Most people know that drinking cranberry juice can relieve and cure urinary tract infections (UTI). However, that is not all that the acidic berry juice can do. Cranberry juice is brimming with health benefits such as antioxidants, particularly proanthocyanidins. Antioxidants protect your body from free radicals which damage your DNA and cause a multitude of health problems such as heart disease, cancer, and digestive disorders.
What are Cranberries?
Cranberries are acidic red berries that grow on an evergreen shrub in watery marshland or bogland. The shrubs are a native to the northern-eastern and north-central parts of North America and have become a major commercial crop.
The water-loving cranberry shrub typically stands 5 to 20 centimeters tall and are about 2 meters wide. It has the unique tendency of trailing across the ground or pond surface.The shrubs are usually grown in flooded fields. During the summer months, they develop pinkish flowers that depend on honeybees for pollination. Once pollinated, the shrub bears marble-sized reddish berries. In the autumn, the ruby-red berries are harvested. One of the key ways that a farmer knows when the berries have ripened is to observe when they start to float on the water’s surface. If the berries are to be made into juice, they are gathered before the berries reach their full red hue.
The Tart Taste of the Juice
Cranberries have an extremely tart taste. In order to create a palatable drink, the juice is usually mixed with sweeteners such as sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Most physicians recommend only purchasing sugar-free juice but it can be too tart for many people. Ideally the juice should be in its natural form and 100 percent pure with no artificial colors or preservatives. If you feel that the flavor of the juice is too strong and intense then you can always mix it with water to dilute the flavor.
Is Cranberry Juice Good for You?
Cranberries and cranberry juice are both highly nutritious. Early Native Americans regularly harvested the berries to consume as a food and create juice. They also used them to make poultices for wounds to prevent infection. After the Europeans invaded North America, they discovered an affinity for the red berries and quickly made it one of their dietary staples.
- Antioxidants: A single cup of the ruby red berries offers the capacity of 8,983 antioxidants
- Nutrients: The berries are brimming with nutrients such as flavonoids, cyanidin, tannins, peonidin, and quercetin. There is also ample salicylic acid and Vitamin C.
- Minerals and Vitamins: Cranberries have calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, magnesium, sodium, niacin, riboflavin, Vitamins B6, E, and K.
- Calories: One cup of juice contains only 45 calories.
16 Health Benefitsof Cranberry Juice
- Urinary Tract Infection and Prevention: For thousands of years, cranberries have been used to prevent urinary tract infections. Many people think that cranberries make the urine acidic. This may be correct to a certain extent but researchers now believe that the berries do far more. Studies have shown that the chemicals, such as proanthocyanidins, actually prevent bacteria from sticking to the sides of the bladder, urethra, and kidneys. It is now believed that the juice prevents urinary tract infections but may not effectively treat the infection once it occurs.
- Tooth Decay and Periodontal Disease: Proanthocyanidins found in cranberries inhibit the growth of bacteria in the mouth which causes tooth decay. It is also believed to create an acidic mouth that keeps plaque and bacteria from adhering to teeth and causing periodontal disease. When picking a cranberry juice brand to prevent tooth decay and promote good oral health, you should look closely at the label and get a sugar free or a low sugar variety.
- Cancer: Studies done by researchers at the Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Medical School, the University of Athens in Athens, Greece found that cranberries contain several anti-cancer properties which may be beneficial in preventing cancers such as prostate and breast cancer. Proanthocyanidins within cranberries have been shown to stop tumor growth of even tiny tumors in blood vessels.
- Colds and Flu: Drinking cranberry juice inhibits the growth Haemophilus influenza, which is a common cause of ear and respiratory infections in children. It also eases the pain of a sore throat and other cold symptoms.
- Weight Loss: The organic acids in the juice emulsifies the body and helps clear away fat from cells.
- Kidney Stones: The juice helps turn the urine acidic which prevents kidney stones from forming in the kidneys.
- Scurvy: Scurvy is rare in the developed world but in many third world countries it remains a health concern. Scurvy is caused by lack of Vitamin C. Drinking cranberry juice helps raise the body’s levels of Vitamin C which prevents and treats scurvy.
