What are the health benefits of cranberries?
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 ofcancer, improved immune function, decreased blood pressure and more.
This MNT Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articleson the health benefits of popular foods.
Nutritional breakdown of 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.
Cranberries are a good source of vitamin C, fiber and vitamin E.
Image courtesy of Benjamin Tilberg.
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 andcholesterol 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
Nutritional report: Cranberries, raw 1/2 cup (55 grams)
|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|
Possible health benefits of cranberries
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
Written by: Megan Ware, RDN, LD, registered dietitian and nutritionist