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Cranberries

A cousin of the blueberry, this very tart, bright red berry can still be found
growing wild as a shrub, but when cultivated, is grown on low trailing vines in
great sandy bogs. The American cranberry, the variety most cultivated in the
northern United States and southern Canada, produces a larger berry than the wild cranberry or
the European variety.
Cranberries have long been valued for their ability to help prevent and treat urinary tract
infections. Now, recent studies suggest that this native American berry may also promote
gastrointestinal and oral health, prevent the formation of kidney stones, lower LDL and raise
HDL (good) cholesterol, aid in recovery from stroke, and even help prevent cancer.
Fresh cranberries, which contain the highest levels of beneficial nutrients, are at their peak from
October through December, just in time to add their festive hue, tart tangy flavor and numerous
health protective effects to your holiday meals. When cranberries' short fresh season is past, rely
on cranberry juice and dried or frozen cranberries to help make every day throughout the year a
holiday from disease.


This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Cranberries provides for each of the
nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating
System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Cranberries can
be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional
Profile for Cranberries, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food
Rating System Chart.
Health Benefits
Description
History
How to Select and Store
How to Enjoy
Individual Concerns
Nutritional Profile
References
Health Benefits
Protection against Urinary Tract Infection
Cranberries have been valued for their ability to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections for
hundreds of years. In 1994, a placebo-controlled study of 153 elderly women was published in
the Journal of the American Medical Association that gave scientific credibility to claims of
cranberries effectiveness in preventing urinary tract infection. In this study, the women given
cranberry juice had less than half the number of urinary infections as the control group (only
42% as many, to be precise), who received a placebo imitation "cranberry" drink. The daily dose
of cranberry juice in this initial study was just 300 milliliters (about one and one-quarter cups).
Since then, a number of other studies have also confirmed anecdotal tales of cranberry's ability
to both treat and prevent urinary tract infections. In most of these later studies, subjects drank
about 16 ounces (2 cups) of cranberry juice daily.
How does cranberry juice help prevent urinary tract infections? It acidifies the urine, contains an
antibacterial agent called hippuric acid, and also contains other compounds that reduce the
ability of E. coli bacteria to adhere to the walls of the urinary tract. Before an infection can start,
a pathogen must first latch on to and then penetrate the mucosal surface of the urinary tract
walls, but cranberries prevent such adherence, so the E. coli is washed away in the urine and
voided. Since E. coli is pathogen responsible for 80-90% of urinary tract infections, the
protection afforded by cranberries is quite significant.
Studies attempting to explain cranberries' protective effects on urinary tract health were
presented at the Experimental Biology Conference held in 2002. Amy Howell, research scientist
at the Marucci Center for Blueberry Cranberry Research at Rutgers University and Jess Reed,
professor of nutrition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, compared the proanthycyanins
(active compounds) in cranberries to those found in grapes, apples, green tea and chocolate.
They discovered that "the cranberry's proanthocyanidins are structurally different than the
proanthocyanidins found in the other plant foods tested, which may explain why cranberry has
unique bacterial anti-adhesion activity and helps to maintain urinary tract health."
8-Ounces Better than 4 to Prevent Bladder Infections
Cranberry's protective effects against bladder infections may be dose responsive, with 8-ounces
of cranberry juice being twice as effective as 4-ounces, suggests preliminary research presented
at the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America by Kalpana Gupta
from the University of Washington.
Gupta reported the details of a very small trial in which three volunteers were given 27%
cranberry juice cocktail. Urine samples, collected before and 4-6 hours after drinking the
cranberry juice, were combined with human bladder cells and incubated with Escherichia coli
(the most common cause of bladder infections). The number of bacteria able to adhere to the
bladder cells (the first step a pathogen must achieve to be able to cause infection) was
significantly reduced in the urine of all women who drank the cranberry juice cocktail, and the
effect was doubled when the women drank eight ounces of cranberry rather than four ounces.
Cranberry's protective effect is thought to be due to a specific type of tannin, found only in
cranberries and blueberries, which interferes with projections on the bacterium, preventing it
from sticking to the walls of the bladder and causing infection. However, once the bacteria have
established a hold, it's best to seek medical advice. No evidence shows cranberry juice is able to
cure an established bladder infection, which can lead to a more serious kidney infection. The
researchers plan further studies in a larger group of women to investigate the optimal amount
and frequency of cranberry juice consumption.
Cranberry Juice Shows Promise as Alternative to Antibiotics
New research has greatly increased our understanding of how cranberry juice prevents urinary
tract and kidney infections.
