Cranberry, a berry rich in benefits: properties, uses

Cranberry is a berry with antioxidant properties and useful against cystitis, but not only. Find out about the properties of cranberry and how to use it correctly.

Cranberry is a small berry with great beneficial properties: to be taken as a fresh fruit or as a fruit juice, it is useful against cystitis and has a high antioxidant power. It is a shrub belonging to the Ericaceae family and, in particular, to the Vaccinium genus. This plant grows spontaneously in Europe and is also widespread in northern Italy, in the area between the Alps and the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines.

Evergreen shrub, it reaches modest height between 10 and 30 cm and produces small spherical fruits with a sour taste that are commonly called cranberries . These berries, initially white, change color as their degree of ripeness increases, eventually taking on a reddish color.

The fruit is consumed both fresh and squeezed and contains several nutrients that give this berry numerous nutritional properties. In particular, as we will discuss in the next paragraphs, they have a high quantity of anthocyanins and mirtiliin, substances capable of promoting health.

There are several varieties of this plant in nature: the cranberry (called cowberry in English) which is the most common genus in the flat areas of our peninsula; the American cranberry (the cranberry) which is the most widespread in the world and, consequently, also the most studied. Most of the blueberry juices that we find on the market are prepared using the latter variety.

Finally we can remember a third type of cranberry called Mortella di palude. The different types of blueberries differ in the size and color of the berries they produce: the first and third types of blueberries mentioned above produce a smaller fruit than the cranberry , which in the case of the swamp myrtle has a darker color.

Cranberry: characteristics and nutritional values

As we have anticipated, the cranberry is the most studied variety and for which the nutritional properties have been made known from an authoritative source, such as the US Department of Agriculture. Like all berries, cranberry is also a fruit with a limited content of simple sugars (less than 5 grams per 100 grams of product), a good amount of fiber and a modest content of vitamin C.

Thanks to its low amount of sugar and reduced calorie content (46 calories per 100g), cranberry is suitable for anyone to consume, without any particular restrictions. It is mainly known for its high content in anthocyanins and in particular in cyanidin and peonidin, which give the fruit the typical red-orange color, in delphinidin (or mirtillin) with antioxidant activity and in quercin, a flavonoid with numerous beneficial properties.

Nutritional values ​​per 100g of cranberries:

  • Waterfall: 87.32 g
  • kcal: 46
  • Proteins: 0.46 g
  • Fat: 0.13 g
  • Carbohydrates: 11.97 g
  • Fibers: 3.6 g
  • Iron: 0.23 mg
  • Sodium: 2 mg
  • Potassium: 80 mg
  • Phosphorus: 11 mg
  • C vitamin: 14 mg
  • Zinc: 0.09 mg
  • Magnesium: 6 mg
  • Glycemic index: 25
  • Cholesterol: 0 g

Cranberry: nutritional properties

This fruit does not contain high amounts of essential nutrients: according to American indications the only ones to be moderately represented are: vitamin C (100 grams of cranberries contain 13% of the daily dose recommended by our guidelines) and copper (about 9 % of the recommended daily dose).

The importance of cranberry and its beneficial properties are linked to the presence of less known substances such as the aforementioned quercetin. In addition, the cranberry contains a fair amount of lutein and zeaxanthin. Let’s get to know the properties of these substances together:

  • Vitamin C : with its antioxidant function, it is essential for our immune system, it is also involved in the synthesis of collagen and is important for the assimilation of iron by red blood cells;
  • Copper : involved in various cellular reactions and part of some important proteins, it is also a molecule with redox activity. It is also a fundamental mineral for the formation of erythrocytes and for the well-being of our bones;
  • Quercetin : this flavonoid has been found to interact with several cellular enzymes involved in inflammation and cell proliferation. It is also a powerful antioxidant capable of eliminating free radicals and protecting cells;
  • Lutein : belonging to the carotenoid group, this molecule has a strong antioxidant property. It is concentrated above all at the level of the eyes and the retina and is essential for the health of the visual apparatus;
  • Zeaxanthin : it also belongs to the carotenoid family and performs an action very similar to that of lutein.

Cranberries: Health Benefits

The particular nutrients present give the cranberry very interesting properties for our health. Before describing the benefits it brings, however, we want to focus on its use at a herbalist level. In fact, herbal preparations based on blueberries, both black and red, are commonly used. Carnberry extracts, in particular, are recommended especially in the case of uro-bladder problems, such as cystitis.

In addition, numerous lutein and zeaxanthin-based supplements can be found on the market, recommended for improving eye health. In this regard, we would like to advise against do-it-yourself: always contact your doctor or an expert herbalist / naturopath who can evaluate the supplements and dosages that best suit your needs. Let’s now explore the properties of cranberry and the beneficial actions it performs on our body.

