Cranberries are small, red berries that are juicy and have a tart and tangy taste. They mainly grow in the cold regions of the world.
Besides being tasty, cranberries are also healthy, due to their high nutritional profile and antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventing properties. They contain vitamins C, K, B6 and E, along with calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.
Cranberries are low in calories, containing over 80 percent water and 10 percent carbohydrates. Among other constituents are dietary fiber, protein, salicylic acid, flavonoids, anthocyanins, and triterpenoids.
You can incorporate these berries into your diet by eating them in raw or juice form. You can also add cranberries to muffins, yogurt or salads. If fresh cranberries are not available, you can opt for the supplement form, after consulting your doctor.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of cranberries.
1. Prevents Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Scientific studies have found that cranberry juice can be effective in preventing UTIs, especially for women with recurrent infections.
Cranberries contain a high-molecular-weight compound known as proanthocyanidin with anti-adherence properties that prevent fimbriated E.coli bacteria from adhering to uroepithelial cells in the urinary tract.
Cranberries are also effective in fighting leucorrhea, commonly known as vaginal discharge.
To prevent the recurrence of UTIs, drink a glass of unsweetened cranberry juice daily. If cranberry juice is not available, you can take cranberry tablets. Consult your doctor for the correct dosage.
2. Fights Oral Problems
Cranberries also boost oral health and help prevent dental problems like gingivitis, gum disease, cavities and plaque buildup.
According to a 201 study published in the Canadian Dental Association journal, the polyphenols in cranberries have potential benefits for dental caries and periodontal disease. These potential anti-caries agents inhibit the production of organic acids and the formation of bio-films by cariogenic bacteria on the gums and teeth.
In addition, the high vitamin C content in cranberries helps fight gum disease and infections.
Drink one-half glass of unsweetened cranberry juice daily to help prevent bacteria from sticking to your teeth.
3. Improves Cardiovascular Health
Cranberries help lower the risk of heart-related problems and sustain cardiovascular health. According to a 2010 study published in the journal Nutrition Reviews, cranberries are a rich source flavonols, vitamins, and fiber, that reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The phytochemicals in these berries help increase the resistance of low-density lipoproteins (LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol) to oxidation, inhibiting platelet aggregation, reducing blood pressure and other anti-thrombotic and anti-inflammatory mechanisms.
Another study indicates that consuming flavonoid-rich foods like cranberries helps decrease the risk of atherosclerosis. These berries can also reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Drink 1 to 2 glasses of unsweetened cranberry juice on a regular basis to improve cardiovascular health.
4. Reduces Cancer Risk
A 2012 study published in the journal Anticancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry concluded that cranberries are a promising natural source of potential anticancer agents. Cranberry extracts have positive anti-proliferative effects against prostate, liver, breast, ovarian, colon and oral cancer.
The cancer-related benefits of cranberries come from their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiproliferative properties.
Chronic excessive oxidative stress and chronic excessive inflammation are the two most common causes that increase the risk of cancer. However, while cranberry helps prevent cancer, it is not effective in treating it.
Include cranberries in your diet in raw or juice form if you are at a higher risk of cancer.
5. Boosts Immunity
The immune-support benefits of cranberries are exciting. They are high in vitamin C, the best antioxidant for good immune power. In addition, the phytochemicals in cranberries promote a healthy immune system.
People with good immune systems are less prone to get the common cold and flu infections.
Drink a glass of cranberry juice a day to reduce the chance of becoming sick.
6. Makes Bones Strong
Cranberries are a good source of calcium that helps strengthen your bones, teeth and nails. It also reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis.
The fruit is a good source of vitamin K, another important vitamin for overall bone health. Vitamin K helps retain calcium in the bone matrix, gives the bones higher resilience and prevents bone density loss. This in turn reduces the risk of fractures.
One cup of raw cranberries or a glass of cranberry juice daily can play a key role in keeping your bones healthy and strong.
7. Aids Digestion
According to the University of Kentucky’s Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences Program, a high-fiber diet lowers the risks for indigestion and certain gastrointestinal diseases.
Cranberries are a rich source of fiber and hence promote digestive health. The fiber gives bulk to stool and facilitates quicker elimination of waste products from the gut. This helps prevent constipation.
In addition, the anti-inflammatory benefits of cranberries reduce the risk of chronic inflammation in the stomach and large intestine.
Eat cranberries raw to get the best results for aiding digestion.
8. Fights Aging
Cranberries are loaded with antioxidants that help combat the effects of aging. Antioxidants like vitamins C, B3 and B5 help the body get rid of free radicals that contribute to the aging process, as well as provide protection against damage caused by environmental factors.
Regular consumption of cranberries can delay the degeneration of brain cells, skin cells and even organ tissue. Thus, it is helpful in delaying age-related memory loss and motor function decline.
Include cranberries in your diet to avoid problems that develop with age, such as memory loss and lack of coordination.
9. Improves Skin Health
For beautiful and glowing skin, you can use a simple homemade cranberry face mask. The enzymes in this fruit exfoliate dead skin and prevent clogged pores. Plus, cranberry juice acts as a skin toner, which helps people with oily skin.
The vitamin C in cranberries helps make skin firm and radiant by increasing the production of collagen and elastin. It also prevents wrinkles, redness, hyperpigmentation and fine lines on the skin.
Mix equal amounts of cranberry juice and honey. Rub it gently on your face, leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes and then rinse it off with lukewarm water. This paste works as a toner and helps treat acne and pimples.
10. Prevents Peptic Ulcers
Cranberries are also an effective treatment for peptic ulcers, the open sores in the lining of the stomach, esophagus or duodenum caused by a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori.
According to a 2005 study by Chinese researchers, regular consumption of cranberry juice can suppress H. pylori infections in endemically afflicted populations.
The natural antibacterial properties in cranberries help inhibit the growth of H. pylori bacteria, and it reduces the risk of developing stomach ulcers in the future.
Those who are at a higher risk of peptic ulcers must regularly drink cranberry juice to suppress the infection.
- Avoid high intake of cranberries if you take blood-thinning medicine.
- People who have a history of kidney stones must talk to their doctor before including cranberries in their diet as they may increase urinary oxalate levels.
- People taking prescribed aspirin should avoid consuming excess cranberry juice.
- People who are allergic to aspirin must avoid cranberries.
- Cranberries retain their maximum amount of nutrients and maximum taste when eaten fresh. Cooking destroys their nutritional properties.
- Unsweetened cranberry juice tastes slightly sour, but for medicinal purposes, this juice is the best. You can dilute 2 ounces of cranberry juice with 8 ounces of water.