The cranberry is packed with vitamin C to support immunity, proanthocyanidins for urinary tract health and phytonutrients for cardiovascular health. Native Americans were among the first to use the fruit for medical purposes, including kidney and bladder ailments. The health benefits of the cranberry can be obtained from its juice and in the form of a supplement.
Cranberry juice has nutrients known to prevent urinary tract infections. The flavonoids present in cranberry juice provide benefits such as heart health by lowering your risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. According to the Cranberry Institute, the 90 milligrams of vitamin C in 8 ounces exceeds the recommended amount per day for adults. Vitamin C promotes dental health by lowering the risk of inflammation and provides immune support by decreasing the risk for the common cold or flu.
Bypassing the Sugar
If you don't like the tart taste of cranberry juice, you could try a supplement, though it won't be as potent. Cranberry supplements are generally 100 percent cranberry and therefore are more concentrated, whereas cranberry juice can contain added sugar or water. Cranberry supplements are a better option if you have high blood sugar or are limiting your calories.
According to the University of Pittsburgh, studies have shown nutrients in cranberry juice can prevent bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall, thereby reducing the risk of urinary tract infections. Cranberry supplements provide health benefits as well. A study published in the “Canadian Journal of Urology” indicated that pure cranberry tablets taken twice daily reduced the risk of urinary tract infections among a group of women, but further studies are needed to determine whether cranberry juice or cranberry supplements are helpful in treating urinary tract infections.
Cranberries are high in carbohydrates, so drinking too much cranberry juice can put you at risk for weight gain or high blood sugar. Due to the high acid content of cranberries, they can be hard on the stomach or the gastrointestinal system and lead to unpleasant side-effects, including nausea and diarrhea. If you are susceptible to kidney stones, limit cranberry consumption because of their high oxalate content. Cranberries have been known to interact with blood thinners and can increase the risk of bleeding. Overall, cranberry juice and cranberry supplements contain essential nutrients to promote health; however, there are contraindications to both. Talk to your doctor before beginning a cranberry juice or supplement regimen.
Sondra Clarkson is a registered and licensed dietitian. She completed her undergraduate degree at Western Illinois University in 2005. She obtained a Masters Degree from Eastern Illinois University as well as completed her internship at Passavant Area Hospital in 2007. She has more than five years of clinical experience as an outpatient dietitian and a consultant dietitian.