The Health Benefits of Cranberries and Cranberry Juice
Cranberries - The Superfruit
Cranberries have been marketed as a superfruit; a fruit that has exceptional nutrient richness, antioxidant quality and an appealing taste that keeps consumers wanting to come back for more.
Superfruits were initially marketed as juices but later on encompassed fruits that that could be used in functional foods, confectionery and cosmetics, and even as an ingredient with which novel consumer products could be created.
Though the term superfruit is a marketing ploy used by the food and beverage industry and has no official recognition from the FDA or the USDA, do not undermine the extraordinarily rich nutrient content and exceptional antioxidant composition of the fruits falling under this category - the category of superfruits.
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About The Cranberry Plant And Cranberry Fruit
Cranberries are scarlet red, glossy skinned and extremely tart berries that belong to the plant Vaccinium macrocarpon. Also called American cranberry and the trailing swamp cranberry, the cranberry plant is a vine-like having about 2 meters long stem from which grow 2-8 inch tall upright branches that produce leaves and deep pink-hued blooms. Pollination of the flowers is by honey bees.
The blooms give way to raw white cranberries which turn a deep red colour when fully ripe. Cranberries have a certain sweetness to them that is masked by their extreme tartness.
Cranberries in the wild are found to grow in acidic swamps, in the cooler climates of the Northern hemisphere. They grow best in marshy or swampy soil. Cranberries are cultivated in sandy bogs.
Harvesting of cranberries is done by wet or dry methods, the majority being done by wet or water harvesting using a mechanical harvester after flooding the beds with water. It has been found that exposing the cranberries to direct sunlight increases the concentration of anthocyanins therefore water harvesting of cranberries offers benefits apart from the harvesting convenience. Majority of harvesting is carried out from October to December.
How Cranberry Juice Prevents Urinary Tract Infections
95% of the cranberries produced are processed into juice, sauce and dried cranberries. Since cranberries have a severe tart taste it is either blended with other fruit juices or sweetened to reduce its tartness.
Fresh cranberries can be frozen at home and will stay good for almost 9 months.
Cranberries maintain their maximum nutrients and taste when eaten fresh. Cooking or baking at temperatures of 350 deg F and above destroys a large proportion of its nutrients.
It has been found that consuming processed cranberry juice does not provide the full benefits phytonutrients found in cranberries, as the skin and flesh contain the majority of these phytonutrients.
Consumption of whole cranberries provides its maximum health benefits due to the synergistic effect between the various phytonutrients. Isolated, these phytonutrients do not confer the complete package of health benefits.
The Unique Benefits of Cranberries!
Nutritional Benefits Of Cranberries
- Cranberries contain very good levels of proanthocyanidins-the phenolic phytochemicals.
- Cranberry's special combination of phenolic antioxidants, proanthocyanidin antioxidants, anthocyanin antioxidants, flavonoid antioxidants, and triterpenoid antioxidants is unique.
- They are a good source of Vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, manganese and copper.
- They contain several B complex vitamins as well as vitamin E and K.
- Cranberries have the highest ORAC score among all the edible berries with an orac value of 1750 orac or 9584 THE units per 100 grams.
Health Benefits Of Cranberries
- Anti Cancer Benefits
Cranberries have been found to have anti-cancer properties. They prevent cancer by triggering various mechanisms which ultimately result in the death of the tumour cells.
It should be understood that cranberries have not been found to treat cancer but to only prevent cancers of the prostate, breast, colon and lungs.
Cranberries are loaded with unique antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients and these form the basis of their anti-cancer properties.
- Antioxidant Benefits
Whole cranberries are chock full with an amazing variety of antioxidants that are not found in any other fruit. This combination of phenolic, anthocyanin, flavonoid, proanthocyanidin and triterpenoid antioxidants is unique.
Also the combination of the antioxidants resveratrol, piceatannol and pterostilbene are unique. It has been established by research that there is a synergistic effect between all the antioxidants nutrients. The presence of manganese and vitamin C makes this a very potent antioxidant combination.
Any processing of cranberries decreases its health benefits as this unique combination of antioxidants is disturbed.
- Benefits The Digestive System
Cranberries reduce the risk of stomach and colon cancer. The procyanidins do not allow the causative H.pylori bacterium to adhere to the stomach lining.
Also, research indicates that cranberries optimize the balance of bacteria in the digestive tract. The population of the beneficial bacteria such as Bifidobacteria increased with cranberry consumption resulting in better digestive health.
This study involved participants consuming 2 ounces of cranberry juice for 3 months.
- Benefits The Urinary Tract
The proanthocyanidins in cranberries offer benefits in infections of the urinary tract. Cranberries not only makes it difficult for bacteria like E.coli, the bacteria that are found to cause most UTI's, to attach to the urinary tract lining, they also prevent the increase in the population of these bacteria.