A series of studies led by Terri Camesano from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the latest of
which were presented September 19, 2006 at the annual meeting of the American Chemical
Society in San Francisco, show that compounds in cranberry juice have the capacity to actually
change E. coli bacteria-even strains that have become resistant to conventional treatment-in
ways that render them unable to initiate an infection. E. coli, a class of microorganisms
responsible for a wide variety of human illnesses ranging from urinary tract and kidney
infections to gastroenteritis to tooth decay, are changed in several ways by a group of tannins
(called proanthocyanidins) found primarily in cranberries. Each one of these changes can
prevent the bacteria from adhering to cells in the body, a necessary first step in any infection.
Cranberry proanthocyanidins:
Alter E. coli's cell membranes
Prevent the bacteria from making contact with cells or attaching to them
even if they somehow manage to get close enough
Change the shape of E.coli from rods to spheres
Disrupt bacterial communication
Alter E. coli Cell Membranes
In research published February 2006 in Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Camesano showed
that exposure to cranberry juice causes tiny tendrils (known as fimbriae) on the surface of the
type of E. coli bacteria responsible for the most serious types of urinary tract infections to
become compressed. Since its fimbriae are what allow the bacteria to bind tightly to the lining of
the urinary tract, compressing them greatly reduces E. coli's ability to remain in place long
enough to launch an infection.
Prevent E. coli from Making Contact
In research published in August 2006 in Colloids and Surfaces, B. Biointerfaces Camesano
found that chemical changes caused by cranberry juice also create an energy barrier that prevents
the bacteria from getting close enough to the urinary tract lining to try to adhere in the first
place.
Change E. coli's Shape and Activity
Camesano's latest work reveals that cranberry juice can transform E. coli in even more radical
ways, which have never before been observed. When the bacteria were grown in solutions
containing various concentrations of either cranberry juice or cranberry tannins, E. coli, which is
normally a gram-negative rod-shaped bacterium, became spherical and started behaving like
gram-positive bacteria. Since gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria differ primarily in the
structure of their cell membranes, these results suggest that cranberry tannins actually alter E.
coli's membrane.
The research Camesano presented at the ACS meeting also included yet another, more
preliminary finding: when exposed to cranberry juice, E. coli appear to lose their ability to
secrete indole, a molecule involved in a form of bacterial communication called quorum sensing,
which is used by E. coli to determine when sufficient bacteria are present at a location to stage a
successful infection attack.
"We are beginning to get a picture of cranberry juice and, in particular, the tannins found in
cranberries, as potentially potent antibacterial agents," Camesano said. "These results are
surprising and intriguing, particularly given the increasing concern about the growing resistance
of certain disease-causing bacteria to antibiotics." For most of these effects, the higher the
concentration of either cranberry juice or tannins, the greater their impact on E. coli, suggesting
that whole cranberry products and juice that has not been highly diluted may have the greatest
health effects.
Cranberries' Potent Anti-Viral Activity
Long recognized as an effective treatment for urinary tract infections, cranberry juice's benefits
have now been shown to also extend to protection against viruses.
When researchers exposed three diverse viral species (the bacteriophages T2 and T4 of E. coli C
and B, respectively, and the simian enteric virus, rotavirus SA-11) to commercially available
cranberry juice (Ocean Spray), all were completely neutralized.
Cranberry juice's anti-viral action was rapid, dose-dependent (a 20% juice suspension was
needed to stop simian rotovirus from binding to the surface of cells) and unaffected by
temperature (T4 was completely inactivated at four or 23 degrees Celsius, which is unusual since
lower temperature is typically associated with lesser viral "kill"). While not nearly as potent as
cranberry juice, orange and grapefruit juices reduced the viral infectivity of T2 and T4 to 25-
35% of the control, respectively. Phytomedicine. 2007 Jan;14(1):23-30.
Cranberries Combat Herpes Virus
Laboratory studies published in the October 2004 issue of the Journal of Science, Food and
Agriculture have shown that a phytonutrient isolated from cranberries is effective against the
herpes simplex virus (HSV-2), the cause of genital herpes. In a manner similar to the way the
tannins in cranberries protect against bladder infection by preventing bacteria from adhering to
the bladder wall, cranberries' antiviral compound, proanthocyanidin A-1, inhibits the attachment
and penetration of the herpes virus.While this is promising, we look forward to studies involving
human subject to confirm these findings.
A Pro-biotic Berry for Gastrointestinal and Oral Health?
Not only kidney infections, but the majority of infectious diseases are initiated by the adhesion
of pathogenic organisms to the tissues of the host. Cranberries ability to block this adhesion has
been demonstrated not only against E. coli, the bacterium most commonly responsible for
urinary tract infection, but also for a number of other common pathogens.
Delegates at the 2002 American Chemical Society meeting and Experimental Biology
Conference were also informed about cranberries' ability to act as a natural probiotic, supporting
the health-promoting bacteria that grow in the human gastro-intestinal tract while killing off the
bacteria that promote infections and foodborne illnesses.
