Cranberry, that evergreen shrub that grows in bogs or wetlands, small as it may seem, works wonders. The shrub, which has small dark green leaves and pink blooms, produces egg-shaped dark crimson fruits that are a good source of nutrition. This article will realize the importance of cranberry juice in maintaining health, debunk myths, and discover easy but healthy recipes.
The historical story of cranberries dates back to the Native Americans. Interestingly, many tribes have used cranberries for a variety of purposes. These include curing meat, dying fabric, and healing wounds.
"Pemmican," a Native American delicacy made with mashed cranberries and deer meat, was effectively the original "energy bar." That provided energy and long-term nourishment since the fruit's acidity served as a natural preservative and kept bacteria at bay.
History tells us, our fathers in navigation had discovered its use even in their voyages. For example, sailors kept cranberries in storage during lengthy sea voyages to help prevent scurvy — a deficiency in Vitamin C — due to the fruits' high vitamin C content.
The health benefits of cranberries are evident even in this day and age. Researchers widely studied the many uses of this so-called superfood and have found evidence of their effectiveness.
Because cranberries possess a tangy and not-so-sweet taste, people usually add them to dishes rather than eat them fresh. In addition, people often consume them in liquid forms, such as ready-to-drink juices, juice concentrates, and cranberry sauces. Many also prefer to take cranberries as powder mixes and dried fruits.
Cranberry juice is an essential source of vitamins and minerals. It complements measures to maintain cardiovascular health and helps in preventing urinary tract infections (UTI). It is also a valuable source of good gut bacteria — vital in maintaining stomach environment equilibrium — and effectively prevents gum and tooth diseases.
Table of Contents
Brimming With Benefits
1. Packed With Vitamins and Minerals
Prevention is indeed better than cure. However, eating a well-balanced diet with adequate vitamins and minerals does the trick.
Cranberry juice is a good source of vitamin C, with an 8-ounce serving providing 39 percent of your daily intake. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that inactivates the free radicals from creating damage to the once healthy cells and DNA in the body.
In the long term, this reduces the risk of developing various diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and vascular conditions, among others. Vitamin C is also a prerequisite in collagen production; thus, it enhances healing after injuries. This vitamin also helps absorb iron from the diet and significantly boosts the immune system.
Aside from this, cranberry juice also contains small amounts of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, and B9 (or commonly known as folate) and vitamin K, and minerals like calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and copper. These minerals, which the body needs in small amounts, are essential in nerve transmission and support the maintenance of the powerhouse of our cells.
2. Cardiovascular Health
Attainment of a healthy cardiovascular system is one of the most studied benefits of cranberries.
As a particular component of cranberry juice, anthocyanins have been adequately studied. Anthocyanins lower a person's chances of having cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels — a fatal condition known as atherosclerosis. In addition, it impacts cardiovascular health because that would limit blood flow once there's too much cholesterol on the blood vessel's inner walls.
In one study in 2021, men who were overweight and had obesity were studied. The results showed that the daily intake of cranberry beverages for eight weeks afforded protection against several risk factors for heart disease. Another long-term study found that two glasses a day raises HDL or "good" cholesterol and lowers levels of high LDL or "bad" cholesterol.
Cranberry has been shown in some studies to have beneficial effects on the components of metabolic syndrome (MetS). Metabolic syndrome is a condition marked by a cluster of cardiovascular risk factors, including central obesity, hypertension, impaired glucose homeostasis, elevated triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol levels. This is attributed to cranberries being high in polyphenols, which may help to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
3. Prevention of Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are among the most common reasons for physician visits globally. Every year, they cause 8 million visits to the doctor's office and cost more than $1.6 billion to treat.
More women suffer from a UTI because of the urethra's nearness to the anus. Many women tend to wipe the genital area from back to front, which increases the risk of colonization by the bacteria called E.coli. On the other hand, men have a 1 out of 10 chance of acquiring a UTI. Although men's chances are pretty low in developing a UTI, they are not exempted from experiencing it.
The symptoms can range from frequent urination and pain during urination, to signs of pyelonephritis or kidney involvement. Fever, chills, and pain around the hips are some of the symptoms of pyelonephritis.
Ordinarily, E. coli is a typical inhabitant of the anal canal. But once the E.coli bacteria find their way into the urethra, they can cause UTI. Other risk factors are as follows: an abnormally shaped urinary tract, diabetes mellitus, hormone changes (for example, in pregnancy), multiple sclerosis, and blockages to urinary flow such as kidney stones, stroke, and spinal cord injury.
Antibiotics are the known treatment for UTI. But cranberry juice is frequently touted as a way to prevent urinary tract infections. The tannin in the red berry may help to prevent E. coli bacteria from adhering to the bladder's walls, where they can cause infection.
