Cranberries: 9 health benefits beyond UTI prevention

Cranberries: 9 health benefits beyond UTI prevention

Packed with protein, fibre antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, there are several benefits of cranberries which include supporting heart health, preventing UTI, boosting immunity, etc.

Cranberries are known for their vibrant red colour and tangy-sweet taste. These ruby-red marvels grow naturally in acidic wetlands across North America and have a sharp, sour taste, so they are rarely eaten raw and are most commonly enjoyed dried or juiced. Packed with nutrients like vitamins C and A, as well as antioxidants such as flavonoids and phenolic acids, cranberries boast an impressive array of health benefits. From warding off urinary tract infections (UTIs) to supporting heart health and promoting better oral hygiene, these little berries punch above their weight in nutritional value. So, add them to your diet to enjoy cranberry benefits!

Nutritional value of cranberries

Fresh cranberries contain 90 percent water, with the remaining portion consisting largely of carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins, and other nutrients. They also contain antioxidants, such as flavonoids, which are plant-based compounds known for reducing inflammation. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), one cup or 100 grams of whole raw cranberries provides the following nutritional breakdown:

  • Calories: 46
  • Protein: 0.4 grams
  • Carbohydrate: 12.2 grams
  • Sugar: 4 grams
  • Fibre: 4.6 grams
  • Fat: 0.1 grams
  • Sodium: 2 mg (milligrams)
  • Calcium: 8 mg
  • Iron: 0.23 mg
  • Potassium: 80 mg
  • Magnesium: 6 mg
  • Phosphorus: 11 mg
  • Vitamin C: 14 mg (25 percent of your daily requirement)
  • Vitamin E: 1.3 mg

Cranberries also contain a range of essential B vitamins, including vitamin B-1 (thiamin), vitamin B-2 (riboflavin), vitamin B-3 (niacin) and vitamin B-6.

Cranberries are very nutritious. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

According to USDA data, cranberry juice made from concentrate often contains high levels of added sugar, with 141 calories per cup, along with 33.1 grams of carbohydrates and 90.8 mg of vitamin C, but lacks fibre. Besides juice, cranberry products such as canned cranberry sauce and dried cranberries are available. The nutritional values, including flavonoid content, vary depending on the specific product and its preparation method.

9 health benefits of cranberries

1. Loaded with antioxidants

Like many other colourful fruits and vegetables, cranberries are high in antioxidants, which help defend your body against free radicals. These molecules can damage cells, increasing the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. However, a study published by Molecules reveals that cranberry fruit is not only rich in phenolic acids and flavonoids but also has cardioprotective, anti-carcinogenic, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, and other effects that are linked to various health benefits. Remember, the antioxidant content may be reduced during the juicing process.

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2. Contains anti-ageing properties

The ageing process is closely linked to oxidative stress and inflammation. “By combating oxidative stress, anti-ageing properties in cranberries may help slow down the ageing of cells and tissues, promoting healthy and youthful skin,” says Dr Archana Batra, a nutritionist, and certified diabetes educator. They are also involved in boosting collagen production, a protein crucial for maintaining skin elasticity and reducing wrinkles. Apart from this, a study published by Food Bioscience indicated that cranberry polyphenols demonstrate various anti-ageing properties, including delayed ageing, prolonged healthy lifespan, and improved cognitive health in middle-aged adults.

3. Prevents urinary tract infections (UTIs)

UTIs are a common and uncomfortable condition, especially among women. Cranberries have long been touted as a natural remedy to prevent UTIs due to their ability to inhibit the growth of bacteria, particularly Escherichia coli or E. coli, (the most common type of bacteria that causes UTI). A meta-analysis published in 2017 in the Journal of Nutrition concluded that participants with a history of UTI found that cranberry reduced the risk of recurring UTIs by 26 percent.

Cranberries can help deal with UTI. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

4. Supports heart health

Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Eating cranberries may contribute to heart health, thanks to their antioxidant content, such as anthocyanins, proanthocyanins, and quercetin. A study published in the Journal of Advances in Nutrition found that cranberries can reduce inflammation and improve cholesterol levels. Moreover, anti-inflammatory compounds can reduce the risk factors for heart disease, such as blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and stress.

Also read: Healthy heart tips: Avoid these foods to keep heart diseases at bay

5. Protects against certain cancers

Cranberries can also keep the risk of certain cancers at bay! Their antioxidants not only combat oxidative stress but also possess anti-cancer properties. A review published in Antioxidants suggests that cranberries’ antioxidant content might reduce the risk of 17 types of cancer, such as breast cancer, lung cancer, and cervical cancer, by inhibiting cancer cell growth and clearing them from the body.

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6. Promotes eye health

Cranberries are also known for improving eyesight. It offers nutrients that support eye health, including vitamins A and C, and antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin. These compounds help protect the eyes from oxidative damage caused by UV light and other environmental stressors. A study published by Pharmaceutical Biology also supported the benefits of cranberries for improving eye health and vision.

7. Good for gut health

A healthy gut is essential to maintain overall well-being, and cranberries are good for your digestive health and immunity. They are packed with fibre and may have prebiotic benefits, which support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, reducing the risk of indigestion. Not only this, cranberries also reduce bile acids in the gut that have a link to colon and gastrointestinal cancers.

stomach pain
Cranberries can help reduce the risk of indigestion. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

8. Boosts immunity

Another benefit of cranberries is robust immune system that is essential for fighting off infections and maintaining overall health. As per a study published in the Journal of Molecules, cranberries are loaded with vitamins C and A, along with other nutrients and antioxidants, which strengthen the immune system and help the body defend against pathogens. You will see the positive effects if you consume cranberries regularly.

9. Improves oral hygiene

Cranberries possess proanthocyanidins, a nutrient that hinders harmful oral bacteria. This not only reduces bacteria associated with cavities and gum disease but also combats bad breath. According to a study published by the Indian Society of Periodontology, cranberries show therapeutic potential in oral diseases like caries and periodontitis due to their anti-adhesive and antimicrobial properties.

Are there any side effects of cranberries?

Cranberries are enjoyed for their tart flavour and potential health benefits but they also pose some side effects.

1. Upset stomach: Digestive issues like upset stomach are common due to their acidic content, which may cause discomfort for some individuals.
2. Kidney stones: Another concern is kidney stones. Despite cranberry’s abilities to prevent urinary tract infections (UTI), their high oxalate content can contribute to stone formation in susceptible individuals, according to the National Kidney Foundation.
3. Allergic reaction: Allergic reactions, though rare, can cause itching, swelling, or breathing difficulties, particularly in those sensitive to similar fruits like strawberries.

Are dried cranberries healthy?

Dried cranberries provide the same level of nutrients, which include essential fibre, vitamins, and minerals. While they are nutritious, dried cranberries are often sweetened with added sugars, increasing their calorie content. They also have slightly lower levels of antioxidants and fibre compared to raw or fresh cranberries.

Cranberries can be enjoyed in various ways. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

How to eat cranberries?

Here are 4 ways to enjoy cranberries:

  • Add fresh cranberries to salads, yoghurt, or oatmeal for a tart flavour and nutritional content.
  • Drink unsweetened cranberry juice to not exceed your daily sugar consumption.
  • Sprinkle dried cranberries over cereal, blend them into smoothies, or use them in baking recipes for a touch of sweetness.
  • Make cranberry sauce at home with fresh cranberries, orange zest, and a hint of cinnamon to enjoy it with desserts.

Also read: 8 amazing health benefits of drinking cranberry tea

Enjoy cranberries in your daily diet in these delicious ways!

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