Eat cranberries

Most people already know that cranberries are useful for preventing urinary tract infections. Cranberries can also be useful for preventing other sorts of infections, such as dental cavities and stomach ulcers because of cranberry's ability to block bacterial adhesion.

Cranberries can also be a useful component of a heart healthy program.

Several unique properties of cranberries contribute to various aspects of heart health:

• Cranberries are a rich source of pectin--Pectin is a soluble fiber, the sort that binds bile acids in the intestinal tract and naturally reduces LDL cholesterol.
• Cranberries are a rich source of polyphenols and flavonoids--Including the wonderfully fascinating anthocyanins, the flavonoids that confer the beautiful red color. Surprisingly, cranberries are richer in polyphenols and flavonoids than blueberries, strawberries, and grapes. Cranberry juice is also rich in these compounds. However, beware of cranberry juice "cocktail," which is diluted with other liquids such as high-fructose corn syrup. Like grapes, cranberries are a source of resveratrol, the polyphenol also found in red wines that some believe is responsible for reduced risk for heart disease and extending life.
• Cranberries have high antioxidant activity--Cranberries are among the highest in antioxidant capacity against superoxide radicals, hydrogen peroxide, and hydroxyl radicals, oxidizing factors believed to underlie heart disease, cancer, and aging. Cranberries also reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol particles.
• Cranberries block uric acid production--Cranberries have the unique ability to block the activity of an enzyme, xanthine oxidase, that converts xanthine to uric acid. Uric acid is believed to add to heart disease risk and is the factor responsible for gout.
• Cranberries increase HDL cholesterol--Cranberry juice increases HDL by 3-4 mg/dl.

Cranberries are only modest sources of sugars, with 7.19 grams “net” carbohydrates (total carbohydrates minus fiber content) per cup of whole raw cranberries.

The best way to eat cranberries is to consume the real thing: eat the whole berry, as in sugar-free cranberry sauce or added to baked dishes like chicken. Second best are dried cranberries. However, be careful of the overly-sweetened dried cranberries that contain added sugar (for a total of 78 grams sugar per cup--far too much). Unsweetened dried cranberries can be purchased, or you can dry them yourself.

Cranberry juice is another way to obtain the health benefits of cranberries; the unsweetened juice, while quite tart, is the best with 30.5 grams sugar per 8 oz--so don't drink more than 4 oz at a time. The more common cranberry juice “cocktails” are generally too sugary and/or too dilute for full health benefit.

The cranberry harvest season in Wisconsin, Michigan, Oregon, Massachusetts, and New Jersey is just getting underway, so we should be seeing fresh cranberries on store shelves or farmers' markets any day now.

Comments (17) -

  • Anonymous

    9/24/2009 8:06:38 PM |

    What about cranberry extract pills? There are some supplements that claim 1-2 pills is equivalent to a glass of cranberry juice.

    I know people have used the pills of urinary tract infections, but am not sure if the other benefits are in the pills too.

  • Anonymous

    9/25/2009 4:07:49 PM |

    How do grapes compare to cranberries for heart health benefits?

  • Anonymous

    9/25/2009 6:48:32 PM |

    I have some comments about your book, Dr. Davis, and I know this is not the best location for such comments, but here goes:

    1. There's a lot of useful info for a lay person like me. Thanks for putting together such a great resource and forging a new path of understanding heart disease for the public.

    2. On page 115 you say that flaxseed oil might be used for cooking, but, I've read elsewhere that it's important to avoid heating flaxseed oil, as it oxidizes easily, even without heat.

    3. On page 58 you make what appears to be a "4.5% annual risk represented a 45% likelihood over the next ten years". Shoot. I don't think probability calculations work that way. I believe the way one calculates this is:
    p(event over next ten years) = 1 - (1-.045)^10 = .369  
    or about 37%.

    Think about coin flips. I have a 50% chance of seeing a head on any given flip. Does this mean that I have a 100% chance of seeing a head come up in two flips? Well, there's a 25% chance I'll see two tails in a row. That can happen.

    If a patient had a 10% annual risk of a heart attack, would that mean there's a 100% chance of a heart attack over 10 years? Surely some patients do better than that.