One study presented by Leslie Plhak from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that
whole frozen cranberries contained compounds able to inhibit the growth of common foodborne
pathogens including Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli 0157:H7, but enhanced the growth of
the beneficial bacterium Lactobacillus fermentum by as much as 25 times.
Another test tube study published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition indicated
that a constituent in cranberry juice prevents the bacterium responsible for most gastric ulcers,
Helicobacter pylori, from adhering to gastric epithelial cells (the cells that form the lining of the
stomach).
Also published in this same journal was a study noting that compounds isolated from cranberry
juice actually dissolved the aggregates formed by many oral bacteria and was effective in
decreasing the salivary level of Streptococus mutans, the major cause of tooth decay. Among the
other fruits tested, none had a similar effect except blueberries, whose protective action was
much weaker that that of cranberries.
Further lab studies, published in Caries Research support cranberries' ability to inhibit prevent
cavities.
Dr Hyun Hoo, an oral biologist at the University of Rochester Medial Center in New York,
studied the effects of cranberry juice on the processes involved in the development of biofilms
by S. mutans.
Results showed that the cranberry juice interfered with S. mutans' ability to stick to the surface
of the "tooth," thus preventing the development of cavities in a way similar to cranberry's action
in preventing urinary tract infections, in which cranberry juice inhibits the adhesion of pathogens
in the urinary tract. One warning here: don't consume large quantities of sugar-laden cranberry
juice or cranberry sauce to protect your teeth; the sugar in these products is likely to cause not
prevent decay. Choose unsweetened organic cranberry juice.
Boosts Effectiveness of Drugs against H. Pylori
Drinking cranberry juice significantly boosts eradication of Helicobacter pylori (the bacterium
responsible for ulcers and many digestive complaints) in women receiving triple therapy with
the antibiotics omeprazole, amoxicillin and clarithromycin (OAC), the gold standard drug
treatment for this hard-to-eliminate pathogen. 889 patients on OAC were randomized to 1 of 3
groups. Group 1 received OAC + 250 mL (8.5 ounces) of cranberry juice for 1 week, followed
by cranberry juice alone for 2 more weeks. Group 2 followed the same regimen but received a
placebo-cranberry beverage, and Group 3 only took OAC. While the addition of cranberry juice
did not appear to improve H. pylori eradication in men, among the women, cranberry juice
raised the rate of H. pylori elimination from 82.5% to 95.2%. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007
Jun;51(6):746-51.
Prevention of Kidney Stone Formation
Cranberries contain quinic acid, an acidic compound that is unusual in that it is not broken down
in the body but is excreted unchanged in the urine. The presence of quinic acid causes the urine
to become just slightly acidic-a level of acidity that is, however, sufficient to prevent calcium
and phosphate ions from joining to form insoluble stones. In patients who have had recurrent
kidney stones, cranberry juice has been shown to reduce the amount of ionized calcium in their
urine by more than 50%-a highly protective effect since in the U.S., 75-85% of kidney stones are
composed of calcium salts.
In one recent study evaluating the effect of cranberry juice on kidney stone formation, study
subjects were divided into two groups, one of which drank 2 cups of cranberry juice diluted with
6 cups water each day for 2 weeks, while the other group drank tap water for the same period.
After a 2 week period in which neither group drank any cranberry juice, the groups were
switched, so that those who had drunk cranberry juice drank only tap water, while those who had
drunk tap water consumed 2 cups cranberry juice diluted with 6 cups tap water daily for an
additional 2 weeks. In both groups, drinking cranberry juice was found to significantly and
uniquely alter three key urinary risk factors for the better: oxalate and phosphate excretion
decreased; citrate excretion increased; and the relative supersaturation of calcium oxalate was
significantly lower.
In another trial that evaluated the influence of cranberry, plum and blackcurrant juice on urinary
stone risk factors, cranberry juice decreased the urinary pH (made the urine more acidic), and
increased the excretion of oxalic acid and the relative supersaturation for uric acid. The
researchers concluded that cranberry juice could be useful in the treatment of brushite (calcium)
and struvite (non-calcium) stones as well as urinary tract infection.
Beneficial Actions on Cholesterol
After test tube research conducted at the University of Scranton demonstrated that cranberries'
antioxidants could protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, and animal research at three other
universities provided evidence that cranberries can decrease levels of total cholesterol and LDL
(low density or "bad" cholesterol), a human study has also corroborated these positive results.
The three month study funded by the U.S. Cranberry Institute was presented at the 225th
national meeting of the American Chemical Society. Researchers measured cholesterol levels in
19 subjects with high cholesterol after a fasting, baseline blood sampling, followed by monthly
samplings. Ten of the subjects were given cranberry juice with artificial sweetener, while the
other subjects drank cranberry juice with no added sugars. Like typical supermarket cranberry
juices, the drinks all contained approximately 27% pure cranberry juice by volume. Each subject
drank one 8-ounce glass of juice a day for the first month, then two glasses a day for the next
month, and finally, three glasses a day during the third month of the study. Subjects were not
monitored with respect to exercise, diet and alcohol consumption.
