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Cranberries are often a popular part of holiday celebrations in the form of cranberry sauce, cranberry drinks and dried cranberries added to stuffing, casseroles or dessert.
No one knows for sure how cranberries became associated with holiday feasts, but historians guess that it had something to do with the Native Americans, who used cranberries not only for food and medicine but also to make dyes for clothing and blankets.
As far as healthy foods go, cranberries are at the top of the list due to their high nutrient and antioxidant content and are often referred to as a "super food." Not to mention, half a cup of cranberries contains only 25 calories!
The possible health benefits of consuming cranberries include lowered risk of urinary tract infections, prevention of certain types of cancer, improved immune function, decreased blood pressure and more.
This MNT Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods. It provides a nutritional breakdown of the fruit and an in-depth look at its possible health benefits, how to incorporate more cranberries into your diet, and potential risks when consuming cranberries.
Cranberries are a good source of vitamin C, fiber and vitamin E.1
Vitamin C - a powerful natural antioxidant capable of blocking some of the damage caused by free radicals, as well as boosting the body's resistance against infectious agents, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Sailors once carried cranberries aboard their ships to avoid scurvy because of their high vitamin C content.
Fiber- According to the Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences Program of the University of Kentucky, high fiber intakes are associated with significantly lower risks for developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases. Increased fiber intake has also been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and enhance weight loss for obese individuals.
Vitamin E - a fat-soluble antioxidant involved in immune function that may help prevent or delay the chronic diseases associated with free radicals.2
Cranberries also contain vitamin K, manganese and a large array of phytonutrients, naturally occurring plant chemicals that help to protect the body from harmful free radicals and offer anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventing properties.1
|Water - 47.92 grams||Energy - 25 kcal||Protein - 0.21 grams||Total lipid (fat) - 0.07 grams|
|Carbohydrate, by difference - 6.71 grams||Fiber, total dietary - 2.5 grams||Sugars, total - 2.2 grams||Cholesterol - 0 grams|
|Calcium, Ca - 4 mg||Iron, Fe - 0.14 mg||Magnesium, Mg - 3 mg||Phosphorus, P - 7 mg|
|Potassium, K - 47 mg||Sodium, Na - 1 mg||Zinc, Zn - 0.06 mg||Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid - 7.3 mg|
|Thiamin - 0.007 mg||Riboflavin - 0.011 mg||Niacin - 0.056 mg||Vitamin B-6 - 0.031 mg|
|Folate, DFE - 1 µg||Vitamin B-12 - 0 µg||Vitamin A, RAE - 2 µg||Vitamin A, IU - 33 IU|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) - 0.66 mg||Vitamin D - 0 IU||Vitamin K (phylloquinone) - 2.8 µg||Caffeine - 0 mg|
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): The cranberry is perhaps best known for its role in preventing UTIs, especially for those with recurrent infections. The high level of proanthocyanidins (PACs) in cranberries helps reduce the adhesion of certain bacteria to the urinary tract walls, in turn fighting off infections.
Cardiovascular Disease: Some evidence suggests that the polyphenols in cranberries may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by preventing platelet build-up and reducing blood pressure via anti-inflammatory mechanisms.4
Dental: The same proanthocyanidins in cranberries that help prevent UTIs may also benefit oral health by preventing bacteria from binding to teeth, according to Researchers at the Center for Oral Biology and Eastman Department of Dentistry at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Cranberries may also be beneficial in preventing gum disease.
Recent developments on the benefits of cranberries from MNT news
Cranberries for urinary tract infections - evidence. Two studies published in the Canadian Journal of Microbiology and Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces revealed that cranberry powder can inhibit the bacterium Proteus mirabilis, a bug commonly found in complicated urinary tract infections (UTIs).67
Cranberries are native to North America and are farmed on approximately 40,000 acres across the northern United States and Canada.3 Fresh cranberries are harvested in September and October, so fall is the best time to get them in season. They can be refrigerated for up to two months before using and can also be frozen for later use. Choose cranberries that are firm to the touch and unwrinkled.
Cranberries can also be enjoyed dried or in a can, but watch out for added sugars. Check the ingredient label and make sure that the product contains cranberries only. If you choose to drink cranberry juice, it is often mixed with other fruits and added sweeteners. Look for juice with cranberries as the first ingredient.
More tips for enjoying cranberries:
You may want to steer clear of a high intake of cranberries if you take the blood-thinning drug warfarin, also known as coumadin. There has been conflicting evidence on the potential for cranberries to enhance the drug's effect on the body. Several cases of increased bleeding due to suspected interactions with cranberry juice and warfarin have been reported.
Cranberry products may increase urine oxalate excretion, which could promote the formation of kidney stones.5 Individuals with a history of kidney stones should talk to their healthcare provider before including any forms of cranberries in their diet.1
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