    I don't understand why you calculate the longer term probabilities the way you do.

    4. I'm really glad I bought this book. I feel it's setting me straight about a lot of heart issues, and updating the work of other diet based heart approaches.

    Thank you for your attention.

  • Andrew

    9/26/2009 1:25:31 AM |

    Cranberries are also 96% carbs, and contain a lot of fructose, which you've been telling us to avoid.  Best to watch the intake.

  • Anonymous

    9/26/2009 2:46:35 AM |

    Cranberry juice is quite acidic, yes? Strips the enamel from teeth?

  • pmpctek

    9/26/2009 4:50:40 AM |

    I went to three of my local grocery stores to see if I could find just one cranberry product without added sugar.

    I found numerous brands of cranberry sauces, juices, dried fruit, and frozen fruit.  All of them had high amounts of sucrose or fructose added to them... some of them even listed the sugar as the first ingredient!

    I can't say I was surprised.  I'm now used to seeing the large food industrial complex adulterating even the most healthy, real foods into a poison.

    I guess I'll have to wait for the fresh cranberries to arrive in the produce department and freeze up some homemade sauce.

  • Dr. William Davis

    9/26/2009 1:37:28 PM |


    Yes. We are essentially left with whole fresh cranberries (or frozen) or small quantities of cranberry juice.

    I didn't mean to suggest that cranberries should be our sole source of flavonids, but one nice choice among many others.

    Anonymous with book comments--

    Thanks for all the excellent points. You are correct on each. The upcoming revised books will include these changes.

  • Anonymous

    9/26/2009 8:19:42 PM |

    Make it simple: grind up the cranberries in your food processor.
    Add plenty to sugar free cherry jello, let set and enjoy. I know the "sugar free" jello contains artificial sweetener but your only eating 1 serving at a time.

  • Anonymous

    9/28/2009 2:38:56 AM |

    Trader Joe's usually carries a 100% Cranberry Juice, Unsweetened, in 32 oz glass containers.

  • Synaura

    10/5/2009 6:24:34 AM |

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  • Chloe

    10/23/2009 4:06:25 AM |

    I make what we call CranJam (sometimes I will add 1/2 cup frozen red raspberries but rarely) which is jamaica (in Spanish huh-my-ka)which is nothing more than hibiscus flower tea (the red flowers) and blend in 1/2 cup frozen (no sugar) cranberries that I buy at HEB in Texas and is a very small cranberry, about the size of a small Great Northern bean, add some stevia, just enough to keep it tart but delicious, add ice, and it is a beautiful rich red and delicious.  Hibiscus tea/jamaica is even reported to lower blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and act as a natural diuretic.  Link to "agua de jamaica"

    As for fructose level, I just looked at the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory site, and I see on some fruit items they are starting to list fructose.  It was listed for red raspberries and cranberries, but not for blueberries (I am hoping that more will be added).

    Fructose for 1/2 cup whole cranberries is 0.32 gm.  Low I am thinking.  Very, very low.

  • Rhodan

    11/20/2009 9:30:56 PM |

    Regarding uric acid, it is a major antioxydant in the blood.

    I read various articles stating that uric acid in secreted as a reaction to the fructose intake in fruits/berries, thus their so-called antioxydant power, and not from the their flavonoids content (which are poorly absorbed).

    What is your opinion on that ? As for me, the more I read on what is best to eat, the more I am puzzled ...

  • Levitra

    10/7/2010 10:01:49 PM |

    Can cranberries help reduce any type of cholesterol? I suffer of high cholesterol in my blood stream and I am trying to find the best way to reduce the counts as fast as possible.

  • buy jeans

    11/2/2010 7:49:04 PM |

    Cranberries are only modest sources of sugars, with 7.19 grams “net” carbohydrates (total carbohydrates minus fiber content) per cup of whole raw cranberries.

  • Annette

    3/29/2011 11:52:54 AM |

    I love cranberries.My favorite use for them? Cranberry orange muffins!

  • Bertha

    7/11/2011 3:57:05 PM |

    Great hammer of Thor, that is powerfully hepflul!