In many studies, a cranberry juice cocktail, the most common cranberry beverage, was used. This used a mixture of cranberry juice, water, and sweeteners. According to one study, cranberry metabolites in the fluid stopped E. coli from growing in laboratory Petri dishes. It also prevented E.coli from adhering to other bacteria, restricting its capacity to increase and prosper.
4. Stomach Equilibrium
The human microbiota plays the balance between the acidity and neutrality of the stomach. When there's an inevitable microorganism overgrowth, the equilibrium is disrupted within the cellular environment of the gastrointestinal tract.
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a bacteria that causes stomach ulcers, can be inhibited by A-type proanthocyanidins found in cranberry juice. H. Pylori bacteria disrupt the normal acid-base functions of the stomach. As a result, they cause the overproduction of stomach acids, which cause the sloughing off of the mucosa, producing ulcers.
Cranberry juice inhibits the bacteria H. pylori from developing and increasing in the stomach lining. According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Research in Pharmacy Practice. In addition, the antioxidant effects of cranberry can also provide anti-inflammatory properties, which are essential components in the prevention of colonic cancer.
According to sources, drinking cranberry juice every day for up to 90 days will help get rid of H. pylori in both adults and children.
5. Dental Health
In a news release, researcher Hyun (Michel) Koo, DDS, Ph.D., explains that "something in the cranberry juice disarms the bacteria that cause tooth decay."
Cranberries are beneficial to dental health in a variety of ways.
Plaque is formed in the mouth when bacteria bind together. Proanthocyanidins, a vitamin found in cranberries, prevent germs from adhering together. In 1683, the American immigrants didn't have mouthwash or toothpaste, but they did have bushels of a bacteria-fighting berry, which was equally as effective.
Our mouths are brimming with microorganisms that feed on the sugars we eat. When bacteria consume glucose, acids are produced, which cause tooth decay. Plaque is reduced by 95 percent when cranberry juice is consumed. It lowers the development of sugars in our mouth and makes it more difficult for acids to form, reducing tooth enamel damage.
6. Glowing Skin
Our superfruit possesses some real fruit power. Because of their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, cranberries hold some properties that affect the skin in a good way.
Cranberry juice also has remarkable antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, which help to prevent acne and pimples on the face. In addition, its high acid concentration promotes collagen formation, resulting in skin that is soft, bright, and shining.
Cranberry juice also contains anti-aging qualities and drinking it every day will help prevent wrinkles from appearing on the skin, making one's face and skin look younger.
7. Post Menopausal Health
Some researchers are also looking into the impact of cranberries on postmenopausal women. This includes reducing blood pressure and maintaining the vaginal microbiota, which prevents urinary tract infection, among others.
Precautions to the Intake of Cranberry Juice
All things in moderation are the best way to go. But, however helpful cranberry juice may be, there are potential risks to drinking too much of it. According to the University of Rochester, people should not consume more than 10 ounces of cranberry juice per day.
It is also advisable to choose the type of cranberry juice and how it is prepared. Sugar is added to some brands. Too much sugar in the diet can induce stomach distress, diarrhea, and blood sugar increases.
Cranberry juice is most likely safe for use in children. Ferrara et al investigated the effect of daily cranberry juice (50 mL) on symptomatic UTI recurrence. Girls aged 3-14 years drank the beverage daily. The study found that daily consumption of concentrated cranberry juice prevented recurring symptoms of UTI among children of this age range.
For pregnant women
Cranberry juice is healthy to drink for both mother and child during pregnancy, according to research. It is safe to drink during all three trimesters of pregnancy.
In a study, participants who drank at least 240 milliliters (a little more than 1 cup) of cranberry juice every day had a 57 percent drop in germs in their urine. Furthermore, others reported 41 percent fewer UTIs.
It is also essential to check the sugar content of cranberry juice during pregnancy due to the risk of gestational diabetes.
For those with diabetes
According to the US Department of Agriculture, drinking two glasses of cranberry juice each day can help prevent type 2 diabetes and heart disease. That's because cranberries contain polyphenols, which protect cells from harm and disease. But, again, always read the labels for the sugar content in cranberry juice, as these may cause spikes in sugar levels.
For those with kidney stones
Cranberry juice is not advisable for use in persons with kidney stones.
Three main urinary risk factors were dramatically and specifically affected when cranberry juice was consumed. First, citrate excretion increased while oxalate and phosphate excretion decreased. In addition, the relative supersaturation of calcium oxalate was reduced. These factors further increase the risk of kidney stones.
For those taking blood thinners
When used in excessive dosages, cranberry juice can affect the levels of warfarin, a blood thinner. Cranberry juice and certain medicines interact with flavonoids. This significant component of cranberries affects drug-metabolizing enzymes and inhibitors, according to a February 2012 review in Clinics.