- Peptic Ulcers: Ulcers are caused by a proliferation of bacteria in the stomach that attacks the stomach’s lining causing inflammation. Cranberries not only inhibit the bacteria’s ability to reproduce but also reduces the inflammation of the tract. In a study done by the School of Oncology, Peking University, Beijing Institute for Cancer Research, in Beijing, China, researchers found that drinking the berry juice daily reduced the bacterial population significantly.
- Immunity Booster: Researchers at the University of Florida found that drinking cranberry juice every day reduced the incidences of colds and flu in individuals by boosting their overall immune system. The polyphenols found in the drink is believed to be the key to a healthy immune system.
- Anti-Aging Benefits: The phytonutrients and antioxidants helped reduced age-related memory loss and lack of coordination. The berries ability to fight free radicals also assist the skin in looking younger and more renewed.
- Lung Inflammation: Lung inflammation occurs for a variety of reasons such as a chest cold, cigarette smoking, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), lung cancer, and numerous other disorders. Cranberry juice helps alleviate inflammation and may improve breathing.
- Cardiovascular Health: The flavonoids in the ruby red gems not only lower the risk of heart problems but even boost your overall heart health. Studies have found that flavonoids prevent plaque from clogging your arteries. In a study done by the American Chemical Society researchers found that drinking only three glasses of the juice per day raised the levels of good cholesterol by 121 percent.
- Aids Digestion: Cranberries are rich in fiber that helps promote healthy digestion. To reap the benefits of the berries and the juice combined it is suggested that you create a smoothie using the small berries in combination with the juice to create a tasty daily beverage. Mixing a bit of ginger, lime, pineapple, and apples into the smoothie improves the overall taste
- Healthy Pregnancy: The high levels of Vitamin C and E found in the cranberry is believed to help prevent preeclampsia in pregnant women.
- Yeast Infection: Cranberries naturally fight yeast anywhere on or in the human body.
- Skin Toner: People with excessively oily skin or teenagers suffering from hormonal surges often benefit from using a toner on their skin. The acidic nature of cranberry juice makes it an ideal choice for a skin toner. It antiseptic properties also helps battle acne.
Extraction and Purity
Cranberry juice is created by extracting one liter of juice from 1500 grams of fresh cranberries. Commercially available cranberry juices typically contain 30 percent pure juice.
Health Concerns and Possible Side Effects
Virtually everything causes some health concerns or side effects and cranberries are no exception.
- Diarrhea: As with any food or beverage, moderation is the key. Drinking too much of the tart drink my cause you to suffer from a bout of diarrhea.
- Warfarin: Warfarin is a prescription anticoagulant that is used as a blood thinner. Mixing Warfarin with cranberry juice is not recommended because it can further thin your blood to a dangerous level. You should always consult with your physician before you consume cranberry products if you are taking Warfarin.
- Aspirin Allergies: Aspirins and cranberries both contain salicylic acid, which is dangerous to anyone who suffers from an aspirin allergy.
How to Enjoy the Juice
Sure a glass of cranberry juice is ideal for a morning pick-me-up or with a meal, but there are other ways to enjoy the juice. You can make a smoothie, create a tart adult beverage, or even make a sauce to enjoy your daily dinner.
Unsweetened, the juice is extremely tart, but you can always mix it with water. Try mixing two ounces of the unsweetened berry juice with eight ounces of water to make it more palatable.
Be Cautious When Buying Juice
Commercially available juice is not always ideal. It often contains high levels of sugar or corn syrup. You should always read the label carefully to determine the exact ingredients. Juice cocktails should be avoided completely because they contain very little if any real juices.
There is very little doubt that cranberry juice is brimming with innumerable health benefits but there is one other reason that you should make this one of your daily beverages and that is simply that it tastes yummy! So many things that are deemed ‘good for you’ lack any flavor or just taste bad, but cranberry juice is tart, refreshing, and boasts a very palatable flavor. So drink up the invigorating ruby red concoction and reap the health rewards.