6 Health Benefits of Cranberries

The ruby-red beauties may reduce inflammation, prevent antibiotic resistance, and more

You may associate cranberries with the holidays, but there are good reasons to consume them year-round, frozen, dried, or in juice form. 

Here are six cranberry health benefits—including what research has said about how cranberries may help counter the threat of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

Cranberries Curb Antibiotic Resistance

In a study published in 2019 in Advanced Science, researchers selected bacteria responsible for urinary tract infections (UTIs), pneumonia, and gastroenteritis. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria change to become immune to antibiotics you take when you're sick. But in the study, researchers found that adding cranberry extract prevented bacteria from developing that resistance.

The bacteria's cell walls become more permeable to the antibiotic in response to the cranberry extract. Also, the researchers found that the bacteria had a tougher time pumping out the antibiotic than normal.

Those results were important because the overuse of antibiotics may make infections more difficult to treat.

Cranberries Have Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Properties

Like other berries, cranberries are antioxidant powerhouses. Per a study published in 2022 in Molecules, cranberries are a rich source of antioxidants. As a result, cranberries help protect against several conditions, such as:

  • Urinary tract inflammation
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Tooth decay
  • Periodontitis

Cranberries also provide anti-inflammatory compounds. A study published in 2015 in the Journal of Nutrition showed that people who consume cranberries have lower levels of C-reactive protein. C-reactive protein is a blood marker of inflammation, a known trigger of premature aging, chronic illness, and cognitive decline.

Cranberries Boost Circulation

Some evidence suggests that cranberries may help improve artery flexibility, according to the 2015 Journal of Nutrition study. 

Artery flexibility includes enhanced circulation and blood flow, which takes the pressure off the heart and can help lower blood pressure. Better circulation can also boost energy and cognitive function.

Cranberries Offer Disease Protection

The 2015 Journal of Nutrition study also provided evidence that cranberry juice protects heart health by reducing LDL, or "bad," cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin resistance, all of which are risk factors for type 2 diabetes. 

What's more, certain compounds in cranberries may help slow the growth of breast, colon, lung, and prostate tumors, according to a study published in 2016 in Antioxidants.

Cranberries Support Gut Health

Per a study published in 2018 in OMICS, consuming cranberries can create a positive shift in beneficial gut bacteria tied to immunity, mood, and digestive health. 

Also, the fiber in whole or dried cranberries helps prevent constipation and supports digestive health.

Cranberries Help With Immunity

The vitamin C in cranberries supports immunity and helps make collagen. So, it plays an essential role in skin and joint health and overall healing.

According to a study published in 2020 in the Future Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, certain products made with cranberries can help prevent and treat UTIs. Essentially, cranberries interfere with the ability of bacteria to stick to the urinary tract walls. 

According to a study published in 2019 in the IOSR Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences, that natural defense also happens in the mouth to fight gum disease.

How To Enjoy Cranberries

Look for unsweetened 100% cranberry juice to take advantage of cranberry benefits. Because cranberries are bitter, manufacturers often add sugar or syrup or combine the juice with a sweet variety, like apple juice. You can add pure cranberry juice to your morning smoothie or use it with lightly sweetened almond milk as the liquid in oatmeal or overnight oats.

You can also find frozen cranberries in the grocery store's freezer section. Try some of the following snack ideas incorporating frozen cranberries: 

  • Blend into smoothies.
  • Warm over low heat on the stovetop in a bit of 100% orange juice with a touch of maple syrup, freshly grated ginger root, cinnamon, and cloves. 
  • Use as a warm or chilled topping for anything from greens and vegetables to spaghetti squash and sweet potatoes. 

Additionally, you may opt for unsweetened or 100% fruit juice-sweetened dried cranberries. Fold them into nut butter, toss them onto salads and whole grains, or add to energy balls and "bark" made from melted dark chocolate and nuts.

A Quick Review

Cranberries are an antioxidant powerhouse that has several health benefits. Namely, some evidence suggests that cranberry extract may help fight antibiotic resistance. 

You can maximize those health benefits by incorporating fresh, frozen, or dried cranberries into your daily meals and snacks. 

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