What are Cranberries?
Cranberries are one of the best three nutritious berries native to the U.S., the others being blueberries and Concord grapes.
These fruits are full of antioxidants which are known to help repair and prevent cell damage from free radicals.
They are also rich in fiber and vitamin C.
The most common species grown in North America is the Vaccinium macrocarpon species, but there are also other species found in nature.
Due to their sour and sharp taste, cranberries are rarely consumed raw.
They are most often consumed as juices, which is usually blended with other fruits and sweetened.
Other cranberry-based products include dried cranberries, sauces, powders, frozen and extracts used as supplements.
Cranberries have a variety of vitamins and healthy plant compound, some of which have been proven to be effective in treating urinary tract infections.
This article will look at the uses and main benefits of Cranberry, but first, let’s take a quick look at nutritional facts, so we know exactly what we are working with.
Cranberry Vitamin Facts
Cranberries are healthy fruits, primarily due to their high antioxidants and nutrient content.
This is why they are often classified as “superfoods.” They also contain a meager amount of calories making then “safe” for most diets.
As already mentioned, the nutrients in cranberries have been associated with a lower risk of urinary tract infections, improved immune function, prevention of certain types of cancer, and decreased blood pressure.
Fresh cranberries are made of nearly 90% water, while the dry weight is predominantly composed of fibers and carbohydrates.
The dry berries are made up of 90% carbs + fibers, and these are primarily simple sugars such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose.
The fibers include cellulose, pectin, and hemicelluloses.
Cranberries also contain Vitamins and Minerals, especially vitamin C.
Vitamin C is one of the most important antioxidants in cranberries and is essential for maintaining muscles, skin, and bone.
There is also a generous portion of manganese which plays a critical role in metabolism, growth and body’s antioxidant system.
Vitamin E is also an essential fat-soluble antioxidant supplied by this “super fruit.”
Another essential vitamin is Vitamin K1 which is necessary for blood clotting.
Copper is also available in trace portions
Cranberries are also very rich in bioactive plant compounds and antioxidants.
Here are the essential plant compounds.
The most abundant antioxidant in cranberries. Cranberries are in fact among the primary sources of quercetin.
Also, another major antioxidant polyphenol in these berries and has been shown to have a wide range of health benefits.
This is an anthocyanin antioxidant which coupled with cyanidin, gives cranberry its red color along with some health effects. Cranberry fruits are among the most abundant sources of peonidin.
Ursolic acid is highly concentrated in the peel of the cranberry fruit and is an ingredient in a variety of traditional medicines holding anti-inflammatory properties.
A-type proanthocyanidins: this is another group of antioxidant polyphenols.
It’s also referred to as condensed tannins and has been shown to be efficacious in treating urinary tract infections.
Cranberries Benefits and Uses
As you may have already noticed, cranberries contain the highest concentrations of antioxidants.
The healthy antioxidants contained in cranberries are more potent than many vegetables and fruits including spinach, strawberries, red grapes, and broccoli.
The fruit is often sold fresh, dried and frozen, but can also be used in products like jellies, juices, baked goods, sauces, and teas.
Here is a detailed look at the health benefits of Cranberry.
Cranberries for UTI
When it comes to health benefits, cranberries are most widely known to treat and prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Urinary tract infection is approximately 50 times more common in women compared to men.
It most commonly affects the bladder, but it can change any section of the urinary tract.
There are approximately 14 million urinary tract infections each year in the U.S. alone.
The infection is characterized by symptoms such as urgent, frequent or painful urination, often with blood in the urine or abdominal pain.
Most UTI infections are caused by bacteria known as Escherichia coli (E. coli).
The benefits of Cranberry are attributed to a compound that helps to prevent E. coli (and other bacteria) from attaching to the wall of the urinary tract.
The traditional preventative dosage recommendation for preventing UTI formation is to drink 1 to 2 glasses of 100% pure lightly sweetened or unsweetened cranberry juice a day.
Research has revealed that women who frequently drink cranberry juice are least likely to suffer from urinary tract infections.
Antibiotics are quite useful in treating and preventing these infections.