✓ Against cystitis

The use of cranberry preparations for the management of cystitis, very common among women especially in menopause, is justified by years of practice and by the presence in the fruit of proanthocyanidins capable of inhibiting the adhesion of pathogenic bacteria to the walls of the urinary tract.

The lack of estrogen typical of the menopausal period, in particular, increases the susceptibility to this type of infections. Consumption of cranberry juice may be recommended for women and children as a preventative measure.

✓ Anti-oxidant properties of cranberry

Thanks to the presence of numerous anthocyanins, quercetin, vitamin C and carotenoids, cranberry is a fruit with high antioxidant power. These fruits, like other berries, are among the food products richest in compounds with antioxidant action present in nature. It would seem that this action is carried out in particular by the presence of quercetin and other phenolic compounds.

Furthermore, some studies reveal that this activity is greater following the freezing of the fruits, while processing at high temperatures or drying would decrease their power. Finally, we want to underline that, despite the few studies conducted on cranberry, limited evidence points to a greater antioxidant power than other berries such as strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.

✓ Antitumor properties

Studies performed both in vitro and in vivo have demonstrated the beneficial activity of cranberry in oncology, against various types of cancer (esophagus, stomach, colon, prostate, bladder, glioblastoma and lymphoma).

The numerous compounds present in the cranberry affect tumor pathology through different mechanisms: stimulating programmed cell death, inhibiting cell proliferation and cell adhesion, decreasing inflammation and the oxidative state of the cell and influencing cell cycle and communication.

✓ Cardiovascular protection

The antioxidant power of cranberry also affects cardiovascular health. In fact, some studies have shown that the use of cranberry increases the content of antioxidant molecules present in the blood and decreases the oxidation of LDL (low density lipoproteins) and VLDL (very low density lipoproteins), involved in the genesis of plaques. atherosclerotic.

Cranberry and bilberry: what are the differences?

Cranberry and bilberry are not to be confused as these fruits have very different properties. In this article we have investigated the main properties of cranberry (Vaccinium Oxycoccus), a plant used mainly to fight urinary tract infections.

The bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) is a fruit with remarkable antioxidant properties, known for the presence of different acids that have anticancer properties and considered externally beneficial for blood circulation, also thanks to the presence of folic acid, essential for the production of hemoglobin. To learn more about the properties, we invite you to read: Bilberry, antioxidant and useful for circulation: here are properties, benefits and contraindications.

How many cranberries to consume

One serving of cranberries is equivalent to one serving of fruit. Generally the guidelines recommend consuming two servings of fresh fruit per day, equal to about 150-200 g. More practically, a serving of cranberries equates to a full punch of fruit. If we prefer dehydrated cranberries we can replace one of the two portions of fresh fruit with 30 g of dried cranberries.

Cranberry: how to use it

Cranberry is suitable to be eaten fresh, either alone or in richer fruit salads, or for the preparation of fruit juices or jams. Cranberries (fresh or dried) can also be eaten in the morning for breakfast, for example in yogurt. Furthermore, as we have seen, this fruit can also be frozen, to be used even in the months when it is not available fresh. Thanks to its particular taste it can also accompany more elaborate dishes, providing a sour note. An example? A roast pork with potatoes and cranberry cream.

Furthermore, with dried cranberry it is possible to make a very good herbal tea . To make it, simply boil a level spoonful of dried berries in about 250 ml of water (one cup), then let it boil for 2 or 3 minutes, turn off the heat and let it rest for another 6 or 7 minutes before drinking. For many other ideas we invite you to read our article: Herbal teas based on dehydrated fruit: 5 recipes to try.

As we mentioned above, in herbal medicine it is mainly used to treat urinary tract infections. For this purpose, it is generally recommended to take fresh juice or dry extract that can be purchased at a herbalist’s shop or pharmacy, to be used according to the instructions on the package.

Cranberry supplements: when and how to use them

There are many types of cranberry supplements on the market and are mainly used to fight cystitis or to benefit from the properties of these fruits. Many of these supplements come in tablet form, but there is no shortage of syrup or powder formulations. Dosages and methods of intake are usually indicated by the manufacturer. Generally, one or two intakes a day are recommended, far from or close to main meals.

Cranberry: Contraindications and Potential Negative Effects

Cranberry is not without contraindications. We want to report a possible interaction between cranberry and the use of warfarin (or coumadin), an anticoagulant drug. In fact, it would seem that a high consumption of this fruit for a prolonged period of time can interfere with the effect of the drug. A moderate and not excessive consumption can instead be recommended to the whole population, without particular contraindications. However, it is advisable to seek medical advice before using cranberry extracts when using medications.

Curiosity: The cranberry is a fruit of which not only we humans are greedy, but also different types of animals. The English name of the cranberry widespread in Italy is in fact cowberry, which can be translated as “cow’s berry”, precisely because it is also consumed by cattle.


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