars, with 7.19 grams “net” carbohydrates (total carbohydrates minus fiber content) per cup of whole raw cranberries. The best way to eat cranberries is to consume the real thing: eat the whole berry, as in sugar-free cranberry sauce or added to baked dishes like chicken. Second best are dried cranberries. However, be careful of the overly-sweetened dried cranberries that contain added sugar (for a total of 78 grams sugar per cup--far too much). Unsweetened dried cranberries can be purchased, or you can dry them yourself.Cranberry juice is another way to obtain the health benefits of cranberries; the unsweetened juice, while quite tart, is the best with 30.5 grams sugar per 8 oz--so don't drink more than 4 oz at a time. The more common cranberry juice “cocktails” are generally too sugary and/or too dilute for full health benefit. The cranberry harvest season in Wisconsin, Michigan, Oregon, Massachusetts, and New Jersey is just getting underway, so we should be seeing fresh cranberries on store shelves or farmers' markets any day now.