Although no changes occurred in their overall cholesterol levels, study subjects' HDL (good)
cholesterol increased by an average of 10% after drinking three glasses of cranberry juice per
day-an increase that, based on known epidemiological data on heart disease, corresponds to
approximately a 40% reduction in heart disease risk.
Similarly, subjects' plasma antioxidant capacity, a measure of the total amount of antioxidants
available in the body, was significantly increased-by as much as 121% after two or three
servings of juice per day. Increased antioxidant levels are also associated with a decreased risk
of heart disease.
While the mechanism by which cranberry juice changes cholesterol levels has not been clearly
established, the researchers have theorized that the effect is due to the fruit's high levels of
polyphenols, a type of potent antioxidant.
New research appears to be confirming this theory. Pterostilbene (pronounced TARE-oh-STILL-
bean), a powerful antioxidant compound found in cranberries, which is already known to fight
cancer, may also help lower cholesterol.
In an experimental study, scientists at the USDA Agricultural Research Service compared the
cholesterol-lowering effects of pterostilbene to those of ciprofibrate, a lipid-lowering drug, and
resveratrol, an antioxidant found in grapes with a chemical structure similar to pterostilbene that
has been shown to help fight cancer and heart disease.
They based their comparison on each compound's ability to activate PPAR-alpha (short for
peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha). The PPARs are a family of receptors on cell
membranes that are involved in the absorption of compounds into cells for use in energy
production. PPAR-alpha is crucial for the metabolism of lipids, including cholesterol.
Pterostilbene was as effective as ciprofibrate and outperformed resveratrol in activating PPAR-
alpha. The take away message: turn up your cholesterol burning machinery by eating more
cranberries. (Grapes and blueberries are also good sources of pterostilbene.)
Increases Cardio-Protective HDL Cholesterol
Having low blood levels of "good" HDL cholesterol has long been recognized as a factor that
increases risk of cardiovascular disease, but something as simple as enjoying a daily 8-ounce
glass of low-calorie cranberry juice may significantly increase blood levels of cardioprotective
HDL cholesterol, suggests a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition (Ruel G.,
Omperleau S, et al.)
In this trial, 30 abdominally obese men, averaging 51 years in age, drank increasing amounts (4
ounces, 8 ounces and 12 ounces daily) of low-calorie cranberry juice during three successive 4-
week periods.
While no changes in the men's HDL were noted after drinking 4 ounces of cranberry juice each
day, a large increase (+8.6%) in circulating levels of HDL was noted after the men drank 8-
ounces of cranberry juice daily, an effect that leveled out (+8.1%) during the final 12-ounce
phase of the study.
After drinking 8 ounces of cranberry juice daily, the men's triglyceride levels also dropped,
while their levels of total and LDL cholesterol remained unchanged, which means that overall,
their overall lipid profile significantly improved.
The researchers chose abdominally obese men because, in other research (Farnier M, Garnier P,
et al., Int J Clin Pract), abdominal obesity, high triglycerides and being male, have been strongly
linked to low HDL and cardiovascular disease.
Abdominal obesity, high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol are also key symptoms of the
metabolic syndrome, a condition which greatly increases one's risk of developing type 2
diabetes. And type 2 diabetes is well known to be a primary risk factor for cardiovascular
disease, which remains the leading cause of death not only in the U.S., but throughout the
developed world. So, the subjects in this study were men whose health was greatly at risk. Isn't it
wonderful that something as simple, affordable and delicious as a daily 8-ounce glass of
cranberry juice offers such potential beneficial impact on our health? Instead of buying the "low-
calorie" cranberry juice, which is usually sweetened with aspartame or comparable chemicals,
look for unsweetened cranberry juice concentrate. It will be less expensive and healthier to
simply add a little concentrate to a glass of water, then sweeten to taste with honey or stevia.
Cranberry Juice Greatly Lessens Oxidation of LDL Cholesterol in Men
In men, daily consumption of low-calorie cranberry juice cocktail significantly lowered blood
levels of oxidized LDL and concentrations of two molecules involved in LDL's adherence to
blood vessel walls (intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) and vascular cell adhesion
molecule-1 (VCAM-1). Thirty men (mean age 51) drank increasing daily doses of cranberry
juice cocktail (4.4 ounces, 8.8 ounces and 17.6 ounces) over three successive 4 week periods.
Blood levels of oxidized LDL, ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 all dropped significantly during the study.
Br J Nutr. 2007 Aug 29:1-8.
Improved Blood Vessel Function, Protecting Even Individuals with
Atherosclerosis against Heart Attacks
A daily dose of cranberry powder restores blood vessel health in laboratory animals with
atherosclerosis, shows research presented at the 2005 annual congress of the International Union
of Physiological Sciences.
