Now that the holiday season is upon us, it's time to break out all the wonderful seasonal foods. Among my favorite fruits at this time of year are cranberries, not only because of their slightly tart, slightly sweet taste, but because of their health benefits, even for young athletes.
For starters, the health benefits of cranberries include fiber to keep digestion regular and blood sugars stable. Vitamin C wards off sickness and boosts your immune system during these chilly months, and manganese helps with bone production and blood sugar stabilization. Yet some of the most best attributes of cranberries are their array of phytonutrients which yield antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits.
Research shows that adults who consume cranberries have lower levels of C-reactive protein, an indicator of inflammation. This is a great recovery food for athletes, helping to protect against the wear and tear they undergo during their workouts every day. Cranberries are especially beneficial for those of you who have been hitting the weight room hard, or your team is in the fall season playoffs and you're pushing your body to the limit. Any opportunity to improve recovery is important.
The polyphenols in cranberries also help to improve vascular function, which has a powerful effect on an athlete's cardiovascular health. They also optimize the balance of bacteria in the digestive tract to support gut health and intestinal function.
Another reason I love cranberries is because of their versatility. You can eat them fresh, dried or in liquid form. Here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy the health benefits of cranberries.
- I love mixing craisins (dried cranberries) into oatmeal or in trail mix with nuts and seeds.
- Cranberry juice can be added to sparkling water or your post-workout smoothies.
- You can roast fresh cranberries or turn them into a salsa or relish for topping bread or chicken.
- And don't forget your serving of cranberry sauce this holiday season!
Source: The Cranberry Institute