Packed with antioxidants, cranberries work wonders for your urinary tract, mouth, stomach and heart.
Dietitian-to-be Rochelle Wallace is currently completing her Masters of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Sydney. Rochelle discovered her passion for health and nutrition while sitting in her high school food tech class and since then she hasn’t looked back. She currently works for Eat Fit Food, Weight Watchers and Northside Nutrition and Dietetics, and also manages to find the time to volunteer her services to OzHarvest, Meals on Wheels and St Vincent de Paul’s night patrol and brekkie van. Rochelle loves immersing herself in everything foodie.
Towards the end of February, I attended a healthcare professional’s lunch at Chiswick restaurant for the launch of Floridis’ Ellura – a cranberry supplement designed to maintain urinary tract health. With amazing company, a delicious feast and of course cranberry juice, associate research scientist Dr Amy Howell from Rutgers University in the US outlined the role cranberries have on our health. Dr Howell has spent the last 21 years researching the health benefits of these powerful red berries and here’s an insight into what she has discovered about these tiny, tarty berries.
- Keeping the urinary tract healthy: The most well-known health benefit of cranberries is their ability to help prevent urinary tract infections (UTI). Cranberries are made up of the antioxidant proanthocyanidins (PACs), which contain unique structures called A-Type linkages. These linkages bind to nasty bacteria preventing them from sticking to the wall of the urinary tract, instead flushing them out of the body. Studies show a minimum dose of 36mg of PAC (as found in one capsule of Ellura or 70g of cranberries) is required to help reduce the frequency of recurring cystitis (inflammation of the bladder).
- Maintaining oral hygiene: The PACs in cranberries that help prevent UTIs may also play a role in oral health by preventing plague-producing bacteria from binding to teeth. Dr Howell’s research also suggests these berries may help prevent gum disease.
- Keep the heart healthy: The research conducted by Dr Howell and her colleges has shown that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of cranberries can prevent the activation of enzymes that are required for the development of atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries). Cranberries also assist in lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol while simultaneously increasing the “good” HDL cholesterol.
- Keeping the stomach healthy: Similarly to the urinary tract and mouth, bacterial adhesion to the stomach lining is prevented through the presence of cranberry PACs, which in turn may reduce the risk of stomach ulcers.
- Reducing the risk of some cancers: Rich in antioxidants, cranberries can help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. The antioxidants found in cranberries help flush harmful toxins resulting in a lower frequency of cold and flu symptoms, sickness and disease. Due to the naturally high concentration of the flavonoid quercetin, cranberries may help inhibit the development of some cancers like breast, liver, prostate and colon.
Adding cranberries to your diet
Cranberries can easily be found in various different products. However due to the natural tartness of the berries, many of these products contain copious amounts of added sugar to make the fruit more palatable. Try adding the naturally sweetened varieties to your smoothies, oats, natural or Greek yoghurt or even salad. Cranberries can also be added to a dessert, muffin or cake, or for an extra zing sprinkle dried cranberries over grilled chicken. Alternatively, a cranberry supplement like Ellura may also be an option, but check with your doctor first.