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Cranberries

This article is part of a larger article titled "100+ Healthiest Foods On Planet Earth."  Read it here.

Cranberries Nutritional Information (per 100g)

Water: 87.1 g
Calories: 46 kcal
Protein: 0.4 g
Carbohydrate: 12.2 g
Dietary fiber: 4.6 g
Sugars: 4 g
Fat: 0.1 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.1 g
Vitamin C: 13.3 mg
Vitamin B3: 0.1 mg
Vitamin B6: 0.1 mg
Vitamin B9: 1 μg
Vitamin A: 3 μg
Vitamin E: 1.2 mg
Vitamin K: 5.1 μg
Calcium: 8 mg
Iron: 0.3 mg
Magnesium: 6 mg
Phosphorus: 13 mg
Potassium: 85 mg
Sodium: 2 mg
Zinc: 0.1 mg

Cranberries are a sharp, tart fruit which are excellent in pies and as a juice drink. They have been heralded as a ‘superfood’ for their health-boosting properties, and are a food item that many would benefit from adding to their diet.

Antioxidants. Cranberries have a very distinct, rich, red colour to them, and that colour comes from a specific type of antioxidant. The antioxidants are called anthocyanins, and are a type of polyphenol (a sub-class of antioxidant) which has a red pigment. Cranberries are packed with them.

In fact, cranberries are one of the best sources of antioxidants of all fruit and vegetables (Vinson et al, 2014). Antioxidants are very important for a number of health reasons, as they fight off free radicals. These are molecules which have been mutated as a result of pollution, radiation, and other environmental factors, and can lead to a variety of diseases such as inflammatory conditions and cancer.

Infection-fighting Properties. For many years, cranberries have been thought to be good for urinary tract infections due to their high acidity content. New research, however, suggests that it is due to the anthocyanins found in the fruit.

Jepson and Craig (2008) suggest that it may be because they can prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract, which can reduce the infective power of the bacteria. They performed a research study which has shown that consumption of cranberries can reduce UTI symptoms significantly over a period of 12 months, and that they work particularly effectively for those who have recurrent UTIs.

Dental Benefits. Research by Bonifait and Grenier (2010) has suggested that the polyphenols found in cranberries have the ability to prevent the production of acids and ‘biofilms’ created by bacteria in the mouth. In much the same way as for urinary tract infections, it is also thought that the antioxidants can reduce adherence of bacteria to the teeth and gums.

Furthermore, they may decrease the magnitude of the inflammatory response, which can cause enzymes to worsen dental problems. The combination of these factors can help to prevent dental caries, also known as tooth decay.

Cardiovascular benefits. There is also some evidence that cranberry consumption may help to alleviate the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing some of its risk factors, including atherosclerosis, oxidative stress (the impact of free radicals on the body) and dyslipidaemia (high cholesterol).

A review by Blumberg et al (2013) found that consumption of cranberries can lower the amount of LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase the amount of HDL (high) cholesterol, leading to a more healthy cholesterol balance.

This in turn can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, which is a narrowing of the arteries as a result of too much fat in the blood. Furthermore, the review found strong evidence for the reduction of blood markers of oxidative stress following cranberry juice consumption. This suggests that cranberries have a very effective antioxidant response.