My Love Letter to Cranberries (Plus Recipes!)

When it comes to berries, strawberries and blueberries get all the love. Cranberries are like that eccentric cousin who only visits once a year. It's a shame because these vibrant berries have some phenomenal health benefits.

The Underappreciated Superfruit

At first glance, cranberries don’t look like a superfood. They’re mainly fiber, water and sugar. They have decent vitamin C, but it’s nothing to write home about.

Then, you look at the list of antioxidants in cranberries and your mind is blown away. Antioxidants are special substances that protect your cells, the building blocks for every part of your body: skin, heart, bones, eyes, nerves and more.

Few foods have as many different antioxidants as these bright red bombshells:

  • Peonidin
  • Ursolic acid
  • Quercetin
  • Myricetin
  • A-type proanthocyanidins

Some of these nutrients are only found in cranberries. Others are more abundant in cranberries than in other foods.

Delicious Health Benefits

Even if you never remember the scientific names of cranberry antioxidants, you’ll remember the amazing things they do.

Fighting Inflammation

Cranberries and cranberry juice contain potent antioxidants for fighting chronic inflammation. Other dark fruits, such as grapes, have these same anti-inflammatory compounds, but cranberries blow their numbers out of the water. Take that, blueberries.

By the way, the idea that only seniors have to worry about inflammation is a myth. Nearly 20% of middle-aged Americans have diabetes, and many others have arthritis, joint pain or heart problems. All in all, over half of Americans have some type of chronic inflammation.

Protecting Urinary Health

If you have urinary tract infections from time to time, give cranberries a try. Do you remember those A-type proanthocyanidins mentioned earlier?

It turns out that they’re really good at blocking the bacteria responsible for many UTIs. They make it harder for microbes to stick to your urinary tract or bladder.

Cranberry juice isn’t going to treat an infection, but it can significantly reduce your risk of getting a UTI. For recurring UTIs, cranberries were nearly as effective as medication, and they come without harsh side effects.

Supporting a Healthy Gut

Those same A-type whatchamacallits are also good for your digestive health. By making it harder for harmful microbes to take over your gut, cranberry antioxidants support a healthy digestive tract filled with good bacteria.

This may provide many benefits, from smoother bowel movements to improved mood. Some scientists think that cranberry juice can lower your risk of stomach cancer, colon cancer and ulcers. Take this with a grain of salt, though.

Tart and Sweet Treats

One way to enjoy cranberries in your diet is to drink cranberry juice, preferably one without added sugars. What if you're not exactly addicted to the dry flavor of cran? Some people dilute it in sparkling water for a refreshing drink that’s not too tart.

Add the power of cran to your favorite smoothies. Mix half a banana with 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen cranberries. Add 1/4 cup Greek yogurt and 1/4 cup of your choice of berries. This refreshing breakfast smoothie gives you fiber and energy for the day.

Dried cranberries can supercharge “boring” health foods. Why eat plain oatmeal when you can spice it up with little red bundles of pure joy? Unsweetened cran raisins make tasty granola and trail mix to conquer your snack cravings.