Did you know that cranberries contain one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants among all berries and fruits and many more benefits for the human body? Cranberry is one of the leading products in the quantitative composition of antioxidants that promote health and protect our cells from damage by free radicals. Cranberries are often included in the list of the most useful products on the planet for many reasons, ranging from the ability to reduce local inflammatory processes, to an increase in the overall immunity of the body, and much more.
Useful antioxidants found in cranberries outnumber many others found in fruits and vegetables, including strawberries, spinach, broccoli and red grapes. This amazing berry, which is sold fresh, frozen and dried, is commonly used in cooking for making juices, fruit drinks, sauces, jellies and for baking filling.
Researchers believe that cranberries contain substances that prevent infection by bacteria that cause infection in the walls of the urinary tract. Cranberries are also an excellent source of many important vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin C, manganese and fiber. Therefore, as you can see, the health benefits of cranberries are incredible. Let us consider in more detail the best benefits of cranberries, as well as the possible harm from its use.
Cranberry Nutrition Facts
Cranberries include an amazing collection of phytonutrients, a small amount of calories and sugar, as well as the almost complete absence of fat and sodium. Many of these phytonutrients offer antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer health benefits.
- An extremely high score of “antioxidant capacity”, even surpassing other superfoods or “superfoods”, such as blueberries and strawberries in terms of the amount of specific antioxidants, such as proanthocyanidin.
- Cranberries contain only 46 calories per cup of fresh berries.
- Balanced electrolyte levels, including potassium and sodium.
- Low score on the glycemic index.
One serving of fresh cranberries (about 110 grams) contains approximately:
Calories : 50.6 kcal
Carbohydrates : 13.4 grams.
Protein : 0.4 g.
Fat : 0.1 gr.
Cellulose : 5,1 gr.
Vitamin C : 14.6 mg. (24%)
Manganese : 0.4 mg (20%)
Vitamin E : 1.3 mg (7%)
Vitamin B6 : 0.1 mg ( 3%)
Pantothenic acid : 0.3 mg (3%)
Potassium : 93.5 mg (3%)
Copper : 0.1 mg. (3%)
Vitamin K : 5.6 μg (7%)
Along with an impressive amount of vitamins and minerals, cranberries also have a high level of phytonutrients. Some of the most powerful phytonutrients and antioxidants in cranberries include:
Anthocyanins . This class of antioxidants found in cranberries has the ability to destroy free radicals in the body, and in medical research there are advantages in losing weight, reducing cholesterol and fighting breast cancer.
Quercetin . Perhaps the most powerful phytonutrient in this berry, quercetin is anti-inflammatory and has proven to be effective in reducing allergies, improving joint pain and reducing arterial wall inflammation.
Benzoic acid . It has powerful antiseptic properties and is the main ingredient in cranberries, which reduces the risk of infection and can kill bad bacteria to naturally treat urinary tract infections and even acne.
Epicatechins. A class of phytonutrients that is also found in green tea and red wine. They have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Useful properties of cranberry for human health
Scientists have proven 6 therapeutic properties of cranberries, which are used by doctors to prevent and treat the following conditions.
- Preventing and treating urinary tract infections
- Reduction of inflammations
- Prevention of tumor diseases
- Improved immune function
- Improving the digestive system
- Reducing the risk of heart disease
Consider each of these properties in more detail.
1. Cranberry prevents and treats urinary tract infections.
Cranberries are perhaps the most widely known to help prevent or treat urinary tract infections.
These diseases are about 50 times more common in women than men, due to the location of the female urethra. They can affect any part of the urinary tract, but are most often found in the bladder, causing cystitis.
According to experts, every year more than 15 million cases of urinary tract infections are registered. Infection causes symptoms of frequent, urgent or painful urination, and sometimes abdominal pain or the presence of blood in the urine. Most diseases of the genitourinary system are caused by harmful bacteria called E. coli (or Escherichia coli). The therapeutic effects of cranberries are due to the presence in it of compounds that help keep certain bacteria (eg, E. coli) from attaching to the wall of the urinary tract.
The traditional preventive recommendation for the prevention of cystitis, urethritis and pyelonephritis is to drink one or two glasses of 100% natural pure, unsweetened or slightly sweetened cranberry juice or fruit drink per day. Studies show that women who often drink cranberry juice are less likely to suffer from symptoms of urinary tract infections.
Antibiotics are very effective in preventing and treating these infections, but the side effects of antibiotics, including antibiotic resistance, the spread of yeast infections (thrush), problems with digestion, etc., often prevent many women from taking them.
According to some estimates, up to 15% of all prescribed antibiotics are prescribed specifically for the treatment of urinary tract infections. Moreover, there is growing evidence that using too much antibiotics can lead to health problems, but, fortunately, a natural remedy, such as using cranberries, is becoming a popular and effective alternative.
