By Shauna Roberts
If you think of cranberries as strictly Thanksgiving fare, you may be missing out on some unique health benefits. According to Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD at Tuft’s HRCA Antioxidants Research Laboratory, “The profile of cranberries’ biologically active constituents is distinct from that of other berry fruit.”
“Daily consumption of a variety of fruit and other foods is necessary to achieve a healthy dietary pattern, meet recommendations for micronutrient intake, and promote the intake of a diversity of phytochemicals,” the review notes. Berry fruits can play an important role in that mix of dietary fruits. Cranberries, due to having compounds called polyphenols are a good addition.
Of the fruits polyphenol compounds they have high levels of anthocyanins, which contribute to their bright red color. Cranberries are especially tart and astringent. A way to sweeten them up is to include another sweeter fruit but we also don’t know exactly how something may taste to a parrot and many wild species have been seen eating very tart fruits in the wild.
Canberries are probably best known for their benefits against urinary tract infections (UTIs) in humans.
Several studies and two meta-analyses have supported the effectiveness of this long-standing folk remedy. It’s speculated that cranberry compounds might interfere with how bacteria adhere to the urinary tract, Blumberg says, and perhaps also by modifying the gut microbiota to contain fewer that cause UTIs, though this has yet to be tested in a clinical trial. But other studies have failed to find a link between cranberry intake and reduced UTI recurrence.
This is a reminder of the complexity of studies in relation between cranberry consumption and health results. This research may be affected by the wide variation of those with infections, age, health, gender, activity etc. There can also be poor compliance such as high dropout rates of those participating in studies.
Cranberries may also have possible health benefits for cardiovascular health. Here are some mentioned by Blumberg:
– Reducing bad LDL cholesterol and increasing good HDL cholesterol
– Combating oxidative stress, which contributes to atherosclerosis
– Decreasing inflammation and concentrations of inflammatory compounds
– Improving the function of the lining of blood vessels and increasing levels of nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels
– Reducing arterial stiffness.
Even thought cranberries my be great it’s important not to forget other berries, fruits, vegetables, not concentrating on only one food but including it some days as “part” of the dietary balance providing each day.
Cranberries for preventing urinary tract infections
http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf020728u Oxygen Radical Absorbing Capacity of Phenolics in Blueberries, Cranberries, Chokeberries, and Lingonberries
Evidences of the cardioprotective potential of fruits: The case of cranberries