Earlier small studies have already demonstrated that people who drink cranberry juice have
higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. The new study examined blood vessel health in
animals specially bred to develop high cholesterol, followed by atherosclerosis, by eight months
of age.
Study results suggest that cranberries not only reduce the risk of developing heart disease by
improving HDL cholesterol levels, but also improve blood vessel function, so can help
individuals who already have atherosclerosis.
"Since the abnormal functioning of blood vessels is an important component of heart disease,
finding ways to improve vascular function in patients with high cholesterol and atherosclerosis is
critical to helping protect these patients from consequences such as heart attack or stroke," said
lead researcher Kris Kruse-Elliott from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of
Veterinary Medicine.
Researchers think cranberries' polyphenols are responsible for their cardiovascular benefits.
While humans would need to eat four to eight servings of cranberry powder, or 10-20 servings
of cranberry juice, in order to achieve the levels of polyphenols given the animals in the study,
co-author Jess Reed said: "The point to be emphasized is that total polyphenol intake is very low
in western diets and a diet rich in polyphenols would in fact give a daily intake that is equivalent
to the levels in our cranberry feeding experiments."
Increasing the polyphenol content of your diet is easy-just make the World's Healthiest Foods
the foundation of your meals! In addition to making the most of fresh cranberries around
Thanksgiving when they're in season (see our recipe suggestions below), enjoy a glass of
cranberry juice with breakfast or try a cranberry spritzer for a refreshing pick-me-up any time of
day.
Antioxidant Protection
Studies conducted at the University of Scranton, PA, and funded by the Cranberry Institute, a
trade association for cranberry growers in the US and Canada, have revealed cranberries to be
phytochemical powerhouses packed with five times the antioxidant content of broccoli. When
compared to 19 other common fruits, cranberries were found to contain the highest level of
antioxidant phenols.
Other studies presented at the 223rd national meeting of the American Chemical Society also
showed that cranberries have among the highest levels of phenols of commonly consumed fruits.
One study presented at the meetings by biochemist Yuegang Zuo from the University of
Massachusetts-Dartmouth looked at 20 different fruit juices and found that cranberry juice had
the most phenols and the highest radical scavenging capacity of all of them.
Another study to compare levels of phenolic compounds in common fruits, which was conducted
at Cornell University and published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry also
confirmed that cranberries had the highest phenolic content of the fruits studied. Cranberries
were followed in descending order by apple, red grape, strawberry, pineapple, banana, peach,
lemon, orange, pear and grapefruit.
Cranberry Juice Ranked Among the Highest in Antioxidant Activity
Not all fruit juices are the same. They differ markedly in the variety of phenolic compounds and
antioxidant activity, according to Alan Crozier, Professor of Plant Biochemistry and Human
Nutrition, who, with colleagues at the University of Glasgow, evaluated 13 commercially
available popular juices.
Concord grapes came out on top with the highest and broadest range of polyphenols and the
highest overall antioxidant capacity. (The main components in purple grape juice were flavan-3-
ols, anthocyanins, and hydroxycinnamates, together accounting for 93% of the total phenolic
content.)
Other top scorers were cloudy apple juice, cranberry juice and grapefruit juice.
Results for the red grape juice were said to be equal to those for a Beaujolais red wine.
Interestingly, however, white grape juice, mainly containing hydroxycinnamates, had the lowest
total phenolic content.
The products analyzed were: Spray Classic Cranberry; Welch's Purple Grape; Tesco Pure
Pressed Red Grape; Pomegreat Pomegranate; Tesco Pure Apple (clear); Copella Apple (cloudy);
Tesco Pure Grapefruit; Tesco Value Pure Orange (concentrate); Tropicana Pure Premium
Smooth Orange (squeezed); Tropicana Pure Premium Tropical Fruit; Tesco Pure Pressed White
Grape; Tesco Pure Pineapple; Del Monte Premium Tomato.
Dr. Crozier's findings come shortly after those of the Kame project, which indicated that long-
term fruit juice consumption can provide protection against Alzheimer's disease (Dai et al., Am J
Med), and suggest that, since each fruit juice contains its own array of protective phenols,
drinking a variety may offer the best protection. Practical Tip: "The message is to mix these
juices during the week. That way you will get all the compounds with anti-oxidant activity. If
you drink only one juice you risk missing out on the compounds in the others," explained
Crozier.
Cancer Prevention
Also at the 2002 national meeting of the American Chemical Society, Catherine Neto, assistant
professor at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, presented research on several newly
discovered compounds in cranberries that were toxic to a variety of cancer tumor cell lines,
including lung, cervical, prostate, breast and leukemia cancer cells. The Cornell study mentioned
above that confirmed cranberries as having the highest levels of antioxidants among common
fruits also found that cranberries had the strongest ability to inhibit the proliferation of human
liver cancer cells.
