Out of the 30 fruits and vegetables highlighted on our Superfoods website, cranberries are among the four featured foods which do double duty as both an Antioxidant Superfood and Superfood for the Heart. The red berries’ abundance of vitamin C plays a role in both cases – helping to inhibit oxidation of LDL cholesterol, while contributing toward the overall antioxidant capacity, earning cranberries the #3 spot on the USDA’s list of top antioxidant fruit and veggies. Some research suggests that cranberries may also boost HDL “good” cholesterol levels. One University of Scranton study found that drinking three 8-ounce glasses of cranberry juice daily could reduce heart disease risk by as much as 40%.
If we’d created a “Superfood for your Bladder” category, cranberries would have been best in class. The proanthocyanidins in cranberries may help prevent (not treat) urinary tract infections by inhibiting bacteria from adhering to bladder walls. Lab analyses suggest these protective compounds might also help suppress herpes outbreaks – a finding which, if confirmed by clinical trials, would represent a significant advance against one of the most common viral infections.
Another cranberry antioxidant, quercetin, may help reduce Alzheimer’s risk and alleviate prostatitis (inflammation or infection of the prostate gland). Finally, cranberries could even help promote dental health, by hindering bacteria from adhering to tooth enamel (much in the manner of how raisins’ oleanic acid may block cavity-causing bacteria).
While juice is an easy way to incorporate cranberries into your diet, the whole fruit helps fill you up while providing a dose of heart-healthy fiber. Try this issue’s Superfood Recipe – “Cranberry Pineapple Mold”, Marie Oser’s, “Stuffed Acorn Squash with Apples and Cranberries” or our Superfood Cookbook’s, “Cran-Apple Crisp.”
Bonus: Research suggests compounds in cranberries may also help fight skin cancer when applied topically. For “berry” soft skin, make your own “Cranberry Sugar Scrub” for the body or Janice Cox’s DIY “Cranberry Lip Gloss.”
Published December 22, 2005