Cranberries grow on low creeping evergreen shrubs, varieties of which are native to Europe and North America. These deep red, rather acidic berries are considered a superfood because they are so packed with phytonutrients and goodness.
We know that Native American tribes used cranberries in their diet as long ago as the 1500s, and cranberries were also carried on board ships to help ward off scurvy. The juice was used as a dye, and one of the earliest medicinal uses of cranberry was as a treatment for arrow wounds.
Cranberries are a good source of vitamin C, manganese, copper and dietary fibre. The polyphenols found in cranberries have been investigated for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties; cranberries are also rich in proanthocyanidins, quercetin and flavonols.
The proanthocyanidins in cranberries are thought to play a role in urinary tract health, and many people regularly consume cranberry juice in order to improve their urinary health. It is thought that the polyphenols in cranberries may help to reduce blood pressure and also to reduce the build-up of plaque in arteries.
Because cranberries are very sour, they are rarely eaten raw and are more likely to be baked, juiced or made into jams and jellies. You can also buy dried sweetened cranberries, or cranberry extract in the form of capsules and tablets.