Photo credit by MGF/Lady Disdain
For over a hundred years women have known that cranberry's can prevent urinary tract infections, but now scientists are discovering that the small crimson-colored fruit has potential for healing heart disease and cancer, as well as fighting gum disease. The cranberry's antibacterial properties are due to a class of chemical compounds called proanthocyanidins. These compounds form a Teflon-like coating around harmful bacteria preventing them from sticking to gastrointestinal and urinary tract walls, thus stopping the infections.
In a recent study, scientist found that drinking two glasses of cranberry juice a day for three months reduced the presence of infections. In other lab experiments, cranberry juice stopped oral streptococci infections and other infections from sticking to surfaces. However, researchers warn against using cranberry juice as a mouthwash because of its sugar content and acidity.
Cranberries are high in antioxidants, calcium, potassium, and vitamins A, E, and C. Antioxidants have been linked to anti-cancer and anti-heart-disease research for many years. According to a Cornell University study, cranberry impedes the growth of liver and breast cancer cells in lab dishes.
In the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers published suggestive findings that showed drinking a glass of cranberry juice a day increases the good HDL cholesterol by eight percent in overweight men. This 2006 study was funded by the Canadian Cranberry Growers Coalition.
Although the common benefits seem to outweigh the drawbacks, some reports have shown cranberry juice intake to be associated with an increased risk of kidney stones. Gorging on the tart red berries or consuming too much in one day can also cause stomach upset or diarrhea.
The cranberries are a little bitter to the taste if eaten in dishes without sugar. This could explain why most Americans limit their consumption of cranberries to once a year. Congealed cranberry sauce has been a favorite side dish for generations at Thanksgiving holiday celebrations where often the meat is dry and needs a moist accompaniment.
With all the healthy benefits of cranberries, it appears that (with the help of scientific research) the fruit is beginning to become more popular among Americans. With their high content of antioxidants it appears that the cranberry's health benefits far outweigh the slightly bitter taste that they have. Cranberry is also available now in pill form as a health supplement to be taken regularly by those who experience urinary tract infections or those who just want the benefit of their antioxidants to prevent heart disease.