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Cranberries are an incredible source of nutrients… they have so much more value than just being a sweet side dish for your holiday affair! Here are 5 of my favorite health benefits of cranberries, that add even more reasons why you should be eating more of this bountiful berry this season!
Top 5 Health Benefits of Cranberries
1. Rich source of Antioxidants (second only to blueberries!)
Cranberries are full of phytonutrients, many of which have been studied for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cancer-fighting properties. Antioxidants help to reduce oxidation (aging) and can slow, and even reverse, the progression of diseases in the body.
Good to note: the bulk of these phytonutrients are found in the skins of the cranberries, so juiced cranberries will not be the best option for full nutritional benefit.
2. Prevention of UTIs
Consumption of cranberries has been shown to be an effective treatment in the prevention of urinary tract infections, particularly for middle-aged women who struggle with recurrent UTIs. It was previously thought that cranberries made the urine more acidic, therefore making the urinary tract inhospitable for bacteria. However, more recent studies have shown that a chemical in cranberries actually prevents potentially harmful bacteria from sticking to cells that line the urinary tract, therefore preventing them from multiplying and causing an infection. It's still unclear exactly how this mechanism works, and more studies need to be done to reinforce these findings.
*Although cranberries can be an effective treatment in the prevention of UTIs, they are not the best for treating an active urinary tract infection. Please consult your primary care physician should you suspect you have an active infection.
3. Immunity boosting
Who doesn't need a little boost in the immunity department during the cold holiday season? Cranberries are a good source of immunity boosting Vitamin C, along with manganese, vitamins E & K, and fiber. It makes sense that cranberries are in season when we need them the most!
4. Anti-inflammatory benefits & decreased risk of stomach ulcers
Once again, the phytonutrients in cranberries are to credit for some really powerful benefits, particularly in the decreasing of inflammation. The anti-inflammatory benefits cranberries have to offer specifically target cardiovascular and gastrointestinal inflammation, including the mouth & gums. Studies have also shown that regular consumption of cranberry juice can suppress H. pylori infections, which if left unchecked can cause stomach ulcers, among other complications.
5. Cardiovascular support
Regular, normal dietary consumption of cranberries has been shown to help bring cholesterol levels into a healthy balance. A decrease in inflammation and oxidative stress both play a major role in how cranberries can support a healthy cardiovascular system. By reducing oxidative stress inside the blood vessels, cranberries may help prevent overconstriction of the blood vessels and unwanted increases in blood pressure.
*Cranberries & Coumadin*
Studies have shown cranberries can actually have a detrimental effect for someone on therapy with the pharmaceutical drug Coumadin. It seems that the enzyme needed to break down the drug, so that it's anticoagulant effect does not compound, is specifically inhibit by a chemical mechanism in cranberries. Because of this, it's recommended that while on Coumadin therapy, you do not consume cranberries or cranberry juice.
Ideas on how to incorporate the health benefits of cranberries into your diet for wellness all season long
Personally I prefer getting nutrients in whole foods, here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy the health benefits of cranberries…
- Incorporate cranberry sauce (or Fresh cranberries!) as a side dish for holiday meals
- Add fresh or frozen cranberries to a smoothie
- Substitute cranberries for blueberries, raisins, or chocolate chips in favorite holiday treats
- Add blended cranberries & honey to plain yogurt for a deliciously tart snack
- Top off a fresh blended spinach salad with some healthy nuts, feta cheese, & chopped fresh cranberries
If you're not a huge fan of the cranberry's signature tart taste, you might consider taking a supplement, like this one by MegaFood.
As always, consult with your primary care physician before making significant changes to your diet or supplementation regimen, as certain supplements may interact with any medications you may be taking or health conditions you may have.
Also, if you like using food on your face… check out my DIY Cranberry Face Mask here. You won't be disappointed. 🙂
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19441868 (cranberries & UTIs)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15810945 (cranberries & h.pylori)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16923231 (cranberries & cholesterol)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2518459/ (cranberries & Coumadin)