Cranberries are tart, bright red berries that often receive a lot of attention because of their relationship to the prevention and treatment of urinary tract infections. However, it turns out that those who choose to eat plenty of cranberries will also enjoy many other significant health benefits. Consider the following motivations to start drinking cranberry juice, snacking on cranberries, or taking cranberry supplements.
1) They reduce your risk of having a stroke:
Researchers have found that pigs with a higher genetic likelihood of developing hardened arteries ended up with more flexible and healthy blood vessels after being fed cranberries on a daily basis. The less hard and narrow your arteries become, the less likely you will be to have a stroke.
2) They help to prevent the formation of kidney stones:
Cranberries contain quinic acid, and some scientists theorize that this particular acid can discourage kidney stone formation. More specifically, 25% of kidney stones are of the type that is made less likely by cranberry consumption.
3) They contain large amounts of vitamin C:
A single cup of cranberries will provide you with around 20% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C. The health benefits of vitamin C include a stronger immune system, fewer prenatal health problems for your baby, a decreased likelihood of developing certain eye diseases, and younger looking skin.
4) They are good for the digestive tract:
Cranberries contain antioxidants called proanthocyanidins, and it is these compounds that can stop potentially harmful bacteria from sticking to the inside walls of the digestive tract. In this way, cranberries reduce the likelihood of illnesses that can result from dangerous bacteria in food. Perhaps even more importantly, cranberries have this anti-adhesion effect on the specific sort of bacteria that cause stomach ulcers.
5) They increase heart health:
Recent studies suggest that consuming cranberries can lower LDL (i.e. ‘bad’ cholesterol) while at the same time increasing HDL (i.e. ‘good’ cholesterol). In addition, the reduction of hardened arteries (mentioned above in connection with the risk of stroke) also makes people who eat cranberries less likely to have a heart attack. Finally, the fact that cranberries are so rich in antioxidants means that they may be able to help lower your risk of developing dangerously high blood pressure. This health benefit has been demonstrated by way of experiments on rats and mice.
6) They help to protect against certain kinds of cancer:
Cranberries contain a huge amount of antioxidants, which some scientists believe help to protect the human body against the free radical damage that can sometimes lead to cancer. Although claims about antioxidants are still rather contentious, it is worth noting that research thus far suggests a link between cranberries and anti-cancer activity against malignant prostate, breast and lung cells.
7) They strengthen the immune system:
A few different studies have shown that taking cranberry extract on a daily basis seems to lower the chances of contracting bacterial and viral infections such as the cold and the flu. There also appears to be a correlation between the level of cranberry consumption and the severity of cold and flu symptoms that are experienced. If you eat plenty of cranberries, it is possible that such illnesses will have a more brief and mild impact on your health.
8) They can prevent (and help combat) urinary tract infections:
Cranberries influence digestive tract health in much the same way that they improve the health of the urinary tract. By reducing the ability of bacteria to ‘stick’ to the wall of the urinary tract, they help to prevent infection. In addition, if you are struck down by a urinary tract infection then consumption of cranberries can shorten the length of your illness. Once bacteria have adhered to the urinary tract wall, the proanthocyanidins in cranberries will help to remove it. One study revealed that drinking 250ml of cranberry juice on a daily basis is highly effective in preventing urinary tract infections. Although lots of fruits contain proanthocyanidins, only cranberries and blueberries contain enough to impact on the bacteria that cause such infections.
9) They have anti-inflammatory properties:
The phytonutrients in cranberries can reduce inflammation levels, particularly in the digestive tract and the linings of blood vessels. Cranberries make certain dental diseases less likely because of this, and reduce the risk of troublesome inflammation in the stomach and intestines. This property makes them an ideal snack for those with inflammatory diseases like ulcerative colitis and arthritis.
As is obvious from the above health benefits, cranberries are an excellent choice if you want to increase your daily intake of fruits and vegetables. They are at their best between the months of October and December, but they can easily be frozen at this time and enjoyed at other times of the year.