The compounds found in cranberries that help prevent urinary tract infections may also help
prevent cancer, suggests additional research conducted at the University of Massachusetts-
Dartmouth by Catherine Neto and reported in the online edition of the Journal of the Science of
Food and Agriculture.
Neto's team isolated active cranberry compounds, called proanthocyanidins, and then tested
them on several tumor cell lines. Cranberry proanthocyanidins inhibited the growth of all the
cancers-human lung, colon and leukemia cells-in culture, without affecting healthy cells.
Unlike most fruit, cranberries contain proanthocyanidins with A-type linkages between units, a
structural feature identified in cranberry proanthocyanidins with antibacterial adhesion
properties and those with LDL-protective properties, explained lead researcher, Catherine Neto.
Cranberries' proanthocyanidins unique characteristics may translate into a superior ability to
prevent cancer. This study showed significant inhibition of cancer cell proliferation, not
previously shown with other proanthocyanidins, as well as the blocking of tumor growth.
The protective activity occurred at no less than 100ug/mL concentration. "It's hard to say
whether you would get these levels distributed to different tissues to the extent where you would
have activity in vivo, but eating cranberries could be helpful," said Neto.
"There are so many compounds in cranberries capable of having some anti-cancer mechanism
that when taken together there is potential for benefit," she added.
For cancer prevention, enjoy whole cranberries, not just cranberry juice. Cranberry presscake
(the material remaining after squeezing juice from the berries), when fed to laboratory animals
bearing human breast cancer cells, has previously been shown to decrease the growth and
metastasis of tumors. A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition suggests compounds in
whole cranberries also inhibit prostate, skin, lung and brain cancer cells as well.
Androgen-dependent prostate cancer cells were inhibited the most (just 10 mg of a warm water
extract of cranberry presscake inhibited their growth by 50%). With androgen-independent
prostate cancer cells and estrogen-independent breast cancer cells, a larger amount was needed
but produced the same beneficial effect (250 mg of cranberry presscake extract inhibited their
growth by 50%).
Researchers concluded that the active compounds in whole cranberry prevent cancer by blocking
cell cycle progression and inducing cells to undergo apoptosis (programmed cell death).
Cranberry's Phytonutrients Help Shut Down Human Breast Cancer
Cells
Enjoying a handful of dried cranberries in your spinach salad or a daily glass of cranberry juice
with a meal may be a delicious way to help protect yourself against breast cancer. In laboratory
studies published in Cancer Letters, cranberry phytonutrients greatly inhibited proliferation of
human breast cancer cells, both by causing the cancer cells to commit suicide and by shutting
down their ability to multiply by stopping their process of cellular replication before its
completion.
After just 4 hours' exposure to cranberry phytonutrient extracts at the low dose of just 50
milligrams per milliliter, the ratio of breast cancer cells committing suicide to total cells
increased 25% compared to control cells not exposed to cranberry phytonutrients. Cranberry
phytonutrient extracts at doses from 10 to 50 milligrams per milliliter were also highly effective
in stopping breast cancer cells from multiplying. After 24 hours, cancer cell replication was 6
times higher in the control breast cancer cells than in those exposed to cranberry extracts.
Protection against Macular Degeneration
Your mother may have told you carrots would keep your eyes bright as a child, but as an adult, it
looks like fruit is even more important for keeping your sight. Data reported in a study published
in the Archives of Ophthalmology indicates that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may
lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss
in older adults, by 36%, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily.
In this study, which involved over 110,000 women and men, researchers evaluated the effect of
study participants' consumption of fruits; vegetables; the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E; and
carotenoids on the development of early ARMD or neovascular ARMD, a more severe form of
the illness associated with vision loss. Food intake information was collected periodically for up
to 18 years for women and 12 years for men.
While, surprisingly, intakes of vegetables, antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids were not
strongly related to incidence of either form of ARMD, fruit intake was definitely protective
against the severe form of this vision-destroying disease. Three servings of fruit may sound like
a lot to eat each day, but by simply topping off a cup of yogurt or green salad with a half cup of
cranberries, tossing a banana into your morning smoothie or slicing it over your cereal, and
snacking on an apple, plum, nectarine or pear, you've reached this goal.
Description
A glossy, scarlet red, very tart berry, the cranberry belongs to the same genus as the blueberry,
Vaccinium. Like blueberries, cranberries can still be found growing as wild shrubs in northern
Europe, northern Asia, and North America. When cultivated, however, cranberries are grown on
low trailing vines atop great sandy bogs.
Cranberries have also been called "bounceberries," because ripe ones bounce, and
"craneberries," a poetic allusion to the fact that their pale pink blossoms look a bit like the heads
of the cranes that frequent cranberry bogs. The variety cultivated commercially in the northern
United States and southern Canada, the American cranberry, produces a larger berry than either
the Southern cranberry, a wild species that is native to the mountains of the eastern United
States, or the European variety.
