Discover the health benefits of cranberries, the dark side of cranberry farming, and what cranberries you should choose for your health and the health of the environment.
Cranberries are often included on holiday menus, typically in the form of cranberry sauce — but most people take these bright red, tart berries for granted.
You’ll see why cranberries have some amazing and surprising health benefits — and can be a fantastic healthy addition to your regular diet. But if you want to consume them, you’ll also discover the dark side of cranberry farming — and how to choose cranberries that are safe for you and for the environment.
Top health benefits of cranberries
Though you may not have heard about it, cranberries are great for your health for a wide range of reasons.
They’ve been used a health food throughout U.S. history. Native Americans used cranberries to treat illnesses, and pilgrims believed cranberry skin could fight scurvy, a disease resulting from a lack of vitamin C. And today, science is confirming their power as a health food.
While they are best known for their protection against urinary tract infections or UTIs, they provide powerful antioxidant protection and anti-inflammatory benefits. They also have:
Overall, cranberries are high in vitamin C and fiber, and they can be delicious, both fresh and frozen.
Keep reading to see exactly how cranberries can benefit your health.
Cranberries are one of the top antioxidant foods
Antioxidants, often called anti-aging compounds, help prevent or slow oxidation in the body.
You probably didn’t know this, but cranberries are one of the top antioxidant foods, with more antioxidants than blueberries! So, eating them regularly can help you look and feel great as you age.
Anti-inflammatory benefits of cranberries
Consuming cranberries regularly may protect against many chronic diseases. This is because the phytonutrients in cranberries lower the risks of unwanted inflammation.
The anti-inflammatory effects of cranberries have also been found to help improve your gum health and reduce the risk of periodontal disease.
Cranberries can help prevent urinary tract infections
If you’re a woman who wants to prevent urinary tract infections, science supports the practice of consuming cranberry products daily.
According to the Cochrane Collaboration, regular consumption of cranberry products reduced the overall incidence of UTIs by 35% — or by 39% for women with recurrent UTIs.
Cranberries provide support to the immune system
Cranberries are a great food to consume in fall and winter to help you stay well because they’ve been shown to improve multiple aspects of immune function.
Cranberries can help prevent and fight cancer
Cranberries have been found to help prevent and fight cancer when consumed on a regular basis.
Specifically, cranberries have been linked to breast, colon, prostate, and lung cancer prevention.
Cranberries are one of the best foods to cleanse the liver
Cranberries have antibacterial and antiviral properties, which promote detoxification within the liver.
Cranberries also help cleanse the blood, which passes through your liver daily.
The best way to consume cranberries
To get the highest levels of beneficial nutrients from cranberries, choosing fresh cranberries is best.
Cranberries are at their peak from October to December. So if you can find them, you can purchase them fresh during this time and then freeze them and consume them all year. Or you can purchase already frozen cranberries in your grocery store.
If you’re wondering how to use cranberries in your diet, some healthy ideas are to throw fresh or frozen cranberries into smoothies, oatmeal, salsa, or granola.
And here’s a great recipe you can try for the holidays or any time of the year …
An easy and healthy cranberry juice recipe
This cranberry recipe is food Revolution Summit speaker Michael Greger, MD, of Nutritionfacts.org.
It’s a whole food cranberry cocktail, with 25 times fewer calories and at least 8 times the phytonutrient content of cranberry juice you’ll find in the store.
The dark side of cranberries you need to know
If you were to believe the ads of the world’s leading supplier of cranberry products, Ocean Spray, you would think cranberry farming is clean, natural, and safe. But most of it isn’t.
For one, cranberries aren’t easy to grow. Cranberry farmers often use a variety of toxic chemicals to keep their production rates high, such as chlorothalonil, carbaryl, and pronamide. And most farmers believe chemicals are necessary for growing cranberries.
But is this true? Is using chemicals the only way to grow cranberries?
Keep reading to find out. But first also consider how chemical-based cranberry farming affects the environment.
Cranberry bogs (beds layered with sand, peat, gravel, and clay) are pumped with water right before harvest, so the water mixes with the chemicals. And then, that water ends up being sent through dams, ditches, and pumps, and ends up in local bodies of water.
You might think cranberry farms are under some sort of government oversight, but due to a loophole, they aren’t.
So is it possible to avoid all the chemicals and eat organic cranberries?
Yes! You can find cranberries from some sustainable companies out there, such as Fresh Meadow Farms, Cranberry Hill Farms, and Starvation Alley.
And there’s hope that the industry could be changing. In particular, Starvation Alley plans to change the way farmers grow cranberries by encouraging cranberry farmers to grow their produce organically.
If you want to avoid cranberries produced in a toxic way this holiday season, buying organic is your best option.
To get the full story about the dark side of cranberry production and why there’s hope, you can read this article from Quartz.
Tell us in the comments. Does this make you think differently about cranberries? What healthy ways do you consume cranberries?