The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend choosing a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including fruits like cranberries, which contain essential vitamins and minerals, dietary fiber and other naturally occurring compounds that may have potential health benefits.
Low fat diets rich in fiber-containing grain products, fruits, and vegetables may reduce the risk of some types of cancer, a disease associated with many factors. While many factors affect heart disease, diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of this disease. Diets low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure, a disease associated with many factors. Cranberries are cholesterol and fat free, and very low in sodium.1
Cranberry products contain polyphenol antioxidants.
Cranberry juice is an excellent source of antioxidant vitamins C and E. Some scientific evidence suggests that consumption of antioxidant vitamins may reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer. However, FDA has determined that this evidence is limited and not conclusive.
Cranberry products are usually sweetened because, unlike other berries, cranberries are naturally low in sugar and high in acidity, making them especially tart. The Dietary Guidelines allow for a limited amount of added sugar to improve palatability and recommends less than 10 percent of calories per day be from added sugar. The total amount of sugar in dried cranberries is similar to that of other dried fruit.
Fruit, in all forms, provides vitamins and minerals as well as dietary fiber. By the nature of how it is made, dried fruit offers more concentrated nutrients than fresh fruit, allowing a smaller amount of dried fruit to provide similar benefits to a larger quantity of fresh fruit. Both the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate recognize ½ cup of dried fruit as equivalent to a 1 cup serving of fruit. These recommendations were made based on the nutrition contribution of this quantity of dried fruit, compared to fresh alternatives.
More than 500 original research and review articles about cranberries have been published in peer-reviewed medical and nutrition journals. These include animal, laboratory and human clinical trials, as well as epidemiological studies. The current evidence, along with a comprehensive review of Cranberries and Their Bioactive Constituents in Human Health in the November 2013 issue of Advances in Nutrition, reveals that:
Cranberries are a source of dietary phenolic bioactives, including particularly flavan-3-ols, A-type proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins, benzoic acid and ursolic acid, and a unique profile of all six members of the anthocyanidin family.2 While the results of these studies show promising outcomes, these are not conclusive. Further human clinical trials are needed to fully understand the effects on humans.
Cranberries contain the flavanol, proanthocyanidin (PAC). The unusual A-type structure of the cranberry PAC appears to be responsible for the anti-adhesive properties that are not found in other PAC-containing fruits and vegetables.3
The majority of human studies have focused on cranberry’s beneficial effect on urinary tract health. Researchers continue to explore cranberry’s potential effects on oral health,4 cardiovascular diseases,5 cancers,6-9 glycemic response,10-12 and infections such as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria, a cause of gastritis and peptic ulcer disease.13-15