People who use the blood-thinning medication warfarin (Coumadin) should not suddenly increase their cranberry intake.
In this part, we will tackle the dose for prevention of urinary tract infection that is recommended to be safe according to various researches. Cranberry pills, which are also available in the market, have been studied in some trials.
Capsules or pills with 120-800 mg of dried cranberry given once or twice daily have been used to prevent infections of the kidney, bladder, or urethra. Cranberry juice (120-300 mL) was also consumed 1-3 times a day, without any adverse effects.
50mL of cranberry and lingonberry concentrate given daily for 6 months has been used to prevent these infections. In addition, 5 mL/kg of cranberry juice can be administered daily for 6 months. Children aged 12 to 18 were given 120 mg of standardized cranberry extract (Anthocran) daily for 60 days.
Myths Now Debunked
Myth #1: Cranberries Treat UTIs
One of the most widely held misconceptions regarding cranberry juice is its use in the treatment of UTI. It is a well-known folk remedy to stop bacteria from invading the urinary system. However, there are very few studies that support this.
FACT IS: It's worth noting that the majority of the existing research focuses on utilizing cranberry products to prevent UTIs rather than to treat active infections. There is currently insufficient data to show that cranberry products can help reduce UTI signs. It is also not useful in hastening recovery from active UTIs.
More important measures to treat UTI still require the administration of antibiotics to efficiently kill the bacteria and some symptomatic management like pain relievers. To see if cranberry products like cranberry juice and cranberry pills can help treat active UTIs, more high-quality research is needed.
Myth #2: Only Women Can Benefit From Cranberries
FACT IS: Although women are at higher risk for UTI, men can benefit from the same inhibition of bacterial adherence in the urinary tract of men. Roughly 40-60% of women will have a urinary tract problem at some point in their lives. One in every four will have a recurring illness.
But these urinary tract problems can also affect men and children. Cranberries can boost urinary tract health for anyone who has had a problem in the past.
Myth #3: Diabetics Should Not Drink Cranberries
FACT IS: As previously stated, diabetics benefit from cranberries when taken in moderation. Its role as an anti-inflammatory can hasten the prevention of further damage in the target organs in Diabetes Mellitus.
Its role in cardiovascular health also impacts the secondary prevention of further complications in diabetes. Read the labels and choose fresh cranberries over dried cranberries or sweetened cranberry juice to get the health benefits without the additional sugar.
Begin to Prepare the Superfood
Cranberries are a well-known superfruit. They are known as superfoods for a reason: They have numerous health advantages.
Cranberries are also available as a sauce or juice. They can also be used in stuffing, casseroles, and desserts. Let's be honest and say that it would be a sour experience to eat a cup of raw cranberries. This is the reason why we normally eat cranberries dry, cooked into sauce, or pressed into juice, with a generous helping of sugar to balance out the tartness. In this section, we will focus more on cranberries as a juice drink.
WHAT TO CHOOSE
Cranberries and cranberry juice can now be found in most supermarkets. On the other hand, cranberry concentrate (a dietary supplement produced from dried cranberries) can be found in many health foods and specialty stores. Cranberry juice and cranberry concentrate both have health benefits and hazards, although cranberry juice is a richer source of nutrients.
BUYING AND STORAGE
This superfood is typically harvested in September and October; therefore, fall is the best time to buy them. They can be purchased dried, frozen, or canned. Fresh cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two months or frozen for later use.
Some cranberry products, however, may have added sugars. This is due to the fact that cranberries are fairly tart and may be difficult to eat without a sweetener. Again, it is critical to read the contents list and select the product with the least amount of added sugar. Examine the food or juice labels.
STOP, AND LOOK AT HEALTH FACTS
Fresh cranberries contain about 90% water, with the rest consisting primarily of carbohydrates and fiber. On the other hand, one cup of unsweetened cranberry juice contains:
- 116 calories
- 1 gram of protein
- 0 grams of fat
- 31 grams of carbohydrates
- 0 grams of fiber
- 31 grams of sugar
Studies recommend that 8–16 oz of cranberry juice cocktail every day helps to keep the urinary system healthy and prevent infections. According to MedlinePlus, a person should drink no more than 1 liter of cranberry juice every day. One liter of cranberry juice is roughly 34 ounces or a little more than 4 cups, which is more than double your daily fruit servings.
GO AHEAD AND PREPARE
There are various ways to prepare your healthy cranberry juice drink. We list here two ways of juice preparation: (1) Juice prepared through the stove; (2) Juice prepared through a blender.
THE STOVETOP TECHNIQUE
For the stove-top method, only a fine mesh sieve is needed.
