The cranberry is a small, red fruit that is often passed over in favor of the blueberry. However, the cranberry has several health benefits and is most commonly available as a juice. If your juice of choice with your breakfast is orange, stop and consider for a moment the benefits of cranberry too – and perhaps swap out your regular juice once in a while! Here’s a closer look at cranberry and the health benefits it offers.
Botanical Description of Cranberry
The cranberry (Vaccinium spp.) is of the Ericaceae plant family. It is related to both the bilberry and the blueberry and is similar in size. However, the cranberry is a deep red fruit on maturity (it starts off as white and then turns red). The cranberry bush is a low vine or shrub that creeps along the ground. It has dark pink flowers and small, evergreen leaves. Cranberries are a popular commercial crop in parts of the United States and Canada.
Ingredients in Cranberry Juice
Some of the ingredients of cranberry juice are vitamin C, vitamin A, beta-carotene, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium and fiber. Vitamin C is a powerful anti-oxidant and helps to protect the immune system. Vitamin A and beta-carotene are powerful free radical scavengers that destroy carcinogens and protect the body from heart disease and stroke. Calcium helps to form strong bones and teeth and also helps to protect against heart disease. Potassium helps to promote a health nervous system.
(source on vitamin and mineral functions: Prescription for Nutritional Healing, James F. Balch, Phyllis A. Balch)
Cranberries have several health benefits; here’s what cranberries can do for you:
- help with urinary tract infections – drinking one glass of unsweetened cranberry juice can help with the prevention of urinary tract infections such as cystitis and pyelonephritis (infection of the kidneys). The main cause of urinary tract infections is Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria and cranberry juice helps to rid the body of such bacteria.
- help prevent cardiovascular disease – research studies have shown that drinking 3 glasses of cranberry juice in a day raises the levels of “good cholesterol” in the blood and increases the levels of plasma antioxidants which overall reduces the risk of heart disease (source: ScienceDaily).
- help prevent tooth decay – a glass of unsweetened cranberry juice can help reduce the build up of dental plaque as the chemical ingredients found in cranberry juice inhibit the growth of mouth bacteria.
- help prevents kidney stones – cranberry juice is effective in clearing the body of toxins and wastes, thus leading to the prevention of kidney stones (although this has yet to be conclusively proved scientifically).
- help fight colds and flu – cranberry juice is rich in vitamin C which helps build up the immune system against diseases such as colds and flu.
(source: Cranberryjuice.com except where otherwise accredited)
The Healthy Alternative
There are a wide variety of different types of cranberry juice available from stores. Check and make sure that you purchase unsweetened (from sugar) cranberry juice to benefit from the full potential benefits. In addition, watch out for any additional ingredients that might have been added to the cranberry juice.
You might want to make your own cranberry juice from fresh cranberries, water and sugar; check the internet and natural health books for recipes that are easy to make at home.
Cranberry juice is a healthy alternative to processed fruit juices that you often find on the store shelf and it is full of potential valuable health benefits. Cranberries are sometimes referred to as a “superfruit” and it is easy to see why! Next time you are in the store, give a little bit of consideration to the small, red fruit on the store shelf.
Photo by Half Chinese