Some researchers believe that some antioxidants in cranberries change bacteria, so they can not stick to the urinary tract; others believe that cranberries create a slippery coating on the walls of the urinary tract, which prevents E. coli from sticking.
One study examined women who had a history of urinary tract infections caused by E. coli bacteria. Women who drank one glass of cranberry berry juice every day for six months reduced the risk of a relapse of the disease by 20% compared with women who did not perform any prophylaxis.
In another study, elderly people who ate cranberries in their diet had half the amount of bacteria and leukocytes in their urine — signs of urinary tract infections.
The third study involved 20 women with recurrent cystitis. They consumed one serving of sweetened and dried cranberries daily for two weeks. More than half of the patients did not develop cystitis within six months after consuming sweetened, dried cranberries, and the average incidence rate for six months decreased significantly. The results of this study show a positive effect on cranberry consumption to reduce the number of urinary tract infections in susceptible women.
The results of the study showed that eating cranberries during a 12-month period reduces the overall incidence of infections of the urogenital system by 35%, and among women with chronic morbidity, cranberries reduced the annual rate of new infections by 39% .
2. Cranberry reduces inflammation
Inflammation underlies many common diseases seen in developed countries, including heart disease, autoimmune diseases, cancer, diabetes, and more. Anti-inflammatory foods like cranberries naturally help fight inflammation due to their high content of antioxidants.
Antioxidants are found in foods that are naturally colored, for example, in dark red (cranberries and other berries) or in rich blue and violet ( blueberries and blueberries ). All the berries help fight free radicals due to the high content of antioxidants, but the cranberry is one of the best sources on Earth.
Inflammation occurs when the body’s immune system is working in a super-tense mode, trying to rid the body of toxins that are formed due to unhealthy food, pollution, etc. A diet low in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory foods leads to an abundance of free radicals in the body. Free radicals, which may seem something mythical and incomprehensible, in fact, are a natural by-product that our body creates from daily activities.
The body of each person produces free radicals, but when they become too much, they multiply and can damage the DNA, cell membrane and enzymes. Often eating fresh foods that have anti-inflammatory properties, we reduce the effects of free radicals and protect our body, reducing the risk of developing cancer, improving brain function, reducing levels of “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides, and reducing the likelihood of developing diabetes and autoimmune diseases such like arthritis.
3. Cranberries can help prevent certain cancers.
Studies have shown that anti-cancer compounds found in cranberries are useful for the prevention of breast, colon, lung and prostate cancer.
Studies in both animals and humans have confirmed these effects of slowing the progression of tumors. Thanks to its unique structure of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, cranberries seem ideal for reducing the risk of some common cancers.
Antioxidants are needed to optimize health by combating free radicals that can damage cellular structures, as well as DNA. Growing evidence from various studies shows that high levels of antioxidant flavonoids found in cranberries and blueberries can help stop the development of age-related diseases, thanks to their ability to limit oxidative stress. That is why they are among the most popular anti-cancer products.
This is important because, unfortunately, many people experience a high level of oxidative stress from ongoing inflammation in the body caused by poor nutrition, mental stress and an unhealthy environment.
4. Cranberry improves immunity
According to some studies, cranberry extract can improve multiple aspects of immune function, and it can reduce the incidence of cold and flu symptoms. High levels of a specific substance called proanthocyanidins found in cranberries help the body’s immune function prevent disease.
Proanthocyanidins belong to a larger class of polyphenols, which are usually present in berries and fruits. These powerful polyphenols can stimulate the lining of the intestines, where most of the immune system is actually located.
In medicine, it has long been proven that human immunity is formed in the intestine. It is very important to maintain a balance of beneficial and harmful bacteria – the intestinal microbiota. And it is a healthy intestine – a pledge of strong and strong immunity. Due to the fact that cranberries can slow down the growth and development of harmful bacteria – found in toxic foods and viruses that enter the body – healthy immunomodulating bacteria can accumulate and grow in the intestinal walls to create a powerful defense against diseases.
Also unique is the combination of the three antioxidant nutrients found in cranberries: resveratrol, riceotannol, and pterostilbene. Some studies have shown that there is a unique synergy between these nutrients in the fight against disease.
Phytonutrients in cranberries provide maximum antioxidant benefits only when consumed in combination with each other, and only when consumed along with the usual antioxidant nutrients that are also present in cranberries, such as manganese and vitamin C.
When the treatment violates this combination of antioxidants, the benefits are reduced; therefore, cranberries are most useful when consumed in their natural form and in fresh form, or in a very high-quality extract. This is because it is a unique and naturally occurring mixture of cranberry antioxidants, which gives a person the greatest health benefits.
5. Cranberry improves digestion
Cranberries are believed to have cleansing, antidiarrheal, antiseptic and diuretic detoxification properties. They help the body get rid of toxins, as well as help relieve bloating and improve fluid balance in the body. Our digestive system goes beyond just our intestines and stomach – in fact, it starts with our mouth, gums and tongue.
