We tend to eat a lot of treats during the holidays, but there's one food that's extra popular this time of year that's actually good for you. Behold five health benefits of the mighty cranberry.
This disease-fighting fruit is one of the highest ranking, regularly consumed foods for antioxidant content per serving, according to the Cranberry Marketing Committee. Antioxidants protect cells from the damage that oxidative stress and free radicals can have on them. That damage can lead to serious conditions like cancer and heart disease.
Some of the antioxidants found in cranberries include anthocyanins, ellagic acid, quercetin, resveratrol, selenium, and vitamins A, C and E.
Low-calorie flavor booster
One cup of fresh cranberries contains 46 calories, according to the USDA. If you like them raw, they’re a great low-calorie snack — but their tart flavor makes them an acquired taste. Use them in cooking and baking to add a pop of flavor while not adding a lot of calories, as in these recipes:
Urinary tract infection preventer
Cranberries and cranberry juice have long been associated with preventing UTIs. There’s a substance in cranberries that prevents “infection-causing bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract walls,” according to WebMD.
Study results, however, are very inconsistent. Some studies suggest that cranberries can lower the chance of repeated infections in young women. However, an October 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that female patients in nursing homes who took cranberry capsules for a year didn't have fewer episodes of UTIs than those who took placebos.
High in fiber
One cup of cranberries contains 4.6 grams of dietary fiber. The Mayo Clinic says fiber maintains bowel health, lowers cholesterol, and helps control blood sugar. Foods high in fiber can also help control weight because they make you feel fuller for a longer period of time.
Full of vitamins and minerals
One cup of cranberries contains 24 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C and 7 percent of the recommended daily values of vitamins K and E, according to Self Nutrition Data. It’s also a good source of the mineral manganese, containing 20 percent of the recommended daily value.
Keep in mind that these benefits are for fresh cranberries, not dried cranberries. While dried cranberries retain many of these benefits, most commercially dried cranberries contain added sugar to make them more palatable. One-quarter cup of Craisins dried cranberries contains 130 calories and 29 grams of sugar (about the equivalent of 7 teaspoons of table sugar).
Editor's note: This story was originally published in December 2014 and has been updated with new information.