When it comes to healthy foods, cranberries occupy the top position in the food list because of the presence of high amounts of nutrients and antioxidants in them. For this reason, they are often referred to as a super food. Cranberries have long been used not only as a food item, but also as a medicine and dye for coloring clothes. These berries are well liked for their tart flavor and also form an indispensable food item during thanksgiving meals. Among the various fruits and vegetables that are rich in health improving antioxidants, berries such as cranberries are found to be the best. Antioxidants help in optimizing your health by destroying the free radicals that cause damage to the cellular structures and DNA.
Cranberry: Nutrition facts
Cranberries are rich in an amazing array of antioxidant phytonutrients such as phenolic acids, proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins, flavonoids and triterpenoids that show anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects. They are also a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K and folate, and minerals like copper, calcium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus and zinc.
Summary on Cranberries health benefits
Although nutrients like vitamin C and dietary fiber play a key role in the health properties of cranberries, most of its health benefits can be attributed to the phytonutrients present in it. There are numerous health benefits that cranberries can offer, a few of which are explained here:
Cranberries protect cardiovascular health
Studies suggest that the high levels of polyphenols in cranberries may help in lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases by preventing the build-up of platelets and also by lowering blood pressure. According to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, people who consumed a glass of unsweetened cranberry juice daily had an increase in their good cholesterol or HDL by about 10 percent and a reduction in the chances of heart problems by about 40%. In addition to increasing the levels of HDL cholesterol, cranberry also has the ability to lower the levels of bad cholesterol or LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol.
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Cranberries and UTI
Cranberries are well known for their ability to prevent urinary tract infections (UTI). These berries contain high levels of proanthocyanidins (PACs), which helps prevent the adhesion of certain kinds of bacteria like Escherichia coli (E. coli) on the walls of the urinary tract, thus preventing infections. Latest research concurs with the cranberry juice benefits on UTI.
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Antioxidant Cranberry improves your brain health
According to research findings, the anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants in cranberries may protect the brain from coordination loss and age-related memory loss. Evidence suggests that the regular consumption of cranberries is great for improving the health of your brain. The antioxidants in these berries help reduce the oxidative damages that are associated with stroke. Cranberries reduce the death of brain cells and hence the damages that may occur when blood circulation is restored after a stroke. Cranberries contain a specific compound known as ursolic acid that may protect brain cells from degeneration or injury, reverse cognitive deficits and prevent neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Cranberries are effective in fighting against cancer
Cranberries are rich in nutrients like dietary fiber, vitamin C and various antioxidants that help lower the risk of cancer. Research shows that cranberries are beneficial in inhibiting the progression of cancer and have been found to show positive effects against various types of cancers like breast, colon, liver, lung, mouth, ovarian, and prostate cancers. The high levels of vitamin C and other antioxidants in these berries protect the cells against DNA damage by fighting off the free radicals and reducing the formation of carcinogens. Cell studies suggests that compounds like proanthocyanidins and ursolic acid found in cranberries work together to decrease the growth of cancer cells as well as increase the process of self-destruction of several types of cancer.
Cranberries for dental health
More than 500 species of bacteria are found in the mouth, some of which are helpful and some are harmful. The proanthocyanidins in cranberries not only help prevent urinary tract infections but may also improve dental health by preventing bacteria from sticking to teeth and causing infections. These proanthocyanidins are found to be beneficial in preventing gum diseases as well. They inhibit the production of acid and protect the teeth by preventing the development of plaque. Good oral hygiene, along with the consumption of cranberries helps in maintaining good dental health.
Cranberries have anti-inflammatory properties
Cranberries are powerful anti-inflammatory agents that are highly beneficial for the digestive as well as the cardiovascular system. The various phytonutrients in them such as proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins, and flavonols are responsible for the anti-inflammatory effect. The phytonutrients in cranberries help in lowering the risk of unwanted inflammation.
Cranberries juice benefits immunity
Cranberry helps to improve the immunity of your body and fight off various infections and diseases. Drinking cranberry juice helps destroy bacteria and other microbes, thereby preventing various ailments. The antioxidants found in these berries also boost the immune health and lower the frequency of cold and flu symptoms.
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Cranberries juice benefits digestive tract
The phytonutrients in cranberries offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits to the digestive tract that help lower the risk of colon cancer as well as other ailments. Cranberries also help in optimizing the balance of bacteria in our digestive tract. They increase the number of friendly bacteria (Bifidobacteria) in the digestive tract and at the same time help maintain the number of other types of bacteria. Cranberries are rich in fiber content, which is beneficial in promoting healthy digestive functions. The fiber adds bulk to stool and facilitates its elimination from the intestine at a faster pace. This helps in preventing digestive disorders like constipation. The flavonoids in cranberry juice are helpful in reducing the risk of developing stomach problems like peptic ulcer by preventing the growth of the bacteria helicobacter pylori, which is responsible for causing the infection.
Cranberries help you lose weight
Cranberry is a wonderful fruit that may support your weight loss goals. The fiber in these berries gives you the sensation of fullness, which causes you to eat less. Cranberry juice has the ability to emulsify the fats deposited in your body, which in turn help in losing weight.
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Cranberries slow down aging
Cranberries are packed with antioxidants that help in combating the effects of free radicals that cause aging. They are rich in antioxidants like vitamins C, vitamin B3 and vitamin B5 that protect your body against the damaging effects of free radicals that contribute to the process of aging. The consumption of cranberries on a daily basis can inhibit the degeneration of brain cells and skin cells thus delaying decline of motor functions and age-related memory loss.
Cranberries strengthen your bones
Eating cranberries on a regular basis can help build your bones. Rich in Vitamin C and other antioxidants, these berries have been used in the treatment of osteoporosis. Vitamin C is essential for the production of the protein collagen and also in keeping inflammation under control, which is very important for healthy bones. The polyphenols found in cranberries increase the production of osteoblasts, the bone building cells responsible for producing collagen. Cranberries are also a good source of manganese, a mineral that plays a vital role in synthesis of connective tissue in cartilage and bones.
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Cranberry benefits for skin
Cranberries offer tons of benefits to the skin. It moisturizes the skin and brightens it. The antioxidants in these berries get rid of free radicals and reduce the appearance of aging signs like wrinkles and fine lines. The enzymes found in them exfoliate and remove dirt and dead skin cells on the skin, thus preventing the clogging of sebaceous glands and the formation of pimples and acne. Applying a mixture of honey and cranberry juice on the skin helps in toning the skin. Vitamin C in cranberries stimulates the production of collagen that provides firmness and elasticity to the skin.
Cranberries benefits for hair
The nutrients in cranberries are capable of making your hair beautiful, healthy and lustrous. Vitamins A and C not only promote growth of hair, but also helps prevent hair loss. Cranberrie have antiseptic and antimicrobial properties that prevent conditions like dandruff, psoriasis and other scalp infections. Applying cranberry juice on the scalp is found to prevent baldness and alopecia. The juice can also be used as a natural hair color.
Are there any cranberry juice side effects? Drinking cranberry juice is just fine. However excess may cause upset stomach or diarrhea. Cranberries contain oxalates, so drinking cranberry juice might increase risk of kidney disorder.
Cranberries have been well known for their various health benefits for several years. In addition to their ability to fight urinary tract infections, the bioactive substances found in these berries can also help improve and maintain good health. Cranberries are very versatile and their numerous health benefits make them useful as a food as well as a remedy for many ailments. To get the most benefits out of cranberries, go for frozen ones and avoid buying dried cranberries and canned berries. Go enjoy the healthy cranberry juice!Image Credits: Flickr - Kenny Lee, Flickr - Cheri Neufeld