Cranberries are most popular during the winter holidays and considered a festive fruit. However, this little, red, bitter fruit is a powerful antioxidant and full of many health benefits. Here are the top sixteen cranberry health benefits.
Where Are Cranberries Grown?
Cranberries are grown in the northern parts of the United States, Chile, and southern Canada in the provinces of British Columbia and Quebec. Wisconsin is considered the leading producer of cranberries, followed by New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Cranberries grow in low lying bogs or marshes in acidic soils, on plants called lowbush cranberries. Lowbush cranberries refer to several different types of cranberries, including vaccinium oxycoccos cranberry, vaccinium vitis-idaea, lingonberry, and viburnum edule. Lowbush cranberries grow on vines, similar to blueberries. The bogs are flooded the day before harvesting, to help loosen the cranberries from the vine. Cranberries are harvested in the fall and can be found in grocery stores from September through January. Cranberries can be frozen for up to a year or dried. Fresh cranberries are healthier and have less sugar.
What are the Benefits of Cranberries?
Cranberries have many health benefits if taken medicinally under the guidance of a trusted health practitioner. Of the most common fruits, cranberries have the highest level of phenols, a type of antioxidant. This remarkable fruit has been found to be beneficial in the following ways:
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) – Cranberries have been associated with preventing UTI in the bladder and urethra. Women are more susceptible, however, UTIs can be experienced by both men and women. Cranberries are frequently recommended by doctors and health practitioners as a natural preventative and treatment for this purpose. If drinking juice, one should always choose cranberry juice without added sugars or sweeteners.
- Weakened Immune System — Cranberries can boost the immune system because it is a valuable source of vitamin C. Cranberries support the epithelial function, which fights pathogens and oxidation. A strong immune system helps us fight off colds, flu, and other bacterial or viral infections, boosting our resistance to chronic disease and illness.
- Dental Disease — Raw, fresh, cranberries can be effective in fighting periodontal diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis because cranberries fight the bacteria living in the oral cavity. Cranberries can also help prevent tooth decay and oral cancer.
- Digestive Problems — Cranberries are high in fiber. Fiber is important for healthy digestion. Cranberries can help in preventing constipation and developing regular bowel movements.
- Cholesterol –Research shows that drinking unsweetened cranberry juice can help regulate levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. The flavonoids in cranberry juice help regulate the HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels.
- Blood pressure — Because cranberries are high in fiber, antioxidants, and anthocyanins, they are helpful in maintaining healthy blood pressure.
- Vitamin C — One cup of raw, fresh, cranberries will provide about 25% of one’s daily dose of vitamin C. (dried cranberries lose much of their nutritional value and are higher in sugar). Daily doses of vitamin C are essential to healthy skin, hair, and nails and helpful in boosting the immune system (as mentioned above).
- Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes — Cranberries have been shown to improve insulin and blood sugar levels because they are a low glycemic food. Cranberries are digested, absorbed, and metabolized more slowly. Digesting cranberries can result in a lower fasting blood glucose level.
- Liver disease — Cranberries have a high anti-inflammatory effect and the highest level of phenols,, or antioxidants, among the majority of popular fruits. They are also high in anthocyanins which can be beneficial in preventing inflammation of the liver and liver disease.
- Cancer — Cranberries may be effective in inhibiting the growth of a variety of cancer cells, such as lymphoma, prostate, bladder, colon, esophagus, and stomach cancer.
- Ulcers –– A particular type of stomach ulcers is caused by the Helicobacter pylori bacterium. It is possible that the cranberry can prevent this bacterium from attaching itself to the lining of the stomach, in the same manner as cranberries are successful in preventing bacteria sticking to the oral cavity or urinary tract.
- Osteoporosis –– Osteoporosis means “porous bone.” Itis a serious disease in which the bone becomes more porous and brittle, thereby increasing the risk of fracture. In the United States, bottled cranberry juice is often fortified with calcium. Calcium is important in osteoporosis prevention. It is more common in women. Weight-bearing exercise, medication, and a diet high in calcium is helpful. Additionally, cranberries are a source of vitamin K. Studies have shown vitamin K to be associated with a lower risk of hip fractures and higher bone density.
- Heart Disease and Stroke — Unsweetened cranberry juice can help in preventing plaque buildup in the arteries, regulate cholesterol levels, protect the heart and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Vitamin K — Raw unsweetened cranberry juice is a source of vitamin K. Vitamin K is helpful in regulating blood clotting. Most people have a healthy intake of vitamin K from their diet. However, those with malabsorption conditions such as cystic fibrosis and celiac disease are deficient in vitamin K.
- Vitamin B — Cranberries contain multiple B vitamins including vitamin B-1 (thiamin), vitamin B-2 (riboflavin), vitamin B-3 (niacin), and vitamin B-6
- Vitamin E –The vitamin E in cranberries may be helpful in preventing or slowing the progression of diseases associated with free radicals such as cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.
Cranberries are a powerful antioxidant. Generally, cranberries are healthy and safe for everyone and have many benefits. However, cranberries should be eaten in moderation, and one should consult with a trusted health professional or doctor if being treated for acute or chronic conditions. It is not advisable to eat cranberries if one is pregnant or breastfeeding. Additionally, cranberries should not be eaten if one is taking Warfarin (brand names Coumadin and Jantoven), a prescription medication used to prevent blood clots. If one overindulges in cranberries (juice, tablets, dried, frozen or raw) it could lead to abdominal discomfort, including:
- upset stomach
- kidney stones
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- “Cranberries” nutritionfacts.org. Accessed 12.7.2019
- Cunha, John, “Cranberry,” rxlist.com. Accessed 12.7.2019
- Hackatoryan, Tallene, “10 Benefits of Cranberry Juice,” 10FAQ.com
- “Health benefits of Cranberries,” WebMD, Accessed 12.7.2019
- Ware, Meagan, “What to Know About Cranberries,” medicalnewstoday.com. Accessed 12.7.2019
Jean Dart, is a published author, speaker, and life coach, and has written hundreds of health articles as well as hosting a local television program, “Making Miracles Happen.” She is a Registered Music Therapist (RMT), Sound Therapist, and Master Level Energetic Teacher, and is the Executive Director, founder, and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance, a 501(c)3 health education nonprofit organization. To find out more about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance visit www.montereybayholistic.com
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