History
American Indians enjoyed cranberries cooked and sweetened with honey or maple syrup-a
cranberry sauce recipe that was likely a treat at early New England Thanksgiving feasts. By the
beginning of the 18th century, the tart red berries were already being exported to England by the
colonists. Cranberries were also used by the Indians decoratively, as a source of red dye, and
medicinally, as a poultice for wounds since not only do their astringent tannins contract tissues
and help stop bleeding, but we now also know that compounds in cranberries have antibiotic
effects.
Although several species of cranberries grow wild in Europe and Asia, the cranberry most
cultivated is an American native, which owes its commercial success to one Henry Hall, an
observant gentleman in Dennis, Massachusetts. In 1840, Mr. Hall noticed an abundance of large
berries grew when sand was swept into his bog by the prevailing winds and tides. The sandy bog
provided just the right growing conditions for the cranberries by stifling the growth of shallow-
rooted weeds, thus enhancing that of the deep rooted cranberries.
Cranberry cultivation soon spread not only across the U.S. through Wisconsin to Washington
and Oregon, but also across the sea to Scandinavia and Great Britain. The hardy berries arrived
in Holland as survivors of a shipwreck. When an American ship loaded with crates filled with
cranberries sank along the Dutch coast, many crates washed ashore on the small island of
Terschelling; some of the berries took root, and cranberries have been cultivated there ever
since.
Despite their adventures abroad, cranberries are still primarily grown in the United States, where
154 thousand metric tons are produced annually. Half the annual crop still comes from
Massachusetts and is harvested between Labor Day and Halloween.
How to Select and Store
A fruit with a short season, fresh cranberries are harvested between Labor Day and Halloween
and appear in markets from October through December.
Choose fresh, plump cranberries, deep red in color, and quite firm to the touch.
Firmness is a primary indicator of quality. In fact, during harvesting, high quality cranberries are
often sorted from lesser quality fruits by bouncing the berries against barriers made of slanted
boards. The best berries bounce over the barriers, while the inferior ones collect in the reject
pile.
The deeper red their color, the more highly concentrated are cranberries' beneficial anthocyanin
compounds.
Fresh, then dried cranberries retain the most antioxidants; bottled cranberry drinks and cranberry
cocktails with added sugars or low calorie sweeteners contain the least.
For the most antioxidants, choose fully ripened cranberries:
Research conducted at the University of Innsbruck in Austria suggests that as fruits fully ripen,
almost to the point of spoilage, their antioxidant levels actually increase.
Key to the process is the change in color that occurs as fruits ripen, a similar process to that seen
in the fall when leaves turn from green to red to yellow to brown a color change caused by the
breakdown and disappearance of chlorophyll, which gives leaves and fruits their green color.
Until now, no one really knew what happened to chlorophyll during this process, but lead
researcher, Bernard Krutler, and his team, working together with botanists over the past several
years, has identified the first decomposition products in leaves: colorless, polar NCCs
(nonfluorescing chlorophyll catabolytes), that contain four pyrrole rings - like chlorophyll and
heme.
After examining apples and pears, the scientists discovered that NCCs replace the chlorophyll
not only in the leaves of fruit trees, but in their very ripe fruits, especially in the peel and flesh
immediately below it.
"When chlorophyll is released from its protein complexes in the decomposition process, it has a
phototoxic effect: when irradiated with light, it absorbs energy and can transfer it to other
substances. For example, it can transform oxygen into a highly reactive, destructive form,"
report the researchers. However, NCCs have just the opposite effect. Extremely powerful
antioxidants, they play an important protective role for the plant, and when consumed as part of
the human diet, NCCs deliver the same potent antioxidant protection within our bodies. . Angew
Chem Int Ed Engl. 2007 Nov 19;46(45):8699-8702.
Although typically packed in 12-ounce plastic bags, fresh cranberries, especially if organic, may
be available in pint containers.
Fresh cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator for several months. Before storing, discard any
soft, discolored, pitted or shriveled fruits. When removed from the refrigerator, cranberries may
look damp, but such moistness does not indicate spoilage, unless the berries are discolored or
feel sticky, leathery or tough.
Once frozen, cranberries may be kept for several years. To freeze, spread fresh cranberries out
on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer. In a couple of hours, the fully frozen berries will be
ready to transfer to a freezer bag. Don't forget to date the bag before returning to the freezer.
Once thawed, frozen berries will be quite soft and should be used immediately.
Dried cranberries are sold in many groceries and may be found with other dried fruits.
How to Enjoy
For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes. Tips for preparing cranberries:
While not as fragile as blueberries, fresh cranberries should be treated with care. Just prior to
use, place cranberries in a strainer and briefly and gently rinse under cool running water.
