You may have heard that drinking cranberry juice can help with a urinary tract infection (UTI), but that’s not the only benefit.

Cranberries are water-harvested fruits. They are packed with nutrients to help your body ward off infections and boost overall health. In fact, throughout history, they’ve been used to treat urinary issues, upset stomachs, and liver problems.

Cranberries grow in marshes. When the berries are ripe and ready to pick, they float in the water. Being on the water’s surface exposes them to more sunlight. This may increase their nutritional value.

Like most fruits, you get the highest level of nutrition when you eat cranberries whole. But the juice is still chock-full of benefits.

Read on to find out how drinking cranberry juice can benefit your health.

Prevent Urinary Tract Infections

Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins, a compound commonly found in plants. It’s believed that this compound can help prevent UTIs by stopping bacteria from attaching itself to the lining of the urinary tract. If the bacteria can’t grow and spread, it can’t cause an infection.

Unfortunately, research about cranberry juice has been mixed. Some studies show cranberry juice to be effective in reducing the risk for UTIs, while others have found that it isn’t an effective treatment.

More research is still needed to determine the exact benefits.

Heart Health

Cranberries also contain phytonutrients. This gives them an anti-inflammatory property. Inflammation plays a role in damaging blood vessels over time. The damaged vessels then attract plaque, causing atherosclerosis.

Phytonutrients in cranberries could help guard against inflammation, delaying the process and offering protection against heart disease.

There is also some evidence that cranberry juice can help to prevent dental plaque that builds up on teeth and causes gum disease.

Protect Against Cancer

Cranberries also contain powerful phytochemicals that act as antioxidants. Antioxidants help to protect your body from cell damage due to free radicals. Free radicals contribute to the aging process and may also be risk factors for developing chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

Research published in the Journal of Nutrition found that cranberries might have a role in preventing cancer through dietary changes.

Improve Digestive Health

The same compounds that help protect the heart also improve your digestive system function.

They can prevent the bacteria, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), from growing and multiplying in the stomach lining. This is important because when H. pylori are allowed to grow out of control, stomach ulcers may form.

The antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory substances in cranberries may provide protection against colon cancer, too.

Choice Your Juice Wisely

When you’re looking for healthy cranberry juice, it’s important not to fall for labeling traps. There’s a big difference between cranberry juice cocktail (or cranberry drink) and real cranberry juice.

Juice cocktails contain added sugars like high fructose corn syrup. This isn’t good for you. These cocktails are often made with only a small amount of actual cranberry juice.

Look for labels that say “made with 100 percent real juice” or that list other natural sweeteners like apple or grape juice.

The Takeaway

Cranberry juice can be a healthy part of your diet, and even help protect against certain health issues. But it’s not a substitute for treating a medical condition. If you think you have a UTI, go see your doctor.

Normal serving sizes of cranberry juice are safe and healthy, but overdoing it could cause side effects like upset stomach, diarrhea, or spikes in blood sugar.

Cranberry juice can also cause issues for people taking blood-thinning medications. Talk to your doctor about whether or not you should limit or avoid cranberry juice while taking your medication.