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More Than Just a Thanksgiving Staple: 7 Surprising Benefits of Cranberries

Most of us are probably familiar with cranberries in their sauce form during Thanksgiving dinners. But not everyone knows that these tart berries are actually considered a superfood due to the long list of benefits they offer. In fact, cranberries are known to help with a wide range of diseases and enhance our overall health.

Below, we’ve listed some surprising benefits that you can get from these tangy berries.

The 7 Benefits of Cranberries

Cranberries can come in juice, sauce, fresh, frozen, dried, and sweetened forms. Whichever way you like your cranberries, you’re sure to reap the following benefits.

Helps prevent urinary tract infection (UTI)

Since the turn of the century, cranberries have been recommended by medical practitioners for treating and preventing UTI. The science behind this is that the proanthocyanidins or condensed tannins in the fruit help prevent the Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria from adhering to the uroepithelial cells in the urinary tract. These bacteria are then flushed out instead of growing and leading to an infection. 

It should be noted that for cranberries to have an effect, you must ingest them in higher concentrations than those found in juices. This is why cranberry capsules for UTI are preferred to help combat infections.

Promotes digestive health

As we take in food and beverages, it’s possible to ingest harmful pathogens like the E. coli and Helicobacter pylori bacteria through contamination. If left unchecked, this can cause digestive health problems and even food poisoning. Fortunately, cranberries are effective in inhibiting the growth of these bacteria in our stomach. The reason behind this is similar to how they’re able to ward off UTI—by preventing bacterial adhesion and coaggregation. 

The interaction between the polyphenols and other bioactive compounds in cranberries can also help protect our gut.

Slows cancer progression

Studies have suggested that the bioactive compounds found in cranberries can play a key role in limiting cancer progression. Components like flavonol, anthocyanin, and procyanidin may exert anticancer effects in the form of cell cycle regulation leading to cell cycle arrest. Cranberries may also have inhibiting effects on the growth and proliferation of tumors in the colon, breast, prostate, and lungs.

Cranberries contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce chronic excessive oxidative stress and inflammation, which are the most common causes of increased cancer risk. However, it should be noted that while cranberries can help reduce the risk, it can’t treat cancer. You should still follow your oncologist’s medical advice.

Improves oral health

Similar to how the compounds found in cranberries prevent bacteria from adhering to the linings in our urinary tract and stomach, they also do the same for our teeth. This helps prevent biofilm-related oral diseases caused by cariogenic bacteria. The polyphenols in the fruit also help protect our teeth against dental caries. 

Additionally, since cranberries are rich in Vitamin C, they can also help in the fight against gum diseases and infections. Do note that if you consume cranberries in juice form, the added sugar may wipe away these oral health benefits.

Enhances cardiovascular health

The flavonols, fiber, and vitamins in cranberries help lower the risk of heart-related diseases. The phytochemicals present in the fruit help in boosting the resistance of the low-density lipoproteins to oxidation. This then inhibits platelet aggregation and helps lower blood pressure. These, along with its anti-inflammatory properties, help in promoting cardiovascular health.

Flavonols may also help in decreasing the risk of atherosclerosis, thereby lowering the risk of stroke and heart attacks.

May help lower your blood sugar

Did you know that cranberries are one of the fruits with the lowest sugar content but high fiber count? This combination ensures that you don’t get a sugar high when you consume this fruit—provided that it’s not in dried or juiced form since these are almost always sweetened. 

Cranberries also contain manganese, which is said to help regulate blood sugar levels. Although keep in mind that to enjoy this benefit, you should stay away from cranberry products with added sweeteners. 

Rich in antioxidants

Cranberries are rich in phytochemicals that act as antioxidants, helping reduce oxidative damage on our bodies due to free radicals. In fact, cranberries contain the highest number of antioxidant phenol among 20 common fruits. It also contains anthocyanin, which gives cranberries its dark red color and is said to be a more powerful antioxidant than Vitamin E.

Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may help in improving memory and coordination and promote overall brain function. Antioxidants also play a key role in fighting the aging process, delaying age-related decline in motor function.

With this list of health benefits, cranberries’ reputation as a superfood seems well-earned. Consuming cranberries or taking cranberry pills can go a long way in limiting the risks of diseases and promoting your overall health.

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