Whether you eat the whole fruit or just drink the juice, cranberries are one of the healthiest fruits you can consume. Best known for curing bladder infections, cranberries offer other important and related health benefits. Some of these health benefits may surprise you.
Cranberry Health Benefits
- Minimize stroke damage
- Keeps the mind sharp
- Protect dental health
- Prevent and reverse gout
- Cure urinary tract infections (in women)
How Cranberries Minimize Stroke Damage and Keep the Mind Sharp
As everyone knows by now, antioxidants are essential for maintaining good health because they neutralize free radicals (unstable atoms) and protect our cells from damage and degeneration. Cranberries are rich in antioxidants and they have proven to be capable of minimizing the type of brain cell damage caused by stroke. Primarily, cranberries minimize the damage caused by oxygen and glucose deprivation.
“In one study, [researchers] took brain cells from rats, grew them in the lab, and then exposed them to stroke-like conditions. Specifically, one group of cells was deprived of oxygen and glucose, simulating what happens when blood flow to the brain is blocked during a stroke. Another group of cells was exposed to hydrogen peroxide, simulating what happens when blood flow to the brain is restored after a stroke. The process of restoring circulation causes oxidative stress, which leads to further cell damage and death. Next, both groups of cells were exposed to varying concentrations of cranberry extract. The highest concentration, roughly equivalent to a half-cup of whole cranberries, reduced the death of brain cells by half. This suggests that cranberries might lessen the brain damage after strokes, although more study is needed.”1
In addition, cranberries contain a compound called ursolic acid. Ursolic acid has anti-inflammatory properties, acts as a STAT3 inhibitor, normalizes PPARa activity, and can prevent memory impairment. But ursolic acid is best known for its role in cell growth regulation.
Scientists believe that one of the potential mechanisms of the neural protective effect of ursolic acid is its ability to lessen the accumulation of Malondialdehyde (MDA) and depletion of glutathione (GSH) in the memory center of the brain (the hippocampus).
Malondialdehyde (MDA) is one of the final products of polyunsaturated fatty acids peroxidation in the cells. An increase in free radicals causes overproduction of MDA and malondialdehyde level is commonly known as a marker of oxidative stress and the antioxidant status in cancerous patients. Based on animal research studies, MDA is a very good indicator of cell membrane injury.
How Cranberries Protect Dental Health
Cranberries can protect our teeth from decay by acting as a barrier to cavity-causing bacteria.
“A team led by oral biologist Hyun (Michel) Koo, D.D.S., Ph.D., at the University of Rochester Medical Center has discovered that the same traits that make cranberry juice a powerful weapon against bladder infections also hold promise for protecting teeth against cavities. Koo found that cranberry juice acts like Teflon® for teeth, making it difficult for the bacteria that causes cavities to cling to tooth surfaces. Stickiness is everything for the microbe Streptococcus mutans, which creates most cavities by eating sugars and then excreting acids that cause dental decay.”2
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as drinking the typical grocery store cranberry juice; those tend to be full of added sugars and have a natural acidity that can lead to tooth decay. For this reason, choosing a sugar-free cranberry juice and following it down with a glass of water would be advised.
Scientists are currently working to isolate the substances in cranberries that disarm pathogens responsible for tooth decay to create dental hygiene products, but those products may not be available for many years to come.
How Cranberries Prevent and Reverse Gout
Gout is a form of arthritis caused by the buildup of uric acid in the body forming crystals in the joints. Gout is very painful. The affected joints become stiff and swollen, making simple movements and life a misery.
Obviously, decreasing uric acid buildup is a great way to treat and prevent gout. Cranberry juice has proven to be an effective way to decrease uric acid buildup in the body.
“Cranberry juice has been found to decrease the level of uric acid in both the urine and the blood. Researchers reported in the August 2005 ‘Journal of Urology’ that both urine and serum uric acid decreased after human subjects drank cranberry juice. The University of Maryland advocates drinking 8 to 16 ounces of unsweetened cranberry juice daily or taking 300 to 400 milligrams standardized cranberry extract for gout.”3
Keep in mind, cranberry juice alone may not be enough. It would also be wise to decrease your intake of purine-rich foods and drink more water to help flush excess uric acid from the body.
How Cranberries Cure Urinary Tract Infections
Cranberries, specifically cranberry juice, is best known for its ability to quickly cure UTIs (urinary tract infections) in women. But cranberry juice can also prevent bacteria from developing into an infection in the urinary tract. A 2010 study proved that cranberry juice can neutralize bacteria within 8 hours of consumption!
Just as cranberries and their juice can prevent cavity-causing bacteria from sticking to our teeth, they can also prevent E. coli from sticking to other bacteria. This limits the bacteria’s ability to grow and multiply.
“If E. coli is able to connect with other bacteria, such as the bacteria found in the urinary tract, it forms a layer or “biofilm.” This allows the bacteria to multiply and produce an infection. … ‘A number of controlled clinical trials – these are carefully designed and conducted scientific studies done in humans – have concluded that cranberry juice really is effective for preventing urinary tract infections,’ says study researcher Terri Anne Camesano, PhD, in a news release. ‘That has important implications, considering the size of the problem and the health care costs involved.’”4
Cranberries, whether we eat them whole and fresh or simply drink the juice, can improve and protect the health of the mind and body. I can’t think of a better reason to find and create recipes using fresh and frozen cranberries and the juice.
In researching this topic, I was most surprised to learn that cranberries could prevent and reverse gout. But it’s good to know that such a painful condition can be kept at bay with a few simple changes in lifestyle and diet and the addition of cranberries and/or its juice.
Which health benefit was most surprising to you?
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1Andrews, Linda Wasmer. “Cranberries Are A Smart Choice for Your Brain”. Psychology Today, November 11, 2013. Web. January 2019
2“Give Thanks for the Cranberry, Says Dental Researchers”. University of Rochester Medical Center, November 23, 2005. Web. March 2019
3Greenwood, Beth. “Can Drinking Cranberry Juice Bring on a Gout Attack?” Livestrong, n.d. Web. March 2019
4Woznicki, Katrina. “Cranberry Juice Fights Urinary Tract Infections Quickly”. WebMD, August 23, 2010. Web. March 2019
Cohen, Joe, BS. “What You Need to Know About Ursolic Acid”. Selfhacked, July 12, 2016. Web. March 2019