Maybe you should be eating more cranberries?

Cranberries are a variety of small berry that are recognized as a “superfruit” due to their nutrient content and antioxidant properties. They are related to bilberries, blueberries and huckleberries.

Cranberries can be sourced from many different places such as cranberry juice, sauce, jam, dried fruits or eaten in their natural state, the berry- however be warned as they are very sharp eaten this way!

Cranberries are rich in many nutrients; These are vitamin C, vitamin A (beta carotene), lutein, manganese, potassium, folate and a vast array of anti-oxidants called pro-anthocyanidins, anthocyanidins,  triterpenoids, phenolic acids and flavonoids.

There are many health benefits from eating cranberries and they may also prevent certain ailments if eaten regularly. Primarily because cranberries contain antioxidants they may prevent cellular damage from unstable molecules known as “free radicals”. Other benefits may be prevention from heart disease, yeast or urinary tract infections and some research has shown possible prevention against cancer, stroke and viral infections.

They may also prevent periodontal disease, especially if the extract is added to mouthwash. In some people it has been observed that regular consumption of cranberry juice for several months can kill the bacteria that cause stomach cancer and ulcers called H pylori.

Other preliminary research has pointed to that cranberries may increase levels of beneficial cholesterol (HDL) and decrease levels of non-beneficial cholesterol (LDL), prevent tumors from growing, or even developing in the first place and could also prevent breast cancer cells from multiplying, which has been tested by in vitro (test tube) only at this stage.

Another preliminary study has suggested cranberries have anti-ageing effects, as they may protect the brain from neurological damage.

There may be side effects from consuming cranberry supplements or cranberry juice if you are on certain medication such as warfarin, as this may enhance the effects of this medication, as it has a direct effect on the liver enzymes involved in anti-coagulation, which could cause the blood to thin excessively, which is dangerous.

There may also be contra-indications if you have certain conditions such as kidney stones, as cranberries can increase compounds called oxylates and also calcium in the urine, which can trigger an attack of kidney stones in some people susceptible. Another reason to be cautious is if you have a condition called gout, as cranberries are high in compounds called purines and these can cause the body to become overly acidic, which can exacerbate the symptoms of gout.

If you are allergic to aspirin, which contains compounds called salicylates, you may react to excessive amounts of cranberry juice or other products, so over-consumption is not recommended.

Also because cranberry juice has the potential to affect liver detoxification and the amount of time medications stay in your system some caution should be taken if you are on any long term medication and the amount of cranberry juice you drink or the frequency of it.