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6 Health Benefits of Cranberries

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Cranberries get a ton of press around the holidays, but for the rest of the year, we don't hear much about them. That is a shame, really, because cranberries are one of the top antioxidant-rich foods, packing in more antioxidants ounce-for-ounce than other "superfoods" like spinach, blueberries, or even green tea.

Part of the issue is that we don't really know what to do with them if they aren't canned, jellied, or dried. Fresh cranberries are super-tart, and can seem more cumbersome to add to our diets than other fruits like blueberries or blackberries.

However, in addition having more phytonutrients than these more familiar berries, cranberries are also even lower in calories and sugar, with a mere 46 calories, 12 grams of carb, and 2 grams of sugar per cup. 

Here are six reasons to incorporate cranberries year-round, plus six easy ways to get more in your diet.

1. Inflammation - Cranberries  have been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect, which can potentially benefit conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, stomach and digestive disorders, and our cardiovascular system, particularly the lining of our vessel walls.

2. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) - Cranberries have been used for years to prevent UTIs. It appears that their high levels of antioxidants called proanthocyanidins help reduce the adhesion of certain bacteria to urinary tract walls, which in turn can help to reduce the incidence of UTIs.

3. Ulcers - Certain types of stomach ulcers are related to a particular type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, and it's possible that cranberries may help prevent this bacteria from attaching to the lining of the stomach, similar to how they can help prevent bacteria from attaching to the lining of the urinary tract.

4. Dental Health - The same phytonutrients in cranberries that help prevent UTIs may also benefit our dental health, by preventing bacteria from sticking to our teeth. An added bonus: The anti-inflammatory effects of these phytonutrients can also help to reduce inflammation in and around our gums, which helps to reduce our risk of periodontal disease.

5. Cardiovascular Disease - Cranberry's benefit on cardiovascular health is likely due to a combination of factors, including cranberry's antioxidant effects, anti-inflammatory effects, and potential improvement of HDL and LDL cholesterol. The polyphenols may help prevent the build-up of plaque on vessel walls, and the antioxidant components of cranberries are also linked to a reduction in blood pressure.

6. Protect Against Cancer - Researchers continue to identify more and more ways that cranberries are beneficial in slowing tumor growth, and have shown positive effects against certain types of cancer, including prostate, lung, breast, and colon cancer.

Whole Cranberries Versus

The skinny on dried cranberries:  Unless you're making your own (which can be pretty time-consuming), steer clear of dried cranberries. Nearly all brands are made with added sugar or fruit juices, and the "reduced sugar" varieties are generally artificially sweetened with Splenda, and still fairly high in added sugar.

And while "Greek yogurt dried cranberries" may sound like the epitome of nutritious snacking, they're anything but. They're essentially sugar-laden cranberries coated with a "yogurt" coating of sugar, oil, and yogurt powder, with minimal real yogurt. 

Cranberry Supplements: It's important to note that taking isolated nutrients from cranberries in supplement form does appear to have the same health benefits as the whole berry. Maybe the Cranberry isolated nutrient or extract is better than eating the whole berry because of the extract potency.


References: www.nola.com by Molly Kimball

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