This benefit has been seen to be most pronounced in middle-aged women who face recurrent UT infections. Consumption of cranberries by this group was found to reduce the UTI's by over 1/3.
- Checks Periodontal Disease
Cranberries lower the risk of periodontal disease. It has been found that excessive inflammation of the gums leads to damage of the tissues supporting the teeth. The phytonutrients in cranberries reduce this inflammation.
- Provides Immunity Support
By raising the immunity levels, cranberry extracts have been shown to reduce symptoms and frequency of respiratory infections like cold and flu. Proanthocyanidins are active nutrients providing this immunity boost.
Cranberries are available fresh or frozen, as juice or concentrate, and in tablet or capsule form. Have your pick but remember that processing of any kind decreases the amazing array of cranberries' health benefits.
- Benefits To The Heart And Vascular System
The antioxidants and the anti-inflammatory phytonutrients reduce blood vessel damage by preventing plaque formation and consequent thickening and reduction in the core of the blood vessels that finally leads to blockage in blood vessels.
Other benefits like reduction in blood pressure, lowering of LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol, increase in HDL cholesterol and prevention of atherosclerosis can be derived by consuming cranberries or its juice in normal amounts every day.
- Benefits During Pregnancy
Women experience more UTI's during pregnancy. Since cranberries impart benefits in UT infections and as it has been found that there is minimal risk of cranberry consumption, cranberry supplementation via fruit or fruit juice is a good choice to treat pregnancy-related UTI's.
- Decreases Risk Of Urate Stones
Cranberry decreases urinary uric acid, hence the risk for developing urate stones in susceptible individuals is decreased.
- Anti Aging Benefits
Studies on animals points towards the benefits of consuming cranberries in protecting the brain from neurological damage. Controlling of free radicals is the leading cause of these benefits.
- Regulates Glycemic Response
Studies show that the polyphenols in cranberries blunt the blood sugar response in humans. Therefore, cranberry juice may benefit those with impaired glucose tolerance or those having a risk for metabolic syndrome.
Health Benefits Of Cranberry Juice
Cranberry juice being very tart is never drunk on its own. It is either combined with sweeter juices like that of apples or grapes. The pure juice can also be diluted with water and a natural sweetener like stevia added to it to make it palatable. Sugar and corn syrup can also be used in place of stevia.
However to derive the full benefits of cranberry juice ensure that you do not consume processed cranberry juice as it is loaded with sugar and this will detract from the very benefits one is trying to obtain. The best option would be to buy 100% pure juice, mix it with water or other natural juices or add a natural sweetener like stevia.
To sum up the health benefits of cranberry juice :
- Provides anti-ageing benefits.
- Prevents urinary tract and bladder infections.
- Boosts body immunity and fights infections.
- Reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer.
- Reduces LDL, boosts HDL and lowers total cholesterol levels.
- Prevents tooth decay and gum problems.
- Keep the digestive system healthy.
- Cranberries contain high levels of oxalates which may raise the risk of developing kidney stones in certain individuals.
- Those who are allergic to aspirin could also be allergic to cranberry.
- Cranberry may increase the risk of bleeding if taken simultaneously with blood-thinning medications like warfarin.
- Cranberry may interact with medicines that are processed in the liver.
The information provided in this hub is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician, or health care provider before taking any home remedies, supplements or starting a new health regime.
- Joseph, J.A., Nadeau, D.A., and Underwood, A. The Color Code - A revolutionary Eating Plan for Optimum Health. 1st ed. New York, NY: Hyperion, 2002.
- Khoo C, Hullar MAJ, Li F et al. Effect of cranberry juice intake on human gut microbial community and urinary metabolites in a randomized, placebo-controlled intervention. FASEB J. 2010 24:720.3 [Meeting Abstract] . 2010.
- Kruse-Elliott K., Reed J. Cranberry juice modulates atherosclerotic vascular dysfunction. Paper presented at the 35th Congress of the International Union of Physiological Sciences in San Diego, CA, April 3, 2005. 2005.
- Nantz MP, Rowe CA, Muller CE et al. Cranberry phytochemicals modify human immune function and appear to reduce the severity of cold and flu symptoms. FASEB J, Apr 2010; 24: 326.6. 2010.
- Shaughnessy K, Sweeney M and Neto C. Investigation of the effects of cranberry fractions on atherosclerosis in mice. FASEB J. 2007 21:847.26 [Meeting Abstract] . 2007.
- Vinson JA. Cranberry juice increases plasma antioxidant and HDL cholesterol levels. Research presented at the 225th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, March 24, 2003. 2003.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2013 Rajan Singh Jolly