Cranberries are small, round, deep-red berries related to the blueberry. They have a very sharp, sour taste, so are rarely eaten raw; they’re more commonly enjoyed dried or juiced. Cranberries grow on vine-like plants similar to strawberries, and typically come from North America or eastern Europe, although you can grow them in the UK under the right conditions.
Top 5 health benefits of cranberries
1. Rich in antioxidant compounds
Cranberries contain plant compounds that have a protective antioxidant effect. Most of these are found in the skin of the berry and may as a result be lost during the juicing process.
2. May help prevent urinary tract infections
Cranberry juice is probably most well-known for its management of urinary tract infections (UTIs). Cranberries contain compounds known as proanthocyanidins, which have natural antibacterial benefits and may help prevent the bacteria Escherichia coli from attaching to the inner surface of the bladder and urinary tract, causing an infection.
There are many studies that demonstrate drinking cranberry juice may help prevent a UTI and its reoccurrence, but it appears to be less effective once the infection has taken hold. Some studies also suggest this may not work for everyone. If you are going to drink cranberry juice for its potential UTI benefits, an unsweetened 100% juice should be chosen.
3. May support heart health
A number of human studies support regular consumption of the juice or an extract of the berry to be beneficial for heart health, reducing a number of the key risk factors for heart disease. These include improving cholesterol balance, lowering blood pressure and reducing a compound called homocysteine, which is known to damage the lining of the blood vessels. However, it’s worth noting that some conflicting findings have been reported from other similar studies.
4. May protect against gastric ulcer and stomach cancer
Cranberries contain a plant compound that may reduce the risk of gastric ulcers and stomach cancer caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. Consuming cranberry products, which are naturally rich in this compound (known as A-type pro-anthocyanidins), appears to suppress the growth of the bacteria and as a result reduce the risk of developing stomach cancer.
5. May protect against certain cancers
Cranberries are one of the best food sources of ursolic acid, a plant compound with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and potential anti-cancer effects. It has been seen to be particularly useful in prostate cancer.