Locations:
Search IconSearch

Are Cranberries Healthy? 6 Surprising Benefits

Packed with antioxidants, this fruit can help keep your teeth, heart and gut healthy

healthy cranberries and cranberry juice

You may only think of eating cranberries around Thanksgiving, but this fruit can add some zing (and plenty of health benefits) year-round.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Cranberries, which are mostly carbs and fiber, contain about 90% water. They also contain vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K and manganese.

But fresh cranberries tend to be sour and are rarely eaten raw. You’ll mostly see cranberries in juice form, but cranberry juice also tends to include added sugars.

So is it worth it to add cranberries to your diet? And what’s the best way to eat them?

Registered dietitian Candace O’Neill, RD, LDN, talks about the benefits of cranberries and how to work them into your meals.

Health benefits of cranberries

Cranberries can be very nutritious. “They’re a powerhouse of antioxidants,” says O’Neill. Here’s how cranberries can benefit your health.

Prevent urinary tract infections

Probably the most known benefit of cranberry juice is that it can prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). But O’Neill stresses that cranberries don’t treat the infection once you have it.

A-type proanthocyanidins prevent the binding of E. coli in the bladder, which is normally the first step of getting a UTI,” says O’Neill.

If you’re someone who gets UTIs often, adding cranberries to your diet can be beneficial.

“If you’re someone who struggles with UTIs, including cranberries as a part of a healthy diet is something that you can do that won’t harm you,” says O’Neill. “It could be a proactive approach.”

Prevent cavities

You may not immediately think of cranberries as a way to prevent cavities, but research shows the same a-type proanthocyanidins that help prevent UTIs can help in other ways.

“Researchers think a-type proanthocyanidins are responsible for preventing bacteria formation in the mouth as well,” explains O’Neill.

By controlling those harmful acids in your mouth, cranberries could help prevent not only cavities, but also gum disease, tooth decay and oral cancer.

Reduce inflammation

Cranberries have anti-inflammatory effects, thanks to their high amounts of antioxidants, especially anthocyanins and flavanols, which give cranberries their dark hue.

“Antioxidants have been shown to reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases because they can help lower inflammation in our bodies,” says O’Neill. “That’s why it’s recommended to consume enough servings of fruits and vegetables because those foods will use antioxidants.”

Maintain digestive health

If you eat an animal-based diet, cranberries can help put good bacteria into your digestive system.

“A-type proanthocyanidins, which are only found in cranberries, can help with reducing the bad microbes that live in your colon,” says O’Neill.

Advertisement

More research still needs to be done, but there’s a chance that cranberries could help prevent colon and gastrointestinal cancers.

Improve heart health

From lowering blood pressure to improving your cholesterol levels, cranberries can help improve your overall heart health.

“There’s limited evidence that cranberries can potentially help improve someone’s lipid profile by raising their HDL (good) cholesterol,” notes O’Neill.

Cranberries may also help lower your LDL (bad). O’Neill says it’s important to know that many of these studies used a low-calorie cranberry juice.

Prevent cancer

As you’ve probably learned by now, a-type proanthocyanins are a powerful antioxidant. So researchers are starting to study if and how they may have anti-cancer properties.

“We know in general that eating enough non-starchy vegetables and getting enough fruits in your diet reduces your risk of certain cancers,” says O’Neill.

Are cranberries healthy?

It’s a tricky question to answer, says O’Neill. In their raw state, they can be healthy. But if you get your cranberry fix through juice or dried cranberries, be aware that there’s plenty of added sugar used in both forms.

“In general, one serving of dried cranberries has around 25 grams of added sugar,” says O’Neill. “That’s actually how much added sugar some people can have in a day.”

That sugar is added to offset the tart flavor of cranberries. “They need that sweetness to be a little bit more palatable,” explains O’Neill.

But that doesn’t mean you need to avoid cranberry juice or dried cranberries. You just need to be smart about your sugar intake and pair cranberries with foods that contain less sugar.

For example, you can make trail mix at home by using lightly salted roasted nuts and dried cranberries instead of the candy pieces you typically find in store-bought trail mix.

Pair plain yogurt or oatmeal with dried cranberries instead of honey for a sweet treat. O’Neill suggests looking for unsweetened dried cranberries, but says they are hard to come by. You may be able to find them at a health food store or online.

When it comes to juice, most options are a “juice cocktail” that combines cranberry juice with apple juice to make it sweeter.

“When you’re consuming it in that form, you’re not getting 100% cranberry juice,” says O’Neill.

And watch how much juice you consume. O’Neill says the recommendation is no more than 4 to 8 ounces of juice per day. You can try this tip from O’Neill: Dilute juice with sparkling water or plain water to add a touch of sweetness to your beverage.

Cranberry side effects

Most people can eat or drink cranberries with no issue. But cranberries can be a risk factor for those with kidney stones.

Advertisement

Kidney stones are commonly made of calcium oxalate. Cranberries contain high levels of oxalate.

Also, those who take blood thinners should limit their consumption of cranberries due to their amount of vitamin K, which can interfere with the medication.

“I would talk to your healthcare practitioner or pharmacist about whether or not it’s safe for you to consume cranberry products,” advises O’Neill.

If you’re considering adding cranberries to your diet, O’Neill suggests buying fresh cranberries when they’re in season, typically September through October. You can freeze them and keep them on hand for a variety of recipes like smoothies, sauce or salad dressing.

“Keeping cranberries in your fridge or your freezer is an easy way to add in those antioxidants and help improve your health all year long,” O’Neil adds.

Advertisement

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Cooked slices of seasoned zucchini
July 22, 2024/Nutrition
Is Zucchini Good for You?

Packed with fiber and other nutrients, zucchini can boost your immune system and help you cut calories

Person in an apron, kitchen carrying a loaf of sour dough bread on tray
July 12, 2024/Nutrition
Is Sourdough Bread Healthy for You?

Sourdough can be healthier than some other bread choices — but that doesn’t give it ‘health food’ status

Bowl of horseradish
July 8, 2024/Nutrition
4 Health Benefits of Horseradish

This spicy root helps fight cancer, bacteria and inflammation

An array of meatless foods in different vessels on table
July 5, 2024/Nutrition
Going Vegan 101: A Beginner’s Guide

The meatless, plant-based eating style has countless tasty and healthy options

Hands cupping bowl of greens, chickpeas, whole figs, halved and tofu
July 3, 2024/Nutrition
4 Health Benefits of Figs

Packed with fiber and nutrients, this flower — yep, flower! — is great for your blood sugar, heart and gut

Assorted whole-grain foods, fruits, vegetables and nuts
June 21, 2024/Nutrition
Eating for Energy: Foods That Fight Fatigue

What’s on your plate can either help power you through your day or put you in nap mode

Person standing in front of oversized nutrition label, reading it
June 19, 2024/Nutrition
What Can You Learn From a Nutrition Label?

Information on serving size, calories and nutrients can help you make healthy choices

Piles of sugar alcohol
June 17, 2024/Nutrition
What You Should Know About Sugar Alcohols

Often labeled as ‘diabetes-friendly’ or ‘calorie-free,’ these sugar substitutes warrant caution

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims

Ad