However, they come with a wide range of side effects including yeast infections, digestive problems, antibiotic resistance and more. This deters many people from using them.
This is why cranberry has become a favorite natural alternative for treating UTI.
Some experts believe that some types of antioxidants in cranberries change the chemical content of the bacteria, so they attach to the urinary tract.
There are also studies suggesting that cranberries create a slippery coating on the inner linings of the urinary tract to prevent the E. coli bacteria from sticking.
Cranberries Decrease Inflammation
Inflammation is the cause of many common illnesses in developed nations, including autoimmune disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and so on.
Anti-inflammatory foods like the cranberries can help to naturally prevent and treat inflammation due to their high levels of antioxidants.
Antioxidants are commonly found in foods with natural deep colors such as the deep red color of cranberries or the dark purple/blue of cranberries.
Pretty much all berries are effective in fighting free radicals due to high levels of antioxidants; however, cranberries have continually proven to be the best and most reliable sources.
Cranberries for Dogs
For dog owners, the main problems you face with your dog’s health is usually due to heart condition and failures.
Most dogs suffer from heart failure due to the dog’s heart continuing to grow as they age.
Most cases of inflammation happen when the immune system work on overdrive trying to get rid of body toxins that come about as a result of eating unhealthy diets, pollution and so on.
A diet low in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant food results in high levels of free radicals in the body.
For starters, free radicals are natural byproducts that are formed in our body from doing everyday activities.
Your dog’s health is relative to this environment as well and should be considered for the longevity of our pets.
Everyone produces free radicals, but when left unchecked, these byproducts can increase and damage the cellular membranes, DNA, and enzymes.
Frequent consumption of anti-inflammatory foods, whole foods has been associated with less cancer risk, healthier cholesterol, better brain function and triglyceride levels.
It has also been shown to reduce autoimmune diseases like arthritis and diabetes.
Cranberries Prevent Certain Cancers
Studies have revealed that cancer-preventive chemicals contained in cranberries are effective in preventing colon, breast, prostate, and lung cancers.
Human and animals studies showed that this fruit could help reduce tumor progression.
They have a wide range of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients which ideally positions cranberries as a natural way of reducing the risks of everyday types of cancers.
As earlier mentioned, antioxidants are essential in our bodies as they help combat free radicals that are known to damage the cellular structures.
A growing number of studies now suggest that high levels of flavonoids contained in cranberries can help slow down age-related by limiting oxidative stress.
This is what makes cranberries some of the top choice cancer-fighting foods today.
This is important because unfortunately, many people experience significantly high levels of oxidative stress resulting from inflammation caused by mental stress, unhealthy environments, and poor diets.
Cranberries for Immune Function
Some studies have shown that cranberry extract can help improve various aspects of the immune function and reduce the frequency of flu and cold symptoms.
High concentrations of a substance known as proanthocyanidins in cranberries can boost the immune system fight off disease and illness.
Proanthocyanidins are a class of polyphenols commonly found in berries and other types of whole fruits and extracts.
These Proanthocyanidins are known to nurture the gut lining where the majority of the immune functions occur.
Considering the fact the cranberry is capable of warding off harmful bacteria from proliferating in the gut lining, immune-boosting, healthy bacteria able to thrive creating a robust defense against illnesses.
There is also a unique combination of three antioxidant nutrients in the cranberries namely piceatannol, pterostilbene, and resveratrol. Some studies have revealed that there is a synergy between the three disease-fighting nutrients.
These phytonutrients provide maximum antioxidant benefits when consumed as a combination alongside other antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C and manganese, also found in cranberries.
Processing disrupts this synergetic antioxidant combination and reduces the benefits.
It’s therefore essential to consume berries as whole and natural as possible or as a high-quality extract to get the most of these benefits.
Cranberries Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
Cranberries offer some pretty impressive cardiovascular benefits thanks to the combined effects of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and antioxidants.
Studies involving individuals who eat natural dietary cranberries, (about 1 cup a day) reveal that the berries can prevent activation of two enzymes associated with the development of heart illnesses.
