The World's Healthiest Foods

Cranberries Make Every Day a Holiday from Disease

Recent research funded by the Cranberry Institute, a trade association for cranberry growers in the US and Canada, shows that these shiny red berries are phytochyemical jewels that contain five times the antioxidant content of broccoli—which translates into significant protection against cancer, stroke and heart disease.

Practical Tips

Fresh, then dried cranberries contain the highest levels of antioxidants. Processing, storage and heating all reduce antioxidant levels.

Here are a few World’s Healthiest Foods’ serving ideas to help you enjoy the antioxidant protection conferred by fresh cranberries.

  • For an exceptionally easy and delicious salad, place 2 cups fresh or thawed berries in your blender along with a pear, an orange, an apple, one or two stalks of diced celery and a handful of walnuts. Blend till chunky but well-mixed.
  • Although unsweetened cranberry juice is extremely sour, when mixed together with sparkling water and another, sweeter, fruit juice to make a spritzer, the result is a slightly sweet, very refreshing beverage. Mix one-third sparkling mineral water, one-third cranberry juice and one-third any other sweet juice, such as apple, grape, pineapple or blueberry juice. Making your own cranberry drinks will not only cost you less, but will give you more antioxidants. The lowest level of antioxidants is found in bottled cranberry drinks and cranberry cocktails that contain added sugars or artificial low-calorie sweeteners.

Research Summary

Even before this recent revelation of cranberries’ antioxidant prowess, cranberries have long been valued for their ability to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections. Anecdotal tales of cranberry’s effectiveness in both treating and preventing urinary tract infections have now been confirmed by eight scientific studies showing that cranberries prevent E. coli bacteria from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract. (Infection cannot occur unless the pathogen can adhere to and penetrate the mucosal surface of the urinary tract walls. If the E. coli cannot adhere, it’s simply washed away and excreted in the urinary flow.) Since 80-90% of urinary tract infections are caused by E. coli, cranberries provide significant protection.

The latest research from the University of Scranton shows that, compared with 19 other fruits commonly consumed in the American diet, cranberries have far and away the highest level of antioxidant phenols. This study of cranberries’ powerful antioxidant effects suggests that our very own native American berry may inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cells, and reduce the risk of gum disease and stomach ulcers.

Plus, additional research at three other universities shows that, in animals, cranberries decrease levels of total cholesterol and LDL (low density or “bad” cholesterol). Further studies are currently under way to see if the high level of antioxidants in cranberries also protects people against atherosclerosis.

Reference: Vinson JA, Su X, Zubik L, Bose P. Phenol antioxidant quantity and quality in foods: fruits. J Agric Food Chem 2001 Nov;49(11):5315-21

This page was updated on: 2004-03-08 20:51:48
© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation