Cranberry juice and cranberry extract are often promoted as being cure-alls for women’s health. There is a lot of evidence to show that cranberries are indeed packed full of beneficial nutrients and that if they are used as a part of a generally healthy diet, they can be quite good for you.
They are particularly beneficial for women, because of their ability to help fight off urinary tract infections (UTIs). Let’s take a quick look at some of the biggest potential benefits of cranberry.
Fights Urinary Tract Infections
Women are more likely to suffer from UTIs than men, although both genders can get such infections.1 The reason for this is that the urethra is shorter, which means that bacteria have to travel a shorter distance to reach the bladder.
Studies show that women who drink cranberry juice are less likely to suffer from UTIs than women who do not drink it; however, the benefit is minimal, and cranberry juice merely prevents infection, rather than actually cures it once it has struck.2
It is thought that one of the antioxidants in cranberry juice, proanthocyanidin, can help prevent some types of bacteria from adhering to the wall of the urethra, thereby stopping the infection from occurring.
Maintains Heart Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men, and it is a major killer for women too, accounting for almost one-third of all female deaths.3 Again, cranberry juice can be beneficial here because it is rich in vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant
Cranberry juice can be particularly beneficial for women who are going through menopause. One relatively recent study found that cranberry juice had a protective effect on the heart health of rats that had been given an ovariectomy. It is thought that this is because the juice can help to reduce overall cholesterol.4
Boosts Digestive Health
Digestive health is something that is important for both genders. The digestive benefits of cranberries are documented in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.5 One of the most interesting benefits is that they have been shown to inhibit the production of H. pylori, which is a bacterium that is associated with stomach ulcers.
As well as helping prevent stomach infections, it is thought that cranberries can fight certain viruses, including the norovirus which is a particularly vicious and unpleasant foodborne infection that can cause nausea and vomiting.6 Cranberries can also inhibit the growth of other bacteria, including listeria and salmonella, which are also common causes of food poisoning.7
Promotes Dental Health
The proanthocyanidins that are found in cranberries can help stop bacteria from binding to your teeth—in much the same way that they can help with UTIs. This means that they can help reduce your risk of gum disease and tooth decay.8
If you’re going to use cranberries to protect your dental health, then make sure that you are using fresh cranberries or fresh juice. Processed juices and the kind of cranberry sauce that you see served at festive meals will often have a lot of sugar added to them, and this will undo any of the likely benefits of consuming cranberries as a form of dental protective.
There are only a few studies into the benefits of cranberries for oral health at this time, but dentists do agree that more research is warranted. For now, it’s a good idea to add cranberries to a dental care routine that includes brushing, flossing, and avoiding excessive sweets.
Is Cranberry Juice Safe to Use?
For most people, cranberry juice is safe, and the benefits outweigh any likely downsides. It is not a good idea to give babies or very young children juice because of the sugar content. People who suffer from diabetes should also be careful when drinking juices. Look for cranberry juice that is fresh, rather than from concentrate, and that does not have any sugar added.
One good option instead of drinking cranberry juice is to make smoothies using fresh cranberries, along with other ingredients. The extra fiber content will slow the release of the sugars, which can be useful for people with diabetes. It will also make for a more filling smoothie, which can help if you are trying to stick to a calorie-controlled diet.
By themselves, cranberries are quite tart, so if you are making a smoothie, you might want to add an orange or something else that is fairly sweet to make the smoothie taste better.
People who are taking blood thinners should talk to their doctor before they start consuming large servings of cranberries because the Vitamin K content in them could interfere with the blood thinners.
Overall, cranberries are full of nutrients that can make a positive impact on overall health. Try incorporating them into your daily routine with one of the uses listed above to reap their benefits.
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