Cranberries are native to North America, particularly New England, hence their inclusion in the traditional "first Thanksgiving" dinner.
While once relegated to the holidays, the berries' popularity has greatly increased, particularly in the form of their juice.
Although many eat cranberries for their refreshing taste, what may be even more appealing are their health-protecting benefits.
Let's dig into some of the most compelling research.
Cranberries Prevent UTIsE. coli bacteria are the most common cause urinary tract infections which afflict millions of people each year. Cranberries have been found to prevent the attachment of E. coli to the wall of the urinary tract.1
A study found evidence for a reduction in the number of symptomatic UTIs over a 12-month period in women who drank cranberry juice.2
In a randomized, double-blinded clinical trial, elderly people who consumed cranberry capsules were less likely to develop UTI's.3
Cranberries Have Antibacterial EffectsThe protective effect of cranberries against harmful bacteria is not limited to the urinary tract. They've also shown the ability to combat oral bacteria.4
The berries' anti-inflammatory effect may additionally help prevent periodontitis.5 And, similar to its effects in the urinary tract, cranberry juice inhibits the adhesion of H. pylori, a bacterium that causes stomach ulcers.6
Cranberries Promote Heart-HealthCurrent research indicates further health benefits for cranberries. A study reported at the 225th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society revealed a 10% increase in HDL, “the good cholesterol,” in association with the long-term drinking of cranberry juice—an amount correlated with a 40% reduction in heart disease risk.7
Cranberries Protect Against Cancer
At another American Chemical Society meeting, cranberry juice was reported to enhance the effect of chemotherapy in cultured ovarian cancer cells8.
The proanthocyanidins in cranberries appear to work by blocking tumor proteins, which makes them more susceptible to the drugs' effects.
Try Cranberry SupplementsSupermarket-variety cranberry juice, while earning high marks in the taste department, is often laden with sugar. For those of us who'd rather avoid extra sugar and calories (or who want to reap the benefits of cranberries while on the go), cranberry extract capsules can be a lifesaver.
The Bottom LineWhether consumed in juice, capsule or traditional sauce, cranberries are a source of multiple health benefits.
If you're one of the few who consume cranberries only on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, you might try adding these precious jewels to cereals or salads, or otherwise make an effort to reap their health benefits year-round.
- Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007 Jun;51(6):732-7.
- Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Jan 23;(1):CD001321.
- J Am Geriatr Soc. 2014 Jan;62(1):103-10.
- J Am Dent Assoc. 1998 Dec;129(12):1719-23.
- Eur J Oral Sci. 2007 Feb;115(1):64-70.
- Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2002;42(3 Suppl):279-84.
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