The ingredients are simply: 8 cups fresh or frozen Cranberries, added to 8 cups of water and just 1 cup honey. The ratio of cranberries and water is 1:1. It is an option to use smaller portions depending on your consumption.
- In a large saucepan, combine the cranberries and water. Bring to a boil, stirring every now and then.
- Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes. By this time, all of the berries should have burst open and become mushy.
- Pour the berries into a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl. Remove the berries and toss them out.
- Combine the honey and the boiling juice in a mixing dish. Stir until the honey is completely dissolved.
- Allow an hour for the juice to cool down. Fill a 12-gallon container halfway with the reserved juice and keep it in the refrigerator.
THE BLENDER METHOD
For this method, a high-powered blender is needed. A fine-mesh sieve, which does the job best in catching all the pulp, is also a requirement, or a cheesecloth, which is preferred by most.
- In a blender, combine the cranberries and water and whirl on high for 2 minutes.
- Check to see if any solid cranberry chunks remain, and if so, blend until they are completely gone.
- Using a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth, strain the mixture.
- If desired, add lemon or orange juice and a sweetener. I love mine unsweetened, but some people may find it too sour.
If you have a high-powered blender and don't mind the pulp in your juice, skip the straining step and enjoy all of the cranberry's advantages!
The juice will last a few days in the refrigerator. For others, they mix half of this mixture with half of the ginger ale.
While for others, cranberries can be packed into your favorite drink! Here are some ways:
Smooth and easy to prepare. This requires only a blender.
Mix the following and we are good to go:
- 1 cup low sugar cranberry juice
- 2 tablespoons yoghurt of choice
- ½ cup frozen mixed berries
Slush Cranberry with Lime
A perfect brain breeze for the summer but still packed with all benefits.
Freeze in an airtight container for several hours until solid, then scrape with a fork and serve in a tall glass the following:
- 1 cup low sugar cranberry juice
- ½ cup water
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime
The Tropical Coconut and Ultimate Cranberry Combo
Not your ordinary juice. Combine the following ingredients and stir:
- 1 cup coconut water
- ½ cup low sugar cranberry juice
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime
This duo is an awesome combination, too. Squeeze in 1-2 oranges in a glass of low sugar cranberry juice and mix well.
- 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- ½ cup low sugar cranberry juice
Iced Cranberry Green Tea
Make a cup of your favorite green tea and chill it in the fridge. Stir it together in a glass with low-sugar cranberry juice and freshly squeezed lemon!
- 1 cup cooled green tea
- ½ cup low sugar cranberry juice
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon
Cranberry and Mint Drink
Chop the mint leaves, pour the ingredients into a glass, stir, and garnish with additional mint leaves.
- 1 cup low sugar cranberry juice
- ½ cup soda water
- Several mint leaves
Drawbacks of Cranberry Juice
A glass of cranberry juice a day could be beneficial — or at the very least, it won't harm you. Drinking multiple glasses every day, on the other hand, can be hazardous.
All juices include calories, and consuming too many calories in one's diet might lead to weight gain. A glass of cranberry juice has 116 calories in it. That's hardly a lot of calories – only around 6% of what a moderately active adult woman needs in a day. When you multiply that by three, four, or more, the calories start to mount up.
Also, liquid calories have the disadvantage of not filling you up as much as calories from food; that's why we tend to consume more. Pilling up all the calories can contribute to weight gain instead of deriving more of the benefits of cranberry juice.
Aside from this, sugar provides almost all the calories in cranberry juice, which has 30 grams per 8-ounce drink. Even though the sugar in cranberry juice is natural, it nevertheless has the same effect on your blood sugar as added sweets.
Fruit juices contain simple sugars that are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in a burst of energy followed by an energy trough. This type of blood sugar surge and fall is a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes.
The lack of dietary fiber also is an issue. The "bulk" that is needed by the body is not provided by cranberry juice; thus, it may pose a problem.
The superfood in cranberries, we see, is more than what meets the eye. Small as it is, cranberries are packed with numerous vitamins and minerals. Cranberry juices are important in heart health and overall prevention of metabolic syndrome, as well as in urinary and gastrointestinal health.
Both major and minor organs benefit from cranberry juice in the short term but also in terms of long-term protection. In addition, dental, skin, and postmenopausal health are also improved with the intake of cranberry juice.
Of course, intake must be in moderation and the consequences of overconsumption must be considered.
Cranberry juices can be made through simple and easy-to-follow instructions. They are less costly but bursting with nutrition.
Interestingly, the Pequot Indians of Cape Cod gave this berry the name "ibimi," which meant "bitter berry." They are, indeed, bitter. But they, too, are bursting with 'berry' many benefits.