The antioxidant effects are responsible for reducing risks of various heart disease markers including cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
Cranberries are natural remedies that can help lower the risk of stroke or heart attack because they reduce inflammation, dilate blood vessels and increase your blood flow.
In one animal study, low-calorie cranberry extracts and juice was given to mice and rats, the resulting antioxidant benefits translated into reduced risk of high blood pressure.
The cranberry juices helped prevent blood vessels over-constriction which is often associated with cardiac arrest and other forms of heart diseases.
Cranberries are also free of side effects and complication associated with many heart and blood pressure medications.
Numerous other studies have confirmed that eating whole cranberries or taking cranberry extract promotes increased blood flow and a definite dilation of blood vessels.
They also supply generous portions of vitamin C, which is a well known blood-pressure-lowering vitamin.
Regular consumption of cranberries can reduce both your diastolic and systolic blood pressure by 3 points, which reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Recent studies have also shown that consuming whole cranberries in dietary form offer better protection to the liver and cardiovascular system compared to purified cranberry juices and extracts.
This should give you another reason to buy whole, fresh cranberries and incorporate them in a wide range of recipes.
Cranberries for Digestive Tract
Cranberries have a cleansing, antiseptic, diuretic detoxifying and anti-diarrheal properties.
They can help the body eliminate toxins in addition to relieving bloating and water retention.
Your digestive system is made up of more than just the stomach and intestines — it includes your entire mouth, colon, and gums too.
Recent studies have revealed that benefits of cranberry can help optimize the delicate bacterial balance in our entire digestive tract, giving similar positive effects to probiotics found in yogurt that create a healthy gut environment.
The bacterial balance affects harmful “bad” bacteria while promoting proliferation of the “good” beneficial bacteria.
The overall effect is relieving symptoms like stomach acid, constipation, and diarrhea, as well as boosting nutrition, absorption, and immunity.
Cranberries Prevent Tooth Decay
New research studies on cranberry juice have revealed that it prevents tooth cavities.
As earlier mentioned, cranberries have a chemical compound known as Proanthocyanidins, which prevents harmful bacteria from sticking to the teeth.
The compound inhibits production of acids and formation of plague, which adequately protects the teeth against periodontal disease.
Good oral hygiene coupled with regular consumption of cranberries can disrupt the dental caries pathogenic mechanism and promote good dental health.
You should, however, be watchful of the excessively sweetened commercial cranberry juices. Naturally, partially purified cranberry juice is the best option.
Cranberries Peptic Ulcers
Peptic ulcers are primarily caused by bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).
This bacterium attacks the protective lining of the duodenum and the stomach, which is part of the intestine.
It often leads to more inflammation of the stomach lining. Foods high in flavonoids such as cranberries and apples lower the risk of stomach complications including stomach ulcers by inhibiting the growth of Helicobacter pylori bacteria.
Research carried out by a group of participants having peptic ulcers showed a 50 percent advantage over patients who didn’t take the cranberry juice.
As a result, doctors are increasingly recommending cranberry juice to patients to suppress the infection.
Cranberries Prevent Scurvy
The concentration of Vitamin C in the cranberries is critical for the formation of collagen in our bodies which is essential for proper functioning of tissues.
This has the benefit of preventing the outbreak of scurvy and other relative diseases.
Cranberries for Yeast Infection
Cranberries are also well known for eliminating and preventing the outbreak of yeast infection.
An overgrowth of naturally occurring bacteria primarily causes yeast infection in our bodies and commonly occurs in children and men.
The juice also contains chemicals that disable the bacteria’s ability to attach to the wall of the mouth, urinary tract or the intestines.
In essence, Fresh cranberry juice is the best remedy for flushing out yeast and other related excess fungi from your body.
Cranberries Anti- Aging Properties
As you already know by now, cranberry juice has a high concentration of vitamins C, B5 and B3 as well as antioxidants, and drinking the milk enhances the turnover of body cells while shielding them against damages caused by unhealthy eating and environmental factors.
Free radicals present in our daily environment are responsible for the formation of redness, wrinkles, fine lines and pigmentation of the skin.
Antioxidants in cranberries eliminate free radicals by providing the missing electrons, minimizing the damage caused and slowing the aging process.
