Nutritional Profile and Health Benefits of Cranberries
The consumption of various fruits and vegetables have been associated with great health benefits regarding many adverse health conditions. When referring to fruits of great medicinal benefits, cranberries are usually at the top of the list due to their high nutrient content and antioxidant property.
- A number of phyto-nutrients which include: Proanthocyanidins (PACs), Anthocyanins (responsible for the flavonoid pigments that gives them their amazing shades of red, as well as their ability to fight against free radicals), Flavonols like quercetin (probably the most powerful nutrient responsible for their anti-inflammatory property), Ascorbic acids (responsible for the very high levels of antioxidant property, even better than other fruits of its kind, like blueberries and strawberries) and more.
- About 46 calories per cup of fresh berries.
- Balanced levels of electrolytes including potassium and sodium.
- Low score glycemic index score.
A cup serving of cranberries provides the following percentage of daily value:
- 24% Vitamin C
- 20% Manganese
- 18% Dietary fiber
- 8% Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)
- 7% Copper
- 6% Vitamin K
- 6% Pantothenic acid
The possible health benefits of consuming cranberries include: Lowered risk of urinary tract infection, prevention of certain types of cancer, improved oral health, improved immune system, anti-inflammatory benefit, decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and more.
The following are the outlined health benefits associated with cranberries:
Prevention of Urinary tract infections (UTI):
Cranberries are majorly known to prevent UTIs and also effective for those with recurrent infections. The high level of proanthocyanidins (PACs) present in cranberries helps reduce the amount of certain bacteria like E coli from attaching to the urinary tract walls, which in turn fights off and prevents infections. These infections are normally treated with prescribed antibiotics but a cup to a cup and half of cranberry juice or cocktail per day can prevent 50% of UTI occurrences and reduce the adherence of harmful bacteria to the urinary tract walls.
Improved Oral health:
The proanthocyanidins content in cranberries also help to improve oral health by preventing bacteria from adhering to the teeth, causing dental plaque.
Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease:
Cranberries have beneficial cardiovascular effects. The polyphenol compounds present in cranberries help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by preventing the build-up of blood platelets, thus reducing blood pressure via anti-inflammatory mechanisms.
Good source of Vitamin C:
Cranberries are a good source of vitamin C for the prevention of scurvy and also have good antioxidant property capable of preventing and reversing some of the damages caused by free radicals. According to research carried out, cranberries also help by boosting the body’s immune system as well as boosting the body’s resistance against infections.
Important anti-inflammatory benefits:
The phyto-nutrients present in the fruit are effective in lowering the risk of inflammation. Inflammation occurs when the immune system tries hard to rid the body of toxins present as a result of unhealthy diet and pollution. Diet low in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory contents of food results in an abundance of these toxins and free radicals within the body. Cranberries helps to mop up these free radicals.
Cranberries have proved to protect against certain cancers, due to inhibited growth and proliferation of tumor cells. Its ability to induce the death of some cancer cells has been very beneficial. Studies have shown that its chemopreventive property inhibited growth and spread of several types of tumors, including those in the breast, colon, prostate, and lung, possibly due to the flavonols and anthocyanin glycosides in the fruit.
Precautions to consider:
It is advisable to steer clear of a high intake of cranberries if you take blood-thinning drugs like warfarin. There has been conflicting evidence on the potential for cranberries to enhance the drug’s effect on the body. There have been reports on several cases of increased bleeding due to suspected interactions with cranberry juice and warfarin.
Also cranberry products may cause increased excretion of oxalate crystals in urine, which could promote the formation of kidney stones. Individuals with history of kidney stones should consult their doctor before including any forms of cranberries in their diet.