What to know about cranberries

Cranberries are a well-known superfruit. They are available in the form of a sauce or a juice. They can even use them in things like stuffing, casseroles, and desserts. These nutrient-dense berries are also a Thanksgiving dinner favorite.

Cranberries are a North American native fruit. They now occupy nearly 58,000 acres of farmland in the northern United States, Chile, and Canada.

Cranberries are considered a superfood by many because of their high nutrient and antioxidant content.

Cranberries’ nutrients have been related to a lower risk of urinary tract infection (UTI), the prevention of certain forms of cancer, enhanced immune function, and lower blood pressure, according to reports.

We’ll look at the health benefits of cranberries, their nutritional breakdown, and how to integrate them into a balanced diet in this article.

Health benefits

cranberries
Cranberries are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, making them an ideal addition to a balanced diet.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is recommended by all health and nutrition experts.

Cranberries, in particular, have a variety of health advantages. They are a good source of antioxidants and vitamins.

Cranberries were traditionally used by Native Americans to treat bladder and kidney diseases, while early British used them to treat poor appetite, stomach complaints, blood disorders, and scurvy.

The following are some of the latest cranberry advantages:

Managing UTIs

Cranberries played a role in traditional treatments for UTIs.

However, studies on the impact of cranberries on UTI treatment have provided conflicting results.

For example, according to a 2016 study, medical professionals most often recommend cranberries to women who have recurrent UTIs.

In addition, a 2014 study of 516 people found that taking a cranberry extract capsule twice a day decreased the risk of UTIs.

Cranberries contain a large amount of antioxidant proanthocyanidins (PACs), which help prevent bacteria from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract. Cranberries’ PACs help to prevent infection in this way.

However, while cranberry capsules can do this, cranberry juice is unlikely to have the same effect, according to a 2015 report.

This is because preventing bacterial adhesion requires a high concentration of cranberry extract. Commercially available cranberry juices don’t have nearly as many PACs.

Meanwhile, a 2019 study found that combining cranberry extract with caprylic acid derived from coconut oil and oregano essential oil extract resulted in the eradication of the most common bacteria, Escherichia coli, despite the fact that cranberries did not appear to get rid of the bacteria that cause UTIs.

Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease

According to some research, the polyphenols found in cranberries can help to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

A systematic review published in 2019 found that including cranberries in one’s diet can help people control multiple CVD risk factors. The systolic blood pressure, which is the blood pressure during a heart muscle contraction, is one of them.

Cranberry supplementation was also found to help lower body mass index (BMI) and increase HDL, or “good,” cholesterol levels, according to the study.

A separate research looked at 78 people who were overweight or obese. It was discovered that daily intake of a single dose of a low-calorie cranberry beverage high in plant compounds improved blood sugar control, chemical signs of inflammation, and HDL lipoprotein levels.

Slowing cancer progression

Cranberries or compounds present in cranberries had some beneficial effects on cancer cells in test tubes, according to a 2016 study of 34 preclinical studies.

These included the following:

  • triggering the death of cancer cells
  • slowing the growth of cancer cells
  • reducing inflammation

Cranberries can also affect many other mechanisms that encourage cancer growth and spread, according to the report.

Although there has only been limited research on humans with cancer, these results show promise for the potential management of certain cancers in addition to standard treatments.

Enhancing oral health

Cranberries’ PACs can also be beneficial to oral health. According to researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Center for Oral Biology and Eastman Department of Dentistry, they do this by stopping bacteria from adhering to the surface of teeth.

Cranberries can also help in the prevention of gum disease.

Nutrition

One half cup of chopped cranberries contains:

  • 25 calories
  • 0.25 grams (g) of protein
  • 0.07 g of fat
  • 6.6 g of carbohydrate, including 2.35 g of natural sugar
  • 2 g of fiber
  • 4.4 milligrams (mg) of calcium
  • 0.12 mg of iron
  • 3.3 mg of magnesium
  • 6 mg of phosphorus
  • 44 mg of potassium
  • 1.1 mg of sodium
  • 0.05 mg of zinc
  • 7.7 mg of vitamin C
  • 0.5 micrograms (mcg) of folate DFE
  • 35 international units of vitamin A
  • 0.72 mg of vitamin E
  • 2.75 mcg of vitamin K

Cranberries also contain a range of vital B vitamins, including:

  • vitamin B-1 (thiamin)
  • vitamin B-2 (riboflavin)
  • vitamin B-3 (niacin)
  • vitamin B-6

They are also a good source of vitamin C.