When using frozen berries in recipes that do not require cooking, thaw well and drain prior to
using. For cooked recipes, use unthawed berries since this will ensure maximum flavor. Extend
the cooking time a few minutes to accommodate for the frozen berries. A few quick serving
ideas:
Take advantage of cranberries' tartness by using them to replace vinegar or lemon when dressing
your green salads. Toss the greens with a little olive oil then add a color and zest with a handful
of raw cranberries.
To balance their extreme tartness, combine fresh cranberries with other fruits such as oranges,
apples or pineapple or pears. If desired, add a little fruit juice, honey or maple syrup to chopped
fresh cranberries.
For a easy-to-make salad that will immediately become a holiday favorite, place 2 cups fresh
berries in your blender along with cup of pineapple chunks, a quartered skinned orange, a
sweet apple (such as one of the Delicious variety) and a handful or two of walnuts or pecans.
Blend till well mixed but still chunky. Transfer to a large bowl. Dice 3-4 stalks of celery, add to
the cranberry mixture and stir till just combined.
Combine unsweetened cranberry in equal parts with your favorite fruit juice and sparkling
mineral water for a lightly sweetened, refreshing spritzer. For even more color appeal, garnish
with a slice of lime.
Add a color and variety to your favorite recipes for rice pudding, quick breads or muffins by
using dried cranberries instead of raisins.
Sprinkle a handful of dried cranberries over a bowl of hot oatmeal, barley, or any cold cereal.
Mix dried cranberries with lightly roasted and salted nuts for a delicious snack.
Individual Concerns
Cranberries and Oxalates
Cranberries are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates,
naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. When oxalates
become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this
reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want
to avoid eating cranberries. Laboratory studies have shown that oxalates may also interfere with
absorption of calcium from the body. Yet, in every peer-reviewed research study we've seen, the
ability of oxalates to lower calcium absorption is relatively small and definitely does not
outweigh the ability of oxalate-containing foods to contribute calcium to the meal plan. If your
digestive tract is healthy, and you do a good job of chewing and relaxing while you enjoy your
meals, you will get significant benefits - including absorption of calcium - from calcium-rich
foods plant foods that also contain oxalic acid. Ordinarily, a healthcare practitioner would not
discourage a person focused on ensuring that they are meeting their calcium requirements from
eating these nutrient-rich foods because of their oxalate content. For more on this subject, please
see "Can you tell me what oxalates are and in which foods they can be found?"
Cranberries and Warfarin
Since 1999, the United Kingdom's Committee on the Safety of Medicines has had 5 reports of
cases (one fatal) that indicate that cranberry juice (from Vaccinium macrocarpon) potentiates the
effect of warfarin. Some patients exhibited a marked increase in their INR (international
normalised ratios) values after they began to drink cranberry juice. INRs provide a measure of
blood clotting capacity, and high values are associated with serious bleeding. In the one fatal
case, six weeks after a man started drinking cranberry juice, his INR increased sharply, and he
subsequently died from gastrointestinal and pericardial haemorrhages.
The Committee on the Safety of Medicines has hypothesized that flavonoid antioxidants in
cranberry juice inhibit the activity of one of the cytochrome P450 enzymes in the liver that is
primarily responsible for detoxifying warfarin, the isoform called CYP2C9. Until this possible
interaction between warfarin and cranberry juice has been investigated further, the individuals
taking warfarin are advised to avoid cranberry juice.
At least 12 reports of suspected interactions involving warfarin and cranberry juice have now
been made to the Committee on the Safety of Medicines in Great Britain. In Current Problems
in Pharmacovigilance, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency issued a
recommendation that patients using warfarin should be advised to avoid cranberry juice.
Nutritional Profile
Cranberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, a very good source of dietary fiber, and a good
source of manganese and vitamin K.
Introduction to Food Rating System Chart
The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or
good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of
the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that
amount represents (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated
for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest
Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. For
more detailed information on our Food and Recipe Rating System, please click here.
In-Depth Nutritional Profile
In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, an in-depth nutritional profile for
Cranberries is also available. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients,
including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty
acids, amino acids and more.
Introduction to Food Rating System Chart
In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the
calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the
foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for
which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a
table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not
necessarily mean that the food doesn't contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not
provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food's
in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients - not just the ones rated as
excellent, very good, or good - please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately,
you'll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the
serving size we used to calculate the food's nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you
how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now,
returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient
amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density
that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system.
For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are
found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling."
Read more background information and details of our rating system.
Cranberries
0.50 cup
47.50 grams
23.27 calories
Nutrient Amount
DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
vitamin C 6.41 mg 10.7 8.3 excellent
dietary fiber 1.99 g 8.0 6.2 very good
manganese 0.07 mg 3.5 2.7 good
vitamin K 2.42 mcg 3.0 2.3 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%
In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Cranberries
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