8 Health Benefits of Cranberry Juice (Plus 4 Cranberry Juice Recipes to Try)
Native to North America, cranberries are recognized for their bright red color, tart taste and versatility. We’re talking dried cranberries, cranberry sauce, frozen cranberries and, yes, cranberry juice. You’ve likely heard that this tart red drink can help ward off urinary tract infections (UTIs), but there are actually a host of other health benefits of cranberry juice, from soothing an upset stomach to reducing inflammation.
Nutrition-wise, one cup of unsweetened cranberry juice contains:
- 116 calories
- 1 gram of protein
- 0 grams of fat
- 31 grams of carbohydrates
- 0 grams of fiber
- 31 grams of sugar
It’s important, when we’re talking about cranberry juice and its health benefits, to differentiate between unsweetened cranberry juice and cranberry juice cocktail. When you’re looking for a cranberry juice that’s healthy and not filled with sugar and additives, it’s essential to look at labels. Cranberry juice cocktail contains added sugars, like high fructose corn syrup, and is often made with only a small amount of actual cranberry juice. In the grocery store, look for labels that say “made with 100 percent real juice” or that are sweetened only with natural sweeteners like apple juice. Read on for everything you need to know about the health benefits of cranberry juice, plus a few cocktails and mocktails that incorporate this tasty drink.
8 Health Benefits of Cranberry Juice
1. It Might Prevent Urinary Tract InfectionsOK, so the emphasis here is on the word ‘might.’ Despite the fact that most of us have heard about the connection between UTIs and cranberry juice, much of the has been mixed. Some studies—like this one from 2017 in Frontiers in Microbiology—have shown cranberry juice to be effective in reducing the risk of UTIs, while others have found that it isn’t an effective treatment. One reason it could be a promising treatment is that cranberries contain proanthocyanidins, a class of compounds that can help prevent UTIs by stopping bacteria from attaching to the lining of the urinary tract. More research is needed, though, to prove cranberry juice is an effective treatment.
2. It’s a Good Source of Vitamins, Minerals and Antioxidants
Notably, vitamins C and E. An 8-ounce serving of cranberry juice provides 39 percent of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, which is important for a variety of reasons. A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C helps stop free radicals from damaging cells and DNA in your body, which could help reduce your risk of developing various ailments like cancer or heart disease. It also helps your body produce collagen and absorb iron, and it of course boosts your immune system. The same serving of cranberry juice contains about 20 percent of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin E, which is crucial for the health of your skin, blood vessels and heart.
3. It Can Improve Heart Health
Cranberries are high in chemicals called polyphenols that may support heart health. A 2011 study by researchers at Oklahoma State University found that cranberry juice increased the antioxidants in the blood plasma, and that people who drank cranberry juice had lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL). LDL, for reference, is known as “bad” cholesterol.
4. It Can Support Digestive Health
The compounds in cranberries that might improve heart health can also improve digestive health. A 2016 study by researchers in Iran found that these phytochemicals can prevent the bacteria H. pylori from growing and multiplying in the stomach lining. Inhibiting the production H. pylori in the stomach is thought to promote digestive health, though the researchers did note that further studies are necessary.
5. It May Promote Healthy Skin
Because of its robust vitamin C content, cranberry juice may have some skin-boosting benefits. WebMD notes that the antioxidants in vitamin C can help defend against the damage that UV light can cause, and this important nutrient is also known to stave off the appearance of wrinkles (although we don’t recommend swapping your daily SPF for a glass of juice just yet).
6. It Can Help Prevent Cavities
According to Dynamic Dental, pure cranberry juice can help combat tooth decay and fight off cavities. The yummy drink contains a specific enzyme that prevents bacteria from sticking to your teeth, therefore preventing it from settling on your pearly whites and eventually turning into cavities. That same enzyme also prevents the formation of glucan, one of the main building blocks of plaque. (The key word here is pure cranberry juice—skip the sugary stuff if you want to keep your pearly whites pristine.)
7. It May Support Menopausal Health
In addition to the onslaught of unpleasant symptoms that come with menopause (such as mood swings, hot flashes and night sweats), your risk of heart problems also increases. However, one study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that the consumption of cranberry juice reduced total cholesterol levels leading scientists to believe it’s not a bad supplement to add to your diet post-menopause. More research is still needed since the study was conducted on rats and not humans, but if you’re in the throes of menopause then sipping on a glass of cranberry juice in the A.M. might not be such a bad idea.
8. It May Help Manage Chronic Conditions
According to Medicine Net, cranberries are chalk full of beneficial antioxidants such as quercetin, myricetin and ursolic acid which are known to prevent cancer, heart diseases and high blood pressure. More research is needed here, but preliminary evidence is promising.
Potential Risks of Cranberry Juice
Sometimes, too much of a good thing can be bad. And though cranberry juice is delicious and nutritious, it also has some potential downsides. Ingesting too much can cause an upset stomach, diarrhea and blood sugar spikes, so diabetics beware. Cranberry juice has also been known to interact with some blood thinners (warfarin, for example) so be sure to consult your doctor if you’re on any blood thinning meds.
Health Benefits of Fresh Cranberries
This humble berry might not have reached influencer status on the food pyramid, but it packs a punch—and we’re not just talking about its sour taste. According to FoodRevolution.org, cranberries are rich in antioxidants and contain compounds that boast anti-inflammatory and “bacteria-blocking benefits.” As such, regular consumption of raw cranberries is thought to promote urinary tract health as well as immune and digestive system health, while potentially reducing the risk of cancer, ulcers, and degenerative diseases that stem from cell damage. Of course, eating a boatload of raw cranberries doesn’t promise a clean bill of health but suffice it to say, cranberries have a good rapport with the human body.
4 Cranberry Juice Recipes—Alcoholic and Not—to Try
1. Anti-Inflammatory Cranberry-Ginger Morning Drink
Whether you’re sticking to a strictly anti-inflammatory diet or you’re just looking to detox a bit, this morning drink has got you covered. Studies have shown that both ginger and cranberries can have beneficial AI properties that will help you feel your best.
2. Cranberry-Mint Holiday Punch
This large-batch cocktail combines fresh mint, cranberry juice, orange liqueur, vodka and—our favorite part—sparkling wine (learn how to pop that bottle here). It’s sure to keep your guests’ Champagne coupes full without any fuss. Now that’s how you bring good cheer.
3. Slow-Cooker Cranberry Hot Toddy
Quick, what comes to mind when you hear “hot toddy”? For us, it’s a steaming cocktail that warms us better than a cashmere sweater. This slow-cooker cranberry hot toddy is extra festive, thanks to cranberries and tangerines instead of lemon juice. We swap in rum and brandy for traditional bourbon and garnish everything with cinnamon sticks and fresh cranberries. It’s practically begging to be served at your holiday party.
4. Cranberry Margarita
The only thing more impressive than margaritas made with fresh lime juice? Margs made with fresh lime juice and cranberries. These stunners from Coterie member Jane Ko are a breeze to whip up (10 minutes max) and will totally impress your friends. (Quick tip: If you don’t own a cocktail shaker, it’s totally OK to DIY by fitting the tops of two Solo cups together.)