Recent studies have shown that the benefits of cranberries help optimize the balance of bacteria throughout the digestive tract, in a manner similar to the way probiotics found in kefir or yogurt create a healthy intestinal flora environment.
The health benefits of digestion of cranberries are indisputable due to the ability of this berry to restrain the balance of bacteria in the body, preventing harmful “bad” bacteria from growing and contributing to the growth of “good” beneficial bacteria. This not only relieves symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn, but also helps enhance the immunity and absorption of nutrients, since a healthy intestinal wall is important for both of these functions.
6. Cranberry reduces the risk of heart disease.
The cardiovascular benefits of cranberries come from the combined effects of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. Studies in which subjects consumed cranberries every day at a rate of about 100 grams showed that cranberries could prevent the launch of two enzymes that play a key role in the development of heart disease. It has also been proven that cranberry prevents the activation of these enzymes by blocking the activity of a pro-inflammatory molecule called alpha tumor necrosis factor (TNF-alpha).
In animal studies, when low-calorie cranberry juice and cranberry extracts were consumed by rats and mice, the benefits of antioxidants were clearly associated with a reduced risk of high blood pressure. Cranberry extract helped prevent excessive constriction of the blood vessels, which can lead to cardiac arrest or other forms of heart disease. Compared with many drugs for regulating blood pressure and heart function, which can cause complications in some people, cranberries are practically harmless and do not carry any risky side effects.
Many studies have shown that patients taking cranberry extract or consuming fresh berries experience a positive dilation of blood vessels and an increase in blood flow, and positive effects are observed in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Cranberries are also an excellent source of vitamin C, which can also have the effect of lowering pressure. One cup of cranberries contains 18% of the daily intake of vitamin C.
According to recent studies, eating cranberries can reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in three divisions, which contributes to a healthier cardiovascular system and a reduction in the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Many recent studies have shown that all cranberries consumed fresh when compared to purified extracts of cranberries, which are in liquid or dried form, better protect the cardiovascular system and the liver. This is another reason to buy fresh cranberries and use them in a variety of recipes that you make yourself.
How to choose and how to store cranberries
Cranberries are growing throughout the world, usually in countries with a temperate climate and cold winters. They are popular in American, European and Middle Eastern cuisines, and in dried form and in kitchens in other parts of the world.
Cranberries are usually harvested in September and October. This is the best time to buy fresh berries.
When choosing cranberries, look for fresh, plump berries that have a rich red color. The berries must be firm to the touch; hardness is an indicator of quality. Bright red berries have a higher concentrate of useful anthocyanin compounds.
Dried cranberries are easy to find at any grocery store during the entire calendar year. Fresh cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator for about 20 days, and frozen berries can be stored much longer – for several years.
You can also buy frozen cranberries in the store. Often it is sold at lower prices.
Cranberries can be eaten fresh, heat-treated or dried. But all the health benefits of cranberries are present most in fresh berries, although any way to eat cranberries will still bring you many benefits, provided that the berries are not subjected to prolonged heat treatment and are not mixed with sugar.
Often, cranberries are processed into foods such as juices, canned sauces, sweet jams and sweetened dried cranberries, in which many of its nutrients are already missing. A much healthier idea is to make your own cranberry dish so as to ensure the maximum amount of nutrients possible and to avoid excess sugar. But remember that delicate vitamins, antioxidants and enzymes in cranberries cannot withstand the temperature used in baking, which is usually around 120 degrees Celsius.
Possible harm of cranberries
- If you are taking the blood-thinning drug Warfarin, you are not recommended to use cranberries, because some data show that cranberries may enhance the effect of the drug on the body. Several cases were associated with patients who had an increase in bleeding due to suspected cranberry use while taking warfarin.
- Cranberry products may contribute to the formation of kidney stones due to an increase in urinary oxalate excretion. Cranberry is a small amount of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, which are naturally occurring substances found in plants, animals, and humans. Although the amount of oxalate found in cranberries is relatively small (1.5%), they are able to increase the amount of oxalate and calcium in the urine, which leads to urine with elevated concentrations of calcium oxalate.
Final Thoughts on Cranberries
Cranberries have one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants. Cranberries are also an excellent source of many important vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin C, manganese and fiber.
It has been proven that cranberry reduces inflammation in the body, improves immunity, prevents and treats infections of the urinary system, benefits the digestive tract, reduces the risk of heart disease, and potentially even helps prevent certain forms of cancer.
Some of the most powerful antioxidants in cranberries include anthocyanins, quercetin, benzoic acid, and epicatechins.
Cranberries retain the maximum amount of nutrients and fresh taste. It is believed that its delicate nutrients, including vitamins, antioxidants and enzymes, can not withstand the temperature used in baking, which is usually about 120 degrees Celsius.