This small berry packs a powerful nutritional punch
Cranberry juice may occasionally make an appearance on your shopping list, and cranberry sauce is likely a must-have on Thanksgiving. But this tart little berry deserves to be on your radar yearround—it’s packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and studies show that it supports health in a variety of ways.
Cranberries are low in calories and are excellent sources of both soluble and insoluble fiber. They also contain a variety of nutrients, including vitamins A, C, E, and B vitamins plus calcium,boron, chromium, iron, potassium, phosphorus,selenium, manganese, copper, and molybdenum.Cranberries are rich sources of antioxidants, which give them their red hue—and the deeper the red color, the higher the concentration of healthy antioxidants. Cranberries contain at least five different types of phytonutrients: phenolic acids, proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins,flavonoids, and triterpenoids.
What Are The Benefits?
Cranberries have been used to support health for centuries. You may be familiar with their role in helping to prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs), particularly in conjunction with antibiotics. While previous research targeted cranberries’ acidity, recent studies find that their proanthocyanidin content is responsible for their UTI benefits. These antioxidants make it difficult for certain kinds of bacteria—including E. coli, one of the most common bacteria involved in UTIs—to stick to the lining of the urinary tract. When the bacteria can’t stick, they can’t reproduce and cause an infection. These benefits extend to other areas of the body as well. Studies show that proanthocyanidins also prevent H. pylori bacteria from adhering to the lining of the stomach, helping to prevent stomach ulcers.
In addition to antioxidant benefits, research finds that the phytonutrients in cranberries also have anti-inflammatory effects, which support cardiovascular health (specifically the linings of the blood vessels) and the health of the digestive tract (including the mouth and gums, stomach, and colon). Although the results are mixed, scientists are now examining the role of cranberries in preventing kidney stones and supporting immunity.
Why Take A Supplement?
A cranberry supplement will eliminate the calories that go along with drinking juice that contains sweeteners. Pure, unsweetened juice provides benefits, but it’s extremely sour and must be diluted—which dilutes the nutritional content as well. A supplement is an effective and convenient way to gain cranberries’ health benefits and support overall wellness.
Dosage and Considerations
Fresh cranberries contain more antioxidants than dried. Bottled cranberry juices and cranberry juice cocktail that contain added sugars or artificial sweeteners have the lowest antioxidant content because what’s left behind during juice processing—the skins and flesh of the cranberries—typically contains the bulk of the phytonutrients.Cranberry supplements may interfere with blood-thinning medications, so discuss their use with your healthcare practitioner if this is a concern. Look for a supplement that states on the label that it contains cranberry concentrate.
“Cranberries,” The World’s Healthiest Foods, www.whfoods.com l The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, ND, and Joseph Pizzorno, ND, with Laura Pizzorno, MA, LMT (Atria, 2005) l The Fast Track Detox Diet by Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS (Broadway, 2005) l Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.com
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