PayPal Logo

The Great and Powerful Cranberry

Recently, as I was enjoying my homemade low sugar cranberry sauce I began to ask myself “Why do I only eat cranberries around the holiday?” I tend to love the tartness of this fruit. And like other tart fruits such as blackberries and green apples they are some of the best fruits for low carb diets and diabetics. I tend to stay away from higher sugar fruits such as bananas, raisins, red apples and even citrus.
Cranberries offer such wide range of health benefits that we should start eating them more often. Maybe you do and I am just speaking for myself. Some of you may know that cranberry is helpful for the health of your urinary tract, and they are, but do you how many other benefits there are? Here are just some of the wonderful benefits of cranberry.

The cranberry is perhaps best known for its role in preventing Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs), especially for those with recurrent infections. Once thought this was due to cranberry’s acidity it is now known that it is the high level of proanthocyanidins (PACs) in cranberries that helps have this effect. The PACs in cranberry have a special structure (called A-type linkages) that makes it more difficult for certain types of bacteria to latch on to our urinary tract linings. Included in these types of bacteria are pathogenic (infection-causing) strains of E. coli—one of the most common microorganisms involved in UTIs. By making it more difficult for unwanted bacteria like E. coli to cling onto the urinary tract linings, cranberry's PACs help prevent the expansion of bacterial populations that can result in outright infection.

Cranberries can help support your cardiovascular health. Cranberries contain flavonoids and polyphenolics, natural compounds that offer a wide range of potential heart health benefits. Flavonoids and polyphenolic compounds in cranberry have demonstrated ability to inhibit low density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation (which is good) and favorably affect platelet function. Ongoing research suggests that cranberries may offer a natural defense against atherosclerosis. Dietary intake of cranberries and cranberry juice (no sugar added) has been shown to prevent the triggering of two enzymes that are pivotal in the atherosclerosis process (inducible nitric oxide synthase, or iNOS, and cyclo-oxygenase 2, or COX-2). In both cases, cranberry has also been shown to prevent activation of these enzymes by blocking activity of a pro-inflammatory cytokine-messaging molecule called tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha). These anti-inflammatory benefits of cranberry appear to be critical components in the cardiovascular protection offered by this amazing fruit.

Every category of phytonutrient known to be provided by cranberry is also known to play a role in digestive tract support. In studies, Cranberry juice inhibited the adhesion of H. pylori to human gastric mucosa, and regular consumption of cranberry juice can suppress H. pylori infection, a major factor in peptic ulcer disease. Cranberry’s flavonoids, anthocyanins and triterpenoids, provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits that decrease our risk of colon cancer, and also our risk of periodontal disease. It has also been shown to prevent plaque formation and the development of gum disease due to its anticolonizing and antiadhesion properties. Recent research has also shown that cranberry may be able to help modulate the balance of bacteria in our digestive tract without negatively affecting our beneficial bacteria.

What researchers are finding is that the phytochemicals found in cranberry and cranberry extract work both separately and together to battle cancer in a number of ways. The identified active phytochemicals include proanthocyanidin oligomers, flavonol and anthocyanin glycosides and triterpenoids like ursolic acid.
Each of these compounds has been found to inhibit cancer cell growth or in some cases, cause cancer cell death, either individually or in combination with one another. It's important to point out that the anti-cancer properties in cranberry is not sufficient to establish cranberry as a food to be used in the treatment of cancer. However, it is a list that appears consistent with other studies of cranberry and cancer showing dietary intake of this food to help prevent cancer occurrence. These cancer-preventive benefits of cranberry are especially likely in the case of breast, colon, lung, and prostate cancer.
With all of these wonderful benefits of cranberry I’m going to start trying to incorporate them into my diet much more often than just during the holiday season. I hope you will too. Enjoy!

Brenda Valen, BS, CNC, CNHP
Gulf Coast Nutrition