Do you enjoy the tart taste of cranberry juice? Drinking cranberry juice is not only a taste-bud tickler, but it could keep your heart healthy too. According to new research, a refreshing glass of cranberry juice could be beneficial for the health of your heart.
Drink Cranberry Juice for Heart Health?
Why should we be concerned about heart health? Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an American dies of cardiovascular disease (heart attack or stroke)) every 34 seconds.
Heart disease is also a major cause of disability. More than 7 million Americans suffer from heart disease. Heart disease is a major public health problem. The good news is that heart disease is preventable. There are things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that drinking cranberry juice helps to reduce arterial stiffness. Stiff arteries, especially stiffness in the mega-sized artery called the aorta, is linked to a greater risk of heart disease and stroke. When arteries are stiff and can’t relax properly, oxygen can’t be delivered as effectively to tissues and organs.
How does drinking cranberry juice help this situation? Cranberry juice contains natural antioxidants called anthocyanins that relax arteries so more blood and oxygen reach tissues. These anthocyanins that give cranberries their deep red color have a variety of health benefits. They’re not only heart-healthy, but they have anti-inflammatory benefits and may ward off cancer in animals.
Cranberry Juice Reduces Arterial Stiffness
In two small studies, researchers found that participants who drank two cups of cranberry juice had better blood flow and less arterial stiffness through their brachial arteries after drinking the juice. There was less arterial stiffness even four hours after drinking the cranberry juice.
One of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system is reducing arterial stiffness. Arterial stiffness is a measure of how well your arteries flex and adapt to changes in blood flow. When arteries are stiff, they are less able to expand and contract
Arterial stiffness is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. It can also contribute to high blood pressure, aneurysms, and kidney disease. Therefore, it is important to take steps to reduce arterial stiffness and keep your arteries healthy.
This study is promising, but as researchers pointed out the cranberry beverage participants drank in the study was twice as concentrated as the juice you buy at the grocery store, so you may need twice as much to get the same benefits.
Other Benefits of Drinking Cranberry Juice
Some research suggests cranberry juice prevents urinary tract infections by blocking bacterial attachment to the walls of the bladder. However, research supporting this has been mixed. Some studies show benefits while others don’t. Some urologists still recommend drinking cranberry juice if you have frequent urinary tract infections as there’s little risk to drinking it and, based on some research, it may help.
Are There Drawbacks to Drinking Cranberry Juice
Despite the potential benefits of cranberry juice for heart health, it’s still high in natural sugar. That’s why some people take a powdered cranberry extract to get the benefits without the sugar. Despite its high natural sugar content, The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) points out that drinking two glasses of cranberry juice per day may offer some protection against type 2 diabetes. The reason? They believe the polyphenols in cranberry juice are beneficial for blood sugar control.
One way to get the benefits without drinking cranberry juice is to take cranberry extract. If you decide to do that, talk to your physician first. Cranberry extract can interfere with some medications.
Choose Your Cranberry Juice Wisely
Commercial cranberry juice is often high in sugar, although you can buy sugar-free cranberry juice that’s sweetened with artificial sweeteners. If you want to avoid synthetic sweeteners, buy a sugar-free cranberry concentrate at a health food store – and sweeten it yourself with a natural sweetener such as Stevia.
Don’t forget about other anthocyanin-rich fruits such as currants, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and bilberries. Fruits that are dark red or purple in color are usually good sources of anthocyanins. There are other delicious foods that are rich in anthocyanins, including cherries, red grapes, eggplant, and red cabbage. Adding more of these foods to your diet is a tasty way to support heart health.
The Bottom Line?
Now there’s another good reason to drink cranberry juice and eat cranberries. Don’t save cranberries for the holiday season, make them a part of your healthy diet along with other heart-healthy fruits and vegetables.
But take other steps to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Making healthy choices like eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and not smoking can help keep your heart healthy. Managing conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol can also help reduce your risk for heart disease. Know what your risk factors are (family history) and optimize your lifestyle. Cardiovascular disease is mostly a lifestyle disease, so make smart choices!
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