This berry is a favorite part of Thanksgiving celebrations, is used as a juice that’s in the aisles of all grocery stores and has been used as a diuretic for centuries. Can you guess what berry this is? It’s the cranberry.
Even though you’ve heard of how cranberries can help in preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs) it can do a lot more for your health than just that.
Botanical Name and Family of Cranberry
The botanical name for cranberry is Vaccinium macrocarpon. It belongs to the Ericaceae or Heath’s family and is referred to as Bearberry and Bitter Berry.
What Is a Cranberry?
A cranberry is the deep red, ripe fruit that grows on a vine with slender stems. These berries are an important commercial crop in Canada and North America. The berries have a sweet and acidic taste and are majorly processed into sauces, jams and juices.
Think of the cranberry as the blueberry’s older sister — both berries belong to the Ericaceae family of plants. If you compared the phytonutrient richness of these two berries, you would find that they are pretty similar, but it’s safe to say that cranberries are special in their own way.
As a derivative of North America, cranberries have been enjoyed by many native tribes throughout what is now the U.S. and Canada. In fact, no country comes close to producing the number of cranberries as the U.S., with the possible exception of Canada.
In 2014, about 840 million pounds of cranberries were produced in the U.S., and about 388 million pounds were produced in Canada.
Active Ingredients of Cranberries
Cranberries contain vitamin C and fiber and are only 45 calories per cup. When it comes to antioxidants, cranberries outrank nearly every fruit and vegetable including spinach, strawberries and raspberries.
Just one cup of whole cranberries has 8,893 antioxidant capacity. The only fruit that tops cranberries are blueberries, which have an antioxidant capacity of 9,019.
Cranberries are a good source of polyphenols and contain the following nutrients:
- dietary fiber
- vitamin C
Health benefits of Cranberries
Native American tribes used cranberries to treat the following ailments:
- urinary tract infections
- neurogenic bladder disease
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- dental health
- deodorize urine for those suffering from urinary incontinence
Researchers have found that cranberries are more useful in preventing UTIs than in treating them. Studies have also shown that the antioxidants in cranberries may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Different Ways to Use Cranberries
Extracts and juice from cranberries are used. Cranberries can be used to make tinctures and supplements. You can also use cranberries in a variety of ways than just drinking it as a juice. It’s used especially for culinary purposes because of the sweet and tart flavor it can add to a meal.
Side Effects of Cranberries
Although cranberries propose a variety of benefits, consumption of a high amount can lead to stomach upset and diarrhea and can increase the risk of developing kidney stones due to the oxalates present. Cranberries are also a rich source of salicylic acid, which resembles aspirin; therefore, persons who are allergic to aspirin must avoid this fruit.
If you are considering adding cranberries to your regular diet, make sure you speak to your primary care physician to prevent any adverse effects.
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McKay DL, Blumberg JB. Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) and cardiovascular disease risk factors. Nutr Rev. 2007 Nov;65(11):490-502. Review. PubMed PMID:18038941.
Pérez-López FR, Haya J, Chedraui P. Vaccinium macrocarpon: An interesting option for women with recurrent urinary tract infections and other health benefits. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2009 Aug;35(4):630-9. doi:10.1111/j.1447-0756.2009.01026.x. Review. PubMed PMID: 19751320.