Cranberries for Acne
Other than the nutritional benefits, cranberries also have antiseptic properties that are effective in treating acne and boils.
The most effective antioxidant against acne and pimples is resveratrol, and it’s found in abundant portions in the Cranberry juice.
Most masks are made using cranberry juice as the primary ingredient to brighten the skin and give it an instant fresh look.
The most commonly recommended recipe is mixing cranberry juice with a bit of honey and orange peel powder, applying the fine paste over your face and leaving it for 20 minutes.
Regular application of this paste is guaranteed to give your skin a fresh looking, lighter tone.
Cranberries Fight Common Infections
Cranberry juice is quite useful in treating common infections such as flu, cold and sore throat.
It inhibits the growth of certain Haemophilus influenza strains responsible for a wide range of ear and respiratory infections in children.
Ongoing studies have also indicated that cranberry extract can protect the brain against neurological damage and other diseases related to the mind.
Cranberries Firms Up the Skin
Vitamin C, which is abundant in cranberry, is critical for the formation of hydroxylysine and hydroxyproline, the amino acids required for collagen production in our bodies.
Collagen plays a significant role in circulation as it helps blood vessels under the skin to transport oxygen and nutrients which are responsible for toning and firming up the skin to make us look radiant and young.
It also offers significant protection against harsh weather conditions such as winter. Consuming cranberry juice on a regular basis will help you keep your skin supple and smooth.
Cranberries Promote Hair Growth
Cranberries are also considered to some of the best fruits for promoting long and lustrous hair.
Vitamins A and Vitamin C abundantly present in cranberry are the primary vitamins responsible for promoting healthy hair. Preliminary reports reveal that regular cranberry juice consumption prevents hair loss in addition to supporting hair growth.
Cranberry Recipe Tips
Since consuming fresh cranberries may taste a little sour and unpalatable on your taste buds, it’s essential to incorporate them into your favorite recipes.
But you don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving Day to enjoy your cranberry. You can mix sliced cranberries in vanilla yogurt or mix them up with a bowl of fresh berries with a little bit of a sweetener at breakfast.
At lunchtime, you can toss a few sliced raw cranberry fruits into a chicken and spinach salad.
At dinner, you can top a pork chop or sirloin steak with blue cheese crumbles, grilled onions, and sliced raw cranberries.
There is a tartness taste that adds a new, unique flavor to your favorite meat when you add a bit of the cranberry in the mix.
You can also enjoy cranberries in the form of jellies, jams, purees, and sauces that are readily available.
The acidic test makes the cranberries a great pair with chicken, ham, and turkey, as well as with chocolate desserts.
Cranberry juice is also a great way to go. Try alternative your orange juice with cranberry juice for your breakfast.
In case the tartness becomes a bother, mix it up with apple juice to balance the taste.
Keep a can of fresh cranberries in your fridge and add some to your favorite smoothie or salad. Dried cranberries taste even great in cereal or oatmeal.
Fresh cranberries can remain fresh in your fridge for up to 5 to 8 weeks, but when purchasing fresh cranberries, always choose the ones that are not wrinkled and feel firm to the touch.
If you want them to last a little longer, you can freeze them, but we recommend consuming them as fresh as possible.
If you’re using blood thinners, it’s recommended that you don’t consume cranberries.
Avoid cranberries when using drugs like drugs like Advil, aspirin, and Motrin.
Consult your doctors if you’re on any medication before using pure cranberry juices or extracts.
Cranberries have not been well researched for use by breastfeeding and pregnant moms, so as a precaution, use them sparingly as part of your diet.
If any severe reaction comes up, consult your physician immediately.
As you can see, cranberries are great fruits with tons of nutritional and medical benefits.
The berries have been widely researched and found beneficial against a wide range of diseases such as Urinary Tract Infections, cancer, ulcers, cardiovascular illnesses and digestive tract complications.
As mentioned, there are many different ways of consuming cranberries.
You can consume them as raw fruits, jellies, sauces, fresh juice, dried, powdered, and so on. Remember to keep in mind the above precautions.
The bottom line is to consume them as fresh as possible to gain the maximum benefits.