With the mention of cranberries we get enthralled because these rich red rubies are associated to holiday feasts in form of cranberry juice, cranberry sauce and dried cranberries in casseroles, stuffing or desserts.

However, it is quite surprising that cranberries are immensely healthy too, because it is normally seen that tasty foods are often not healthy! So, cranberries can be a delicious exception to this rule.

Though cranberries have a high position in traditional foods, their health benefits are being studied more keenly only during last some years. Raw cranberries are now honored as a "superfruit" because of their antioxidant properties and nutritional value. It is quite amazing to know about the various health benefits of cranberries.

health benefits of cranberries

A Small Introduction to Cranberries

Cranberries fall under genus Vaccinium and subgenus Oxycoccus. They are dwarf creeping shrubs or trailing vines and are found across the cooler areas of the northern hemisphere. Read more about cranberries.

Nutritional Value of Cranberries

Cranberries have an incredible amount of phytonutrients which include phenolic acids (hydroxycinnamic, coumaric, caffeic and ferulic acid), anthocyanins (cyanidins, peonidins and malvadins), triterpenoids (ursolic acid), proanthocyanidins (epicatechins) and flavonoids (quercetin, kaempferol and myricetin). Most of these nutrients offer antioxidant, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties to cranberries.

Cranberries also contains vitamins C, E and K, manganese, copper, dietary fiber and pantothenic acid.

Regarding calorie content, a 100g cup of cranberries has only around 46 calories!

Nutritional value of cranberries, per 100g of fruits, is given in the following table:

Nutritional Value of Fresh Cranberries, 100g of fruits

Protein 0.39g  Vitamin A 60 IU
Carbohydrates, total 12.20g  Thiamin (B1) 0.01mg
Sugars 4.04g  Riboflavin (B2) 0.02mg
Fats 0.13g  Niacin (B3) 0.10mg
Fibers 4.6g  Panthothenic Acid (B5) 0.29mg
Sodium, Na 2.00mg  Pyridoxine (B6) 0.06mg
Magnesium, Mg 6.00mg  Biotin (B7) -
Copper, Cu 0.06g  Folic Acid (B9) 1.00mg
Potassium, K 85.00mg  Cobolamins (B12) 0.00 µg
Zinc, Zn 0.10mg  Vitamin C 13mg
Manganese, Mn 0.36mg  Vitamin D 0.00 µg
Iron, Fe 0.25mg  Vitamin E 1.24mg
Phosphorous, P 13.00mg
 
Calcium, Ca 8.00mg    
Selenium, Se 0.10 µg    

 Of course, these values vary, depending how fresh cranberries are, cranberry variety, growing conditions and similar.

Nutritional Value of Dried Cranberries

Dried cranberries are available year long, while fresh cranberries can be found only during their season or frozen, year long.

There are several ways of drying cranberries, but the most healthiest one is drying them in vacuum and that method produces rather expensive product, but if you can get it, great!

Most often, one can found sweetened dried cranberries. Their sugar content is huge, but they have great taste (thanks to both cranberries and added sugar), can be eaten right away, can be used for preparing cranberry tea etc.

100g of sweetened dried cranberries contains:

 Protein 0.07g
 Carbohydrates 82g
 Sugars 65g
 Fats 1.37g
 Fibers 6g
 Calories 310kcal

Obviously, sweetened dried cranberries are caloric bomb, especially if eaten regularly in larger quantities. Caloric and sugar content do vary, but if possible, stay with unsweetened dried cranberries and be sure to read labels prior buying them.

Nutritional Value of Cranberry Juice

Cranberries are often part of fruit juices, but they can often be found as 100% unsweetened cranberry juice. Nutritional content of such juices again vary, but it is commonly around:

 Protein 0.4g
 Carbohydrates 12g
 Sugars 11g
 Fats 0.14g
 Fibers 0.1g
 Calories 45kcal

Sugars present in 100% unsweetened cranberry juice are natural occurring sugars found in cranberries.

Content of vitamins, minerals and other compounds is lower when compared with fresh cranberries. So, whenever you have opportunity to enjoy them fresh, feel free.

Cranberries in Urinary Tract Infections

Though cranberries feature numerous health benefits, they are specialized in the field of one type of diseases – they are famous for curing urinary tract infections! This is the major health benefit of cranberries. But for many years researchers were under the impression that this benefit is due to the strong acidic content of the fruits. However it has been found recently that the unusual character of proanthocyanidins (PACs) in cranberries are creditable to prevent UTIs. The PACs in cranberries have a special structure which includes A-type bonding between their components and serves as a barrier to the bacteria that otherwise may get attached to the lining of urinary tract. It's quite encouraging because till now infection-curing property of cranberries was limited only to UTIs, but now the new research has opened doors for treatment and cure of other bacterial infections like H. pylori causing stomach ulcers as well as tooth infections.

Highly Beneficial Water Harvesting of Cranberries

Traditionally cranberries are water harvested. Water harvesting is done just for convenience where bogs in which cranberries are grown are filled with water; the fruits float on water and can then be easily gathered. But recent research has found that this water harvesting is also beneficial for increasing the health benefits of cranberries.
Anthocyanins in cranberries which give them the rich red color are increased upon exposure to sunlight. When cranberries float on water they naturally get exposed to more amount of natural sunlight as compared to other harvesting conditions, and develop higher concentrations of anthocyanins, thus imparting greater health benefits, because of their high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Anti-cancer Properties of Cranberries

During the last 5 years, researchers have come to know about a growing number of mechanisms which can explain the anti-cancer properties of cranberries. These beneficial actions are now known to benefit even in the cancers of colon, breast, lungs and prostrate.

Cranberries for a Healthy Heart

Cranberries contain oligometric proanthocyanidins (OPCs), peonidin, cyanidin and quercetin which may fight cardiovascular disease by working against the formation of cholesterol plaque in blood vessels and heart. What's more, these compounds also may help us in increasing HDL (good) cholesterol as well as lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol) in blood.

Better Dental Health with Cranberries

As we saw earlier that proanthocyanidins (PACs) prevent UTIs and stomach ulcers. Obviously the same PACs may be helpful in preventing the bacterial growth in mouth too. Researchers from the Center for Oral Biology and Eastman Department of Dentistry at the University of Rochester Medical Center, have found that cranberries can stop the growth of bacteria that bind to teeth and also can prevent gum disease.

Cranberries - Best as a Whole

Several recent studies have revealed that cranberries are best when consumed in their whole form, as compared to purified extracts consumed either as dried or liquid supplements. Whole cranberries act best to protect you from cardiovascular and liver diseases. This is because it is the synergy of its various components that works best as a health food rather than individual components.

So, on coming Thanksgiving, feast on cranberries as much as you want – and say "thanks" to them too for presenting you an invaluable gift – your health!

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