It’s Time for Cranberries! Health Benefits and Food Ideas

The cranberry harvest is here! Soon you will see bags and bags of fresh cranberries in the store for your morning oatmeal, cranberry orange bread, and fresh Thanksgiving cranberry sauce. YUM!

I thought it would be a great time to extoll the health benefits of cranberries and give you some ideas for using them.

How Cranberries Help Prevent Urinary Tract Infections

Nutrient dense cranberries provide vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Over 50 years of research shows that cranberries are associated with reduced risk of UTIs, a painful condition that afflicts some 11 million American women each year and costs over $1.6 billion dollars annually to treat.

Cranberries contain polyphenols and the flavonoid, proanthocyanidin (PAC) that provide potential health benefits. The unusual A-type structure of the cranberry PAC appears to be responsible for the anti-adhesive properties not found in other PAC-containing fruits and vegetables.The PACs in cranberries help prevent the adhesion of certain harmful bacteria, including E. coli, associated with urinary tract infections (UTIs). They may also help to inhibit the bacteria associated with gum disease and stomach ulcers.

Cranberries and Heart Health

Cranberries can help to support cardiovascular health and are the perfect addition to a heart-healthy diet. Whole cranberries are a good source of dietary fiber, and all cranberry products contain flavonoids and polyphenolics, natural compounds that offer a wide range of potential heart health benefits.

Using Dried Cranberries

Some people aren’t comfortable with the idea that cranberries have added sugar. The total amount of sugar in dried cranberries is equal to that of other dried fruits, like raisins and dried cherries.  Dried cranberries are sweetened because unlike other berries, cranberries are naturally low in sugar and high in acidity so they require sweetening to be palatable.

  • I love dried cranberries mixed with nuts as a snack.
  • They are also great in oatmeal with a little cinnamon.
  • Use them as a topping on salads – especially spinach and kale with goat cheese and any veggies you love.
  • Add to quinoa, rice, or other grain side dishes.
  • Put them in your Thanksgiving stuffing.
  • Toss into your yogurt or cottage cheese.
  • Holiday baking: use them in home baked cookies, muffins and breads.

Coming Soon.. 50% Less Added Sugar

Check out my video from the 2012 Food and Nutrition Conference where I first learned that some cranberries are coming out in 2013 with less added sugar.


I was compensated for my time in writing this blog post, but I was not compensated for my time to shoot the cranberry video at FNCE.

1. Howell AB, Reed J, Krueger C, Winterbottom R, Leahy M. A-type cranberry proanthocyanidins and uropathogenic bacterial anti-adhesion activity.  Phytochemistry 2005; 66 (18): 2281-2291.

2. Howell A. Cranberry Proanthocyanidins and the Maintenance of Urinary Tract Health. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2002; 42(S): 273-278.

3. Gupta K, Chou M, Howell A, Wobbe C, Grady R, Stapleton A. Cranberry products inhibit adherence of p-fimbriated Escherichia coli to primary cultured bladder and vaginal epithelial cells. J Urol 2007; 177(6): 2357-2360.

4. Burger O, Weiss E, Sharon N, Tabak M, Neeman I, and Ofek I. Inhibition of Helicobacter pylori adhesion to human gastric mucus by a high-molecular-weight constituent of cranberry juice. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2002; 42(S): 278-284.

5. Bodel PI, Cotrain R, Kass EH. Cranberry juice and the antibacterial action of hippuric acid. Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine 1959; 54: 881-888.

6. Yamanaka-Okada A, Sato E, Kouchi T, et al. Inhibitory effect of cranberry polyphenol on cariogenic bacteria. Bull Tokyo Dent Coll. 2008; 49(3): 107-112.

7. Koo H, Nino de Guzman P, Schobel BD, et al. Influence of cranberry juice on glucan-mediated processes involved in Streptococcus mutans biofilm development. Caries Res 2006; 40(1): 20-27.

8. Foxman B, Barlow R, D’Arcy H, Gillespie B, Sobel JD. Urinary tract infection: self-reported incidence and associated costs. Ann Epidemiol 2000 Nov; 10(8): 509-15.

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