Ingredient Spotlight: Cranberries

Cranberries have been used for centuries by Native Americans to treat urinary tract infections, and there’s lots of research being done now to explain why these tart little berries are so bladder friendly. The first study to scientifically confirm this health benefit was undertaken in 1994, where women given 300ml of cranberry juice a day were found to suffer less than half the incidence of urinary tract infections as the placebo-ingesting control group.


It was originally believed that cranberry juice reduced the symptoms of cystitis by making the urine more acidic – obviously not a desirable effect, as it is the acidic urine that causes the burning sensation. We now know that cranberries work in a completely different way. It seems that certain substances in cranberries can stop bacteria such as E. coli from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract. For bacteria to infect your urinary tract, they must first stick to the mucosal (mucous membrane lining) walls of the tract. If they are unable to do so, they cannot multiply and are flushed from the body when you urinate.


Don’t, under any circumstances, buy cranberry juice with sugar (or artificial sweeteners). Sugar has a negative effect on the immune system and will compromise the ability of the body to fight any infections. Sugar also encourages candida, which can in turn lead to cystitis. You can get cranberry powder in a concentrated form, which is especially helpful if you are prone to cystitis (see the Resources Page).


Researchers believe that the strongly antioxidant proanthocyanidins found in cranberries could be responsible for this unique bacterial anti-adhesion activity. In lab studies they have also been shown to inhibit the HSV-2 herpes virus, the Helicobacter pylori bacteria, that is increasingly recognised as a leading cause of peptic ulcers and the growth of oral bacteria, which cause dental plaque and periodontal disease.


Studies have also found that cranberries, which contain high levels of other antioxidant flavonoids and polyphenols, can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. This is caused by ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol silting up arteries, reducing blood flow and leading to angina, thrombosis and heart attacks.


Research from the Human Nutrition Research Centre on Aging at Tufts University in the US suggests that diets rich in foods with high levels of antioxidants and other phytonutrients, such as cranberries, could protect against chronic age-related afflictions, such as loss of memory and mental acuity.


100g of cranberries provides:


• 33% of your daily requirement for immune system-boosting vitamin C

• 26% of your dietary fibre, which helps to maintain a healthy bowel

• 36% of your manganese, which aids the absorption of key nutrients such as vitamins C, B1 and biotin, and is important for a healthy reproductive system





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