Vitamin C is a powerful, natural antioxidant. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), vitamin C can:

  • block some of the damage caused by disease-causing free radicals
  • improve iron absorption from plant sources
  • boost the immune system
  • support collagen production for wound healing

A higher fiber intake can also lower a person’s risk of developing a number of health problems, such as:

Increased fiber intake can also help people with obesity lose weight by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels, enhancing insulin sensitivity, and increasing weight loss.

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps the immune system function properly. It can aid in the prevention or delay of chronic conditions linked to free radicals, such as:

Diet

cranberries in diet

Farmers will harvest fresh cranberries in September and October, so fall is the best time to purchase them. They can be bought dried, frozen, or canned.

Fresh cranberries can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two months or frozen for later use. Cranberries should be firm to the touch and unwrinkled.

Some cranberry products, however, can contain added sugars. This is due to the fact that cranberries are very tart and can be difficult to eat without a sweetener. It’s important to read the ingredients label and pick the product with the least amount of added sugar.

Other fruit juices and sweeteners are commonly added to cranberry juice. People looking for the most benefit from cranberry juice should select juice with cranberry as the primary ingredient.

Cranberry sauce is a popular Thanksgiving side dish, but there are several other ways to enjoy this fruit throughout the year.

Here are some ideas for including cranberries in your diet:

  • Make a homemade trail mix with unsalted nuts, seeds, and dried cranberries.
  • Include a small handful of frozen cranberries in a fruit smoothie.
  • Add dried cranberries to oatmeal or whole-grain cereal.
  • Toss dried or fresh cranberries into a muffin or cookie recipe.
  • Add dried cranberries to a salad.
  • Include fresh cranberries in an apple dessert, such as pie or cobbler, for extra flavor.

Risks

People who take the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin) should not increase their cranberry intake suddenly.

While there is contradictory evidence about the ability of cranberries to improve anticoagulant effects, they can cause excessive bleeding.

Cranberry products can also induce increased oxalate excretion in the urine. This could stimulate the development of calcium oxalate-type kidney stones in those who are vulnerable to them.

Before increasing their cranberry intake, people who have a history of kidney stones should consult their doctor.

Sources

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  • Chew, B., et al. (2019). Chronic consumption of a low calorie, high polyphenol cranberry beverage attenuates inflammation and improves glucoregulation and HDL cholesterol in healthy overweight humans: A randomized controlled trial [Abstract].
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  • Cranberries, raw. (2019).
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  • Cranberry. (2016).
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  • D’Alessandro, C., et al. (2019). Which diet for calcium stone patients: A real-world approach to preventive care.
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  • Foxman, B., et al. (2015). Cranberry juice capsules and urinary tract infection after surgery: Results of a randomized trial.
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  • Kim, H. W., et al. (2019). Synergistic cranberry juice combinations with natural-borne antimicrobials for the eradication of uropathogenic Escherichia coli biofilm within a short time [Abstract].
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  • Koo, H., et al. (2006). Influence of cranberry juice on glucan-mediated processes involved in Streptococcus mutans biofilm development [Abstract].
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  • Lista, D. J., et al. (2016). Cranberries and urinary tract infections: How can the same evidence lead to conflicting advice?
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  • Lynch, D. M. (2004). Cranberry for prevention of urinary tract infections.
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  • McKay, D. L., & Blumberg, J. B. (2007). Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) and cardiovascular disease risk factors [Abstract].
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  • What to know about cranberries (LINK)
  • Pourmasoumi, M. et al. (2019). The effects of cranberry on cardiovascular metabolic risk factors: A systematic review and meta-analysis [Abstract].
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  • Rizvi, S., et al. (2014). The role of vitamin E in human health and some diseases.
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  • Urinary tract infections. (2019).
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  • Vitamin C: Fact sheet for consumers. (2019).
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  • Vitamin E: Fact sheet for health professionals. (2019).
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  • Weh, K. M., et al. (2016). Cranberries and cancer: An update of preclinical studies evaluating the cancer inhibitory potential of cranberry and cranberry derived constituents.
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