Cranberry is a small sized evergreen shrub normally found in North America. Also known as red berries, the cranberries are used in beverages or food drinks, various other food products, and herbal products in the teas, tablets, capsules, , and extract forms etc. There are a large number of health benefits of this fruit and this fruit is rich in Phyto-nutrients and antioxidants. In addition, these berries contain a lot of active chemicals that are effective for many diseases.
Cranberries have been cultivated and used extensively in several regions of America as well as Canada. These short shrubs or vines usually grow in marshy bogs. Cranberries are acidic in nature and are a good substitute for vinegar or lime. Cranberry juice has been consumed since time immemorial but recent studies indicate the fruits consumed as a whole have greater health benefits. Cranberry fruits are initially white and then turn red as they mature. They are harvested by a water submerging method but recent research also indicates the berries exposed to more sunlight have more health benefits. Let us explore more of the red bog berry’s health benefits.
Cranberries are rich in vitamin-C and have attributes that make them effective anti-oxidants, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory agents. Health benefits of cranberries are not just limited to reducing urinary tract infections (UTIs), cardiac problems, cancers, digestive tract infections or immune disorders. However, these have been extensively studied and documented. Cranberries directly or indirectly affect the total health of all systems in the body as well as help in the prevention and repair of damages caused by external agents.
Health benefits of cranberry
Cranberries carry a large number of health benefits, which are as follows:
Cranberries in Urinary tract infections
According to a research, cranberry is very helpful in preventing E. Coli, which is the common cause of urinary tract infections. The anti-bacterial properties of this fruit helps to reduce the ability of bacteria to create urinary infections. Normally, the capsules or tablets of cranberry extracts are used for this purpose.
Urinary tract infections is very common among women and this is mainly caused by bacteria or fungi. Initially the effectiveness of cranberries in reducing UTIs was attributed to their acidic nature but later on the reason was found to be proanthocyanidins (PACs). PACs are the pigments that impart red color to the berries and they are the reason behind the anti-adherence properties of the bog berries. Cranberries when consumed regularly prevent the attachment of microbial cells with the uterine lining and thus prevent their colonization. In addition, berries that are darker in color have more of the PACs and thus they are more effective in treating UTIs. Today most of the medications for UTIs contain cranberry extracts.
Effect on the digestive tract of cranberry
As with the urinary tract, cranberry prevents adherence of microbes to our intestinal lining as well. Common stomach infections and ulcers are caused by Salmonella sp. or Helicobacter sp. Cranberries have been proved effective against these bacteria and hence they protect our digestive system. Additionally, in spite of being acidic cranberries have not been known to cause adverse effects on the digestive system, even in people with an irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). On the contrary, cranberry juice is recommended for IBS sufferers. This is because our stomach is naturally acidic by itself and most types of IBS are not attributed to acidity. Gas producing foods are the causative agents. Cranberries have an inherently less amount of these gas-producing sugars and thus are gentle on the digestive tract.
Improvement of mental health
Cranberries are quite effective in lifting your moods by relieving anxiety, stress, and depression. According to a research, these red berries are excellent for brain and are helpful in improving the memory.
Kidney and bladder problems
The presence of citric acid and other essential nutrients prove to be very beneficial in preventing several bladder and kidney problems such as kidney stones etc.
Antioxidant action of cranberries
The tannins, flavonoids and other anti-oxidant compounds in the berries make them effective in fighting against cancers. They seem to specifically attack the tumor cell proteins and thus prevent spreading of cancer. The same anti-oxidant property also makes cranberries effective against many immune disorders including arthritis, diabetes, IBS etc. Autoimmune disorder is a condition in which the body starts attacking its own parts assuming they are foreign. Again, studies show that certain components in the berries can interfere with this mechanism and prevent damage to the cells.
Bog berries are also being extensively researched for their role in apoptosis or cell death, which could reveal the mechanism behind their anti-aging properties as well. Cranberries are also found to control some specific types of kidney stone problems. However, calcium and oxalate induced stone formation in the kidneys is an exemption.
Strengthens the immune system
The antioxidants in cranberries work hard to flush out the destructive toxins which inhibit the immune system. With the help of removing these toxins, the immune system gets stronger thus enabling to bear any disease or sickness.
Prevention of dental problems
The consumption of cranberries on regular basis proves to be very effective in preventing various dental problems such as um disease, plaque and cavities build-up, and gingivitis.
Cranberries are very useful for a healthy heart and help to decrease the level of bad cholesterol which clogs the arterial walls. In addition, they also help in the prevention of plaque formation on the arterial walls that can cause atherosclerosis. As a result, the possibilities of heart attack and stroke are reduced to a large extent.
The red berries are cardiac friendly. They tend to increase the proportion of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs) and lower the low-density lipoproteins (LDLs). LDLs are the bad cholesterol fractions that line the walls of blood vessels, clog them and lead to cardiac arrest eventually. Again, cranberries tend to prevent the adherence of LDLs to the blood vessel walls and reduce LDL levels in the body, thereby preventing heart attacks. Bog berries are termed rightly as super foods.
The fruits rich in flavonoids like cranberries, garlic, and apple are quite useful in reducing the risks of various stomach disorders, particularly stomach ulcers.
Prevention of different types of cancers
Cranberries help to prevent several kinds of cancer such as prostate cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer etc. due to the anti-cancer properties this fruit suppresses the growth of cancer cells in the body.
Health benefits of cranberry juice
Cranberry juice is rich in essential nutrients and carries a large number of health benefits. The juice contains iron, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, and vitamins such as B-6, K, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamin E etc. normally, the cranberry juice is used by the majority of people as compared to the raw fruit.
Side-effects of cranberries
In addition to a lot of benefits, there are a few cautions of cranberries such as,
- The people taking aspirin as blood thinners should avoid using cranberries as it contains salicylic acid which is also present in aspirin. In the same way, the people allergic from aspirin should also avoid using cranberries.
- The patients having kidney stones should use cranberries after the recommendation of the doctor because it contains a high concentration of calcium and oxalate.
- The people taking warfarin as a blood thinner should avoid using cranberries in higher amounts.
Magic of the red bog berries to make them one of superfoods
Cranberries can thus be termed super foods, magic berries or what not. Nevertheless, incorporating them in our diet does require some effort. They can be used in syrup form, juice form, in salads, sauces or can be eaten raw as well. Eating raw cranberries is the best way for one can benefit from the richness of the fruits in an undiluted form. So far, there are no proven cases of interference and ill effects of cranberries with other drugs but medical advice is always good if there is a specific health condition. However, the red bog berries can do magic to your health, do try them and enjoy.