Whether it’s via juice, sauce, or raw fruit, consuming cranberries is one of the best ways to achieve the trifecta of health: digestive, cardiovascular, and immune. In the past scientists have come together praising cranberries as a great food for boosting urinary tract health, but recent studies have revealed that the health benefits gleaned from eating cranberries is so much more than that.
In a summary of findings from the Cranberry Health Research Conference in 2015, published in Advances in Nutrition,
scientists conclude that the “impressive potential that cranberry bioactives may have on public health is worthy of further exploration.”
The secret to the healthy cranberry effect? Their rich supply of polyphenols
, a class of bioactive compounds found in many fruits and vegetables. More geneticists, immunologists, and nutrition scientists are studying polyphenols every day, and a research campus in Kannapolis, North Carolina has multiple research and service centers devoted to studying the healthy components, like polyphenols, that make fruits and vegetables great for preventing disease.
The unique polyphenol profile in cranberries stems from their tendency to interact with other bioactive compounds, leading to healthy benefits that protect the health of the gut microbiota as well as provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory functions that keeps the hearty healthy, metabolism functioning efficiently, and immune function in tip-top shape.
Dr. Mary Ann Lila is a berry expert and Director of the NC State University Plants for Human Health Institute at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, and she researches how berries have whole body health benefits. Lila agrees that cranberries, in addition to blueberries, have the most health benefits out of the entire berry family.
The gut microbiome, which influences the health of other systems in immune function and in the brain, cranberry bioactives have been show to help strengthen its defense as well as help maintain the equilibrium of energy, carbohydrate, and fat usage. The human microbiome is made up of “good bacteria” that provide numerous functions in digestion and immune regulation, but sometimes harmful bacterial species can invade the gut and “disturb the peace.” Cranberry proanthocyanidins, a specific type of polyphenol, are known to prevent colonization of harmful bacteria like Escherichia coli.
Cranberry polyphenols also help regulate cardiovascular health through maintaining health levels of blood pressure, blood flow, blood lipids, endothelial function, and blood glucose. For people living with type 2 diabetes, regular consumption of cranberries and other fruits rich in polyphenols could drastically improve their ability to manage their condition.
Lastly, studies show that in the immune system, cranberry bioactives reduce the presence of biomarkers of lipid peroxidation and advanced oxidation protein products, AKA biomarkers of inflammation.
The collection of findings presented at the 2015 cranberry conference stem from multiple in vitro, animal model, and human studies, providing a firm foundation of credibility for the results. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that a healthy diet includes a variety of fruit, with at least half of a person’s daily consumption of fruits coming from whole fruits in order to truly benefit from the naturally available nutrients. With the whole-health message presented by multiple cranberry researchers, perhaps introducing a handful into trail mix or a smoothie is your next step to a healthy life!
Sources: Polluck Communications
, North Carolina Research Campus
, Plants for Human Health Institute
, Cranberry Health Research Conference