While cranberries have gotten less attention than other family members in the Ericaceae plant family (for example, blueberries), they more than earn their credentials as phytonutrient-rich foods. In addition to being a storehouse of vitamins and minerals, over two dozen health-supportive phytonutrients have been identified in cranberries, with proanthocyanidins and anthocyanins leading the way. These two groups of phytonutrients are interrelated. Proanthocyanidins are larger molecules from which anthocyanins can be made. But they also have health-supportive properties of their own. It is not uncommon to find 150—350 milligrams of proanthocyanidins per fresh cup of cranberries and 15—170 milligrams of anthocyanins. The presence of these phytonutrient groups in cranberries makes itself known to our senses, because both groups help to provide cranberries with their vibrant red color.
Here are some of the spotlight phytonutrients—shown to have antioxidant and/or anti-inflammatory properties that cranberries have: anthocyanins (including cyanidins, delphinidins, malvidins, pelargonidins, peonidins, and petunidins), flavan-3-ols (including catechins and epicatechins), flavonols (including kaempferol, myricetin, and quercetin), hydroxybenzoic acids including o-hydroxybenzoic acid and p-hydroxybenzoic acid), hydroxycinnamic acids (including caffeic acid, coumaric acid, ferulic acid, and sinapic acid), proanthocyanidins (including procyanidins, propelargonidins, and prodelphinidins), stilbenoids (including resveratrol), tannins (including ellagitannins), and terpenoids (including ursolic acid and hydroxycinnamoyl ursolic acid).
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