Cranberry Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Fresh Cranberries in Pail

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Cranberries are the fruit of a small shrub bush (Vaccinium macrocarpon) that grows in North America and produces flowers and then a red or pink berry. The original species (Vaccinium oxycoccos) is native to Great Britain.

Cranberries can be eaten raw, but they have a tart taste that is unappealing to some people. Instead, cranberries are often consumed in sauces, relishes, pies, and other sweetened recipes. Cranberry juice and dried cranberries are also widely available.

Cranberries are low in calories and provide fiber and vitamin C. This versatile berry can make a smart addition to a healthy diet.

Cranberry Nutrition Facts

This nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup (100g) of whole, raw cranberries.

  • Calories: 46
  • Fat: 0.1g
  • Sodium: 2mg
  • Carbohydrates: 12g
  • Fiber: 3.6g
  • Sugars: 4.3g
  • Protein: 0.5g

Carbs

A 1-cup serving of raw cranberries contains just 46 calories and 12 grams of carbs. Of those carbohydrates, 3.6 grams are fiber and 4.3 grams are naturally-occurring sugars.

The glycemic load of raw cranberries is estimated to be 2. Glycemic load takes portion size into account when estimating a food's impact on blood sugar.

Canned, sweetened jellied cranberry (the kind that is often served at Thanksgiving dinner) contains about 90 calories per 1/2 inch slice. Each slice provides about 23 grams of carbohydrate, 18 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of fiber.

Dried cranberries are also popular. A half-cup serving of sweetened dried cranberries provides 260 calories, 66 grams of carbs, and 4 grams of fiber.

Fat

Raw cranberries have almost no fat, providing just 0.1 grams per serving.

Protein

There is less than a gram of protein in a cup of raw cranberries.

Vitamins and Minerals

Cranberries are a good source of vitamin C (14 milligrams per cup) and manganese (0.4 milligrams per cup).

Health Benefits

Cranberries have been used medicinally dating back to the 17th century when the fruit was a popular treatment for scurvy and gastric problems. The berries are known to contain several classes of bioactive flavonoids including flavonols, anthocyanins, and proanthocyanidins which may provide certain health benefits.

Prevents Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are among the most common bacterial infections, especially among women. They are usually caused by Escherichia coli, which attaches itself to the inner surface of the bladder and urinary tract.

The unique phytonutrients found in cranberries, known as A-type proanthocyanidins, can prevent E. coli from attaching to the lining of the bladder and urinary tract, potentially preventing infections.

May Aid Ulcer Prevention

Infection by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori is considered to be a major cause of stomach inflammation and ulcers. The A-type proanthocyanidins in cranberries may prevent H. pylori from attaching to the lining of the stomach, potentially preventing these gastrointestinal ailments.

May Reduce Risk of Some Cancers

Infection by H. pylori is also considered to be a major cause of stomach cancer. Cranberry supplementation may have the potential to prevent it from proliferating in the gastric mucosa, potentially reducing the risk of stomach cancer.

There is also some evidence that cranberry polyphenols may be able to deter human cancer cells from growing in the oral cavity, colon, and prostate.

Supports Heart Health

Cranberry juice and cranberry extract have been shown to have beneficial effects on several risk factors for heart disease. A study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that when adults consumed low-calorie cranberry juice for 8 weeks, they showed increased levels of HDL cholesterol, lower LDL cholesterol, decreased stiffness in blood vessels, and lower blood pressure.

The study was small in scope, (just 56 participants) but the authors concluded that low-calorie cranberry juice can improve several risk factors of cardiovascular disease in adults.

May Aid Diabetes Management

Some studies have shown that cranberries in various forms may help those with type 2 diabetes. For a study published in the Journal of Food Science, scientists measured the metabolic response to sweetened dried cranberries, raw cranberries, and white bread in people with type 2 diabetes.

The results of the study indicated that a low-sugar variety of sweetened dried cranberries and raw cranberries were associated with a favorable glycemic and insulin response in those with type 2 diabetes. If low-sugar sweetened dried cranberries are not available in your store, a more practical alternative would be an unsweetened dried cranberry.

However, other research reviews have suggested that the evidence is less clear. In a report published in 2013, study authors said that while diabetes might be affected by cranberry bioactives, results have been inconsistent with some studies showing a slight benefit and others indicating no benefit at all.

Lastly, keep in mind that a person with diabetes should use caution when eating dried fruit because it can raise blood sugars quickly. It is important to keep portion sizes in check. Some people may also need to test blood sugar two hours after eating.

Allergies

There are reports of allergy to cranberry and other berries in the Vaccinium species, such as blueberries. If you have a berry allergy, seek the personalized advice of your healthcare provider before including cranberries or any product made from cranberry in your diet.

Adverse Effects

If you are taking the blood thinner Coumadin (warfarin), talk to your doctor about your diet as large amounts of cranberry products can alter the levels of the medication in your blood.

Cranberries, especially concentrated cranberry extracts, may contain high levels of oxalate and are considered to be a risk factor for kidney stones when consumed in high amounts. Kidney stones consist of calcium oxalate and can form when the amount of oxalates in the urine is excessive. Some people are more prone to developing them than others. If you are prone to getting kidney stones, ask your doctor if you should limit your cranberry consumption.

Varieties

There are two main types of cranberries: the American cranberry and the British cranberry. The British berry—which has never been cultivated in the United States—is a smaller fruit that is sometimes speckled.

Within the American cranberry type, there are more than 100 varieties. Most are grown for the production of cranberry juice. Varieties such as Crimson Queen, Mullica Queen, and Demoranville tend to be higher in sugar and are popular among gardeners who like to use the berries to cook.

When It’s Best

Cranberries are harvested in the fall and early winter. If you buy fresh berries at the store, look for those with a bright or deep color. Berries should be plump and free from blemishes. Avoid those that look dried or shriveled.

Keep in mind that you can also buy cranberries in other forms. Frozen cranberries are available in most markets. Canned jellied cranberries and canned cranberry sauce tend to be popular around the holidays, particularly Thanksgiving. Dried cranberries, sometimes called craisins, are also available. And cranberry juice is popular year-round.

Check the nutrition facts label if you buy a packaged cranberry product. Many contain added ingredients, such as sugar or other sweeteners.

Storage and Food Safety

Canned cranberry products and most cranberry juice products can be stored in your pantry until you are ready to use them. Refrigerate them once you've opened them and use them by the "best by" date indicated on the label.

Store fresh cranberries in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to a month. Fresh cranberries can also be frozen in an airtight container for up to a year.

How to Prepare

If you enjoy the tart taste of fresh cranberries, they can be added to yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, or fruit salad like other berries. But if you prefer to add some sweetness (as many do), there are many ways to cook with cranberries while also controlling the amount of sugar that is used.

If you make your own cranberry sauce at home, you can reduce the sugar you use or use a sugar alternative. Cranberry also pairs well with flavors like mint or spicy jalapeños for relish or chutney.

You can also bake with cranberries. Add them to pancakes, scones, banana bread, or other sweet treats.

Recipes

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Article Sources
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