10 incredible effects of cranberries on your heart and health

Cranberries are a well-known superfood. They're high in nutrients and antioxidants, they're very low in calories, and they happen to be delicious. Native to North America, cranberries are much higher in antioxidants than superfoods such as broccoli or spinach, and you only need to consume a relatively small amount to gain the nutritional benefits.
From urinary tract infections to stomach ulcers, a number of health issues exist that can be prevented or treated with cranberries. Fresh cranberries bring the best health benefits, followed by dried cranberries. Juice has the least, and it's important that you buy "real" cranberry juice as opposed to anything marketed as a "fruit drink." These have very little real cranberry juice but plenty of added sugar and preservatives.
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Here are 10 ways these little berries are fantastic for health:
1. Fight urinary tract infections
There is some contention around this. People all over the world drink cranberry juice to treat UTIs. It was once thought that cranberries made the urine too acidic to support bacteria, but now it is thought some chemicals in cranberries keep bacteria from sticking to cells along the urinary tract. This is where they would usually stick and multiply, causing an infection, but instead cranberry juice lets them pass through in urine. Cranberry juice, however, does not seem to have the ability to release bacteria that has already stuck there. WebMD explains this is why cranberry juice may be a better preventative measure than a treatment for UTIs.
2. Reduce your risk of cancer
Food Facts cites research that has shown the effectiveness of cranberries when it comes to inhibiting growth and spread of several types of tumors. This included breast, colon, prostate and lung tumors, and although the studies haven't yet been conclusive, early theories suggest this tumor inhibition could be because of the flavonols and anthocyanin glycosides in cranberries, or it could be because of the salicylic acid, which can have anti-tumor effects.
3. Help your heart
Health cites a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, which showed that people who drank a glass of unsweetened cranberry juice a day increased their good cholesterol by approximately 10 percent. A study by the Mayo Clinic found that cranberry juice may protect against the hardening of the arteries. Medical News Today also explains that the polyphenols in cranberries may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by preventing platelet build-up and lowering blood pressure via anti-inflammatory mechanisms.
4. Prevent stomach ulcers
WebMD notes that cranberries help to prevent H. pylori (bacterial) infections in the stomach, that can lead to ulcers. Similar to the way it works in the urinary tract, cranberries are thought to prevent the bacteria from attaching itself to the lining of the stomach.
5. Fight inflammation
Cranberries have an anti-inflammatory effect that can benefit conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, stomach and digestive disorders, according to NOLA.
6. Prevent cavities and gum disease
Cranberry juice stops bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract and the stomach lining, and the same premise applies to the mouth, where cranberry juice stops bacteria from binding to teeth and prevents plaque buildup. The anti-inflammatory effect helps to reduce inflammation around the gums and consequently lowers our risk of periodontal disease.
7. They're high in fiber
According to Food Facts, cranberries provide 20% of daily fiber requirements in every serving. Fiber flushes the system and lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, among other things.
8. They have an anti-aging effect
This all comes back down to the sky-high antioxidant levels of cranberries, according to The Natural Health Society. Essentially, antioxidants protect cells from free radicals, which accelerate the aging process. But this isn't just about vanity: Those same free radicals can lead to the development of degenerative diseases and age-related issues of the heart and the brain. Cranberry extract may help to combat memory loss and keep brains healthier.
9. Lower blood sugar
According to SF Gate, a study published in the Health Studies Journal reported that dried cranberries were shown to help regulate blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
10. Vitamins, vitamins, vitamins
One serving of cranberries provides 24% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C. Cranberries pack a punch in terms of vitamin E and A, as well as folate and phenolics such as ß-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin. They're also packed full of minerals like potassium and manganese. What can't this little berry give us?
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WebMD warns that although cranberries are a generally safe and natural way to gain many health benefits, there are some people for whom they might not be the best dietary supplement. Anyone with an aspirin allergy might find themselves reacting adversely with cranberries, and they can interact with some medications, including blood thinners. Plus, eating excessive amounts (as with most fruit) can cause an upset stomach. If you're unsure, have a chat to your doctor. Otherwise, try adding a few more cranberries to your diet. Fresh is best, dried is next!

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