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Cranberry – A Superfood with Wide-Ranging Health Benefits

Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) are more than just good for you; these tart red berries are a real superfood with wide-ranging health benefits. Cranberries have been shown, for example, to improve oral health, fight urinary infections, exert anti-cancer effects, and boost the immune system.

Cranberries: Superfood with Many Health Benefits

To reap cranberries' beneficial effects on health, use fresh cranberries in baked goods and stuffings, or snack on a handful of dried cranberries when you want to give yourself a little health kick. The benefits of cranberry juice are similar to those of fresh and dried cranberries, so drinking a glass of unsweetened cranberry juice is also an option.

Cranberries Help Prevent Urinary Tract Infections

Cranberries are considered one of the best foods for preventing UTIs. The proanthocyanidins in cranberries are believed to prevent urinary tract infections (UTI's) by inhibiting the adhesion of Escherichia coli, the main UTI-causing bacterium, to the urinary tract wall. However, cranberry extracts do not seem to be capable of removing E. coli bacteria that have already adhered to the lining of the urinary tract wall, and therefore, cranberries may provide little relief for those who have already developed a UTI.

Immune-Boosting Properties

Here's yet another reason to eat fresh or dried cranberries on a regular basis, especially during the flu season: a study published in the April 2005 issue of the journal Antiviral Research reported that not only did cranberry compounds inhibit the adhesion of the influenza virus to the cells, they also made the virus less infectious. Another study, published in Nutrition Journal in 2013, found that consumption of cranberry beverage enhanced the proliferation of gamma delta T cells which play a critical role in maintaining a strong and healthy immune system. Furthermore, the study participants in the cranberry group reported significantly fewer cold and influenza symptoms than those in the placebo group.

Cranberries May Be Good for Oral Health, Too

Several studies have demonstrated that cranberries contain substances that may help reduce certain oral diseases such as caries and periodontitis. A 2008 study published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition concluded that specific compounds in cranberries may help fight caries through several mechanisms, including by inhibiting acid production, attachment, and biofilm formation by Streptococcus mutans, a bacterium known to causes cavities and tooth decay.

A Superfood with Anti-Bacterial Effects Against H. Pylori

Both test tube experiments and clinical trials suggest that cranberries have properties that may make this powerful superfood effective at killing Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that can cause gastritis and peptic ulcers, and even stomach cancer. For more on cranberries' H. pylori fighting properties, check out our in-depth article Cranberries Kill H. Pylori, Research Shows.

Anti-Cancer Effects Proven in Test Tube Studies

Cranberries, like many other berries, contain natural substances that may make them effective at preventing certain types of cancer, when eaten as part of an overall healthy cancer prevention diet. A study published in the December 2006 edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry evaluated the cancer-fighting properties of extracts from six commonly eaten superberries and found that all the tested berries, including cranberries, inhibited the growth of human prostate, breast, colon, and oral tumor cell lines in test tubes.

1. Howell, A. B. et al (2005). A-type cranberry proanthocyanidins and uropathogenic bacterial anti-adhesion activity. Phytochemistry, 66, 2281-2291.
2. Schmidt DR, Sobota AE. An examination of the anti-adherence activity of cranberry juice on urinary and nonurinary bacterial isolates. Microbios 1988, 55:173-81.
3. Lowe F. C. and Fagelman E. (2005). Cranberry juice and urinary tract infections: what is the evidence? Urology 2001;57:407-13.
4. Weiss EI et al (2005). Cranberry juice constituents affect influenza virus adhesion and infectivity. Antiviral Research, 66(1), 9-12.
5. Meri P Nantz et al (2013). Consumption of cranberry polyphenols enhances human ΓΔ-T cell proliferation and reduces the number of symptoms associated with colds and influenza: a randomized, placebo-controlled intervention study. Nutrition Journal, 12:161.
6. C. Bodet et al (2008). Potential Oral Health Benefits of Cranberry. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, Volume 48, Issue 7, 2008.
7. Seeram N. P. et al (2006). Blackberry, black raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, red raspberry, and strawberry extracts inhibit growth and stimulate apoptosis of human cancer cells in vitro. J Agric Food Chem. 13, 54(25), 9329-39.

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