Cranberries are one of the world’s most potent super foods. They’re known to prevent urinary tract infections, and may also have anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular and immune-boosting benefits. Cranberries can also support the health of the digestive tract and prevent numerous cancers.
The health benefits of cranberries come from their rich nutrient content, which itself comes from the way they’re grown. Because cranberries are grown in the water, they’re exposed to far more sunlight than most crops, and it’s this sunlight that’s responsible for their high nutrient content. Cranberries are full of antioxidants, vitamin C, flavonoids, and other phytonutrients that support good health. Eat whole cranberries or drink cranberry tea to reap the benefits of cranberries for your own health.
Effective Protection Against UTIs
One of the most well-known health benefits of cranberries is their ability to protect against urinary tract infections or UTIs. Researchers once believed it was cranberries’ high acid content that allowed them to prevent, and perhaps treat, urinary tract infection. It’s now known that cranberries’ UTI prevention powers come from their high levels of proanthocyanidin, or PAC. Urinary tract infections form when bacteria cling to the lining of the bladder and walls of the urinary tract, but PACs are able to stop bacteria from clinging to these tissues.
Support for Digestive and Oral Health
The PACs in cranberries can also prevent stomach ulcers caused by the H. pylori bacteria. They make it difficult for these bacteria to cling to the stomach lining and create an ulcer. Research has shown that consuming cranberry juice can help support the proliferation of beneficial bacteria in the intestines.
The antioxidants and phytonutrients in cranberries also support oral health, by preventing bacteria from clinging to the teeth and gums to form plaque. Cranberries are therefore an effective preventative measure against tooth decay and periodontal disease.
The antioxidants in cranberries help prevent a variety of cancers, including stomach and colon cancer, but also breast, prostate and lung cancer. Oxidative stress, which occurs when the diet lacks sufficient antioxidants over time, and chronic inflammation resulting from a dearth of anti-inflammatory nutrients, are the two main factors in the development of cancer. With their high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, cranberries are the perfect food to help stave off cancer.
Cranberries contain a significant amount of salicylic acid, a compound similar to the active ingredient in aspirin. (For this reason, if you’re allergic to aspirin, you should avoid using cranberry products.) This powerful anti-inflammatory compound can help to support the health of the entire body, and prevent the tissue damage that occurs with unnecessary and excessive inflammation. Cranberries’ anti-inflammatory properties help them ease inflammation in the gums, colon, stomach and cardiovascular system.
Some of the specific anti-inflammatory compounds in cranberries include proanthocyanidins, quercetin and other flavonols, phenolic acid, and anthocyanins, which give cranberries their distinctive red color. Cranberries work to subdue the inflammation response by blocking the action of cytokines, the molecules that communicate the need for an inflammatory response to our immune cells. While inflammation is not always a bad thing, excessive inflammation — such as that related to periodontal disease — can cause unnecessary tissue damage.
Chronic, excessive inflammation and oxidative stress are two of the main culprits implicated in cardiovascular disease. They can cause the damage to blood vessels that ultimately leads to arterial plaque formation, hardening of the arteries, and eventually arterial blockage. Regular use of normal amounts of cranberry can stop this process before it starts.
As a result, cranberries and cranberry tea are a great way to prevent hardening and narrowing of the arteries and high blood pressure. Cranberry also helps to lower blood levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol while increasing levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol. Controlling cholesterol levels is one more way that cranberries protect heart health and prevent arterial blockage.
Cranberry has been found to help improve many facets of immunity. Research suggests consuming normal amounts of cranberry could protect against cold and flu symptoms.
Cranberries are a nutrient-rich food capable of supporting good health in a myriad of ways. Whether you’re looking for a way to prevent urinary tract infections and stomach ulcers, protect yourself from gum disease, or prevent cancer, cranberries can help. Eating cranberries or drinking cranberry tea regularly can help support your heart health and digestive wellness. Enjoy the remarkable health benefits of cranberries by making cranberry tea a part of your daily routine.
Image by Mariluna from Wikimedia Commons.
About the Author: Contributing blogger Maddie Rockwell is a registered dietician with more than 15 years of experience. She regularly drinks Buddha Teas Cranberry Tea.