Cranberries, also called American cranberries or bearberries, are the fruits of the evergreen cranberry shrub. The cranberry plant (scientific name: Vaccinium macrocarpon) is a small creeping or trailing plant that belongs to the Ericaceae family. It grows extensively in the wet areas of the North-Eastern and North-Central parts of the United States. Cranberries are lauded for their various health benefits.
Cranberry is considered a superfood. The health benefits of cranberry juice and whole cranberries include:
- Managing UTI (urinary tract infections): Several research studies have shown that cranberries and their juice help recover faster from UTIs. Research involving people at increased risk for UTIs or those who experience recurrent UTIs has shown that cranberry products reduce the risk of UTIs by around 33%. Studies involving certain high-risk groups, such as pregnant women, women undergoing gynecological procedures, and elderly people, have not found cranberries to be beneficial in lowering UTI risk. Moreover, the benefits of cranberries in treating an existing UTI have not been proven yet.
- Maintaining healthy skin: Cranberries are loaded with vitamins and minerals that keep the skin hydrated and healthy. Their high antioxidant content is considered to reduce the signs of aging.
- Help manage weight: Eating whole cranberries is a healthier snacking option. Their high fiber content helps to stay satiated for longer, thereby limiting the calorie intake.
- Maintaining gut-health: Cranberries are shown to improve the gut microbiome (promoting the growth of good bacteria in the gut). They aid digestion and may help prevent diseases related to the gut.
- Promote oral health: Cranberries maintain a healthy pH in the mouth. They help prevent oral problems, such as bad breath, cavities, gum diseases, and tooth decay.
- Help manage chronic health conditions: Cranberries have an excellent nutrient content that can help manage long-standing diseases. They are rich in various antioxidants, such as quercetin, myricetin, and ursolic acid. These can help prevent conditions, such as cancer, heart diseases, and high blood pressure.
Although cranberry juice is generally considered safe and healthy, it may cause problems, especially when taken in large amounts. Some of the concerns include:
- Cranberry juice can cause diarrhea and stomach upset, especially in young children.
- Drinking cranberry juice in excess for a long time may paradoxically increase the risk of kidney stones.
- Cranberry juice can interfere with blood thinners, such as Warfarin, and decrease their efficacy.
- The safety of cranberry juice during pregnancy and breastfeeding is not well-established.
It is always better to take the opinion of a health care provider when deciding to have cranberry juice for any health purpose. The efficacy and importance of proven treatment measures cannot be undermined by any remedy, including cranberry juice.
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WebMD. Cranberries. https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/health-benefits-cranberries
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Cranberry. National Institutes of Health. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/cranberry