Cranberries, often placed beside other Thanksgiving dinner vegetable creations, such as mashed potatoes and stuffing, are a fruit. True it their name, cranberries are "berries" just like blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Although you may only eat cranberries once a year, you may be curious what health benefits these nutritious red berries may have.
In his book, "The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth," Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., lists cranberries as one of the most nutritious fruits you can eat. Cranberries are a low-calorie fruit, with 44 calories in 1 cup. Despite being fairly sweet, cranberries are low in sugar according to Bowden. They are also a rich source of fiber: 1 cup of cranberries has 5 g of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber helps control your blood sugar and curbs your appetite. Cranberries are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium.
Urinary Tract Infections
Cranberries as a whole food, juice and extracted dietary supplement are known to prevent urinary tract infections. Bowden explains that cranberries contain antibacterial compounds that make them among the most potent antioxidant fruits. These compounds prevent bacteria from sticking to the lining along urinary tract walls and causing infections. Cranberry also increase the amount of acid in the urine so that bacteria, such as E. coli, cannot multiply rapidly.
The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center reports that in addition to preventing urinary tract infections, cranberries can promote a healthy heart, healthy teeth and gums and may help prevent stomach ulcers. Cranberries contain phytochemicals, powerful antioxidants that may help contribute to cancer prevention and stopping tumor development. The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center suggests you incorporate cranberries into your daily diet among your five or more servings of fruit.
Raw Cranberries For Health Benefits
Bowden stresses that "ruby red" raw cranberries are the most healthful and low-calorie type of cranberries. When cranberries are dried and sweetened, they still retain some of their phenolic and phytochemicals, but their calorie count increases from 44 calories to 370 calories in 1 cup. These are the type of cranberries that are in trail mixes and other commercial cranberry "treats." If you are trying to lose or manage your weight, raw cranberries are your best option.
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Jenna Cee has been writing professionally since 2006. Her articles appear on 2Athletes.com and Women's Fitness Online. She is a personal trainer certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and as a fitness and sports nutritionist through the International Sports Sciences Association. Cee holds a Master of Science in human nutrition from Washington State University.