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 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 stomach
- liver problems
Cranberries grow in marshes and are often water-harvested. 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.
Unsweetened, pure cranberry juice is a good source of both vitamin C and vitamin E. It’s also a decent source of several other vitamins and minerals, including:
- vitamin C: 26% of the daily value (DV)
- vitamin E: 20% of the DV
- copper: 15% of the DV
- vitamin K1: 11% of the DV
- vitamin B6: 8% of the DV
Vitamin C and E are strong antioxidants that play an important role in overall health.
Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins, a class of compounds commonly found in plants. It’s believed that these compounds can help prevent UTIs by stopping bacteria from attaching to the lining of the urinary tract. If bacteria can’t grow and spread, an infection is unable to develop.
Unfortunately, research on cranberry juice has been mixed. Some studies show cranberry juice to be effective in reducing the risk of UTIs, while others have found that it isn’t an effective treatment.
More research is still needed to determine the exact benefits.
Cranberries also contain other phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation plays a role in damaging blood vessels over time, including the arteries. The damaged arteries then attract plaque, causing atherosclerosis.
Phytonutrients in cranberries could help guard against inflammation, delaying the process and offering protection against heart disease.
A 2019 study in men who are overweight and have obesity showed that the daily intake of a high-polyphenol cranberry beverage for 8 weeks improved several risk factors for heart disease.
There’s also some evidence that cranberry juice can help to prevent dental plaque that builds up on teeth and causes gum disease.
Like other fruits and berries, cranberries contain powerful phytochemicals that act as antioxidants, including:
- vitamin C
- vitamin E
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.
While a diet rich in various whole fruit, berries, and vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of cancer, there’s no conclusive evidence that cranberries or cranberry juice protects against cancer on its own.
The same compounds that help protect the heart also improve your digestive system function.
According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Research in Pharmacy Practice, 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.
Studies in animals suggest the antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory substances in cranberries may provide protection against colon cancer, too. However, it’s unlikely that cranberry juice has the same effects.
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, which 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.
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
- 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.