Health Benefits of Cranberries
Thanksgiving is coming up and as you gather your favorite holiday recipes, you may have some that includes cranberries.
Cranberries and the holidays go hand in hand. And while the vibrant red color brightens up your holiday menu, it also offers a wide range of possible health benefits that give it all kinds of reasons to keep it as a staple year-round.
Cranberries are a member of the heather family with blueberries and bilberries and are also rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals; however, unlike the rest of these berries, cranberries are rarely eaten raw due to their tart and bitter flavor. They are commonly sweetened and cooked or dried to reduce their sharp flavor, and around the holidays, they are often prepared as a sauce. Beyond traditional holiday cranberry dishes, they can also be consumed as a juice, powder, extract, or as a supplement.
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Here are some health benefits of cranberries:
Cranberries are nutrient-dense and potent in antioxidants including vitamins A, E, C and K. Antioxidants are molecules that help fight free radicals that are associated with multiple illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. There is evidence that shows consuming an adequate amount of antioxidants is essential for optimal health.
Cranberries also have high amounts of proanthocyanidins (PACs), a type of polyphenol shown to provide benefits that help reduce the occurrence of certain infections, help protect the urinary tract, promote heart health, and improve digestive health. Studies have also shown that the vitamin C and phytochemicals such as flavonoids and anthocyanins in cranberries may play a role in reducing oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, and strengthen the immune system.
A history of research has suggested that cranberries can play a role in supporting digestive health. They are rich in fiber and help facilitate the growth of healthy bacteria while decreasing harmful bacteria from colonizing the gut. This helps relieve symptoms of bloating and constipation when consumed raw or dried.
There is growing evidence that shows cranberry juice has the potential to reduce markers of cardiometabolic risk and protect heart health by reducing LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin resistance.
Cranberries have been linked to helping protect against urinary tract infections (UTIs) for decades, primarily when it is a recurring infection. Studies have shown that the antioxidant, PACs in cranberries can help prevent infection-causing bacteria from binding to the walls of the urinary tract, especially E. coli. In a recent study, researchers used bacteria causing UTIs and found when it is treated with antibiotics, these bacteria typically become resistant to its effects over time; however, researchers discovered in this experiment that adding cranberry extract in the treatment process prevents antibiotic resistance from developing by making the bacterial cell wall more permeable to the antibiotic.
Cranberries have been linked to promote good oral hygiene by preventing bacteria that are responsible for causing plaque formation and cavities to bind to the surface of the teeth. Studies have shown that the bacteria that prevent UTIs help treat plaque formation, cavities, and early gum disease.
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