There’s always one bright splash of color in the middle of your Thanksgiving table. It’s the cranberry sauce, of course.
And let’s be honest, for most of us, it’s the only day in the entire year we even see cranberries, much less eat them. But a recent study shows you might want to change that.
It could be time to break the cranberry free from its holiday image and make it a regular part of your routine in every season.
I’m not talking about the sauce, of course. In most cases, cranberry sauce is loaded with sugar and far too sweet for anything but those special occasions.
But it turns out cranberry, in other forms, is packed with some essential nutrients that could spare you from misery and maybe even save your life.
New research has revealed the ruby-red berry can potentially help wipe out the gut bacteria responsible for painful ulcers and deadly cancers.
How cranberry can beat bad gut bugs
Up to 75 percent of us are hauling around weird little bacteria called Helicobacter pylori in our bellies.
H. pylori are weird because, in most cases, they don’t cause any problems or symptoms. But in some folks, they turn into a total nightmare.
The bugs can essentially chew away at the lining of your stomach, causing painful bleeding ulcers. Even worse, H. pylori have been linked to several forms of cancer, including stomach cancer.
But the recent study finds cranberry could hold the key to keeping this bug in check.
Volunteers suffering from H. pylori infection were given cranberry juice with different levels of a protective polyphenol from the berry called proanthocyanidin (PAC), or a cranberry powder, also with PAC, but not the juice.
At first, it seemed like the PACs did the trick. After two weeks, the volunteers given the PAC-enhanced powders and the ones given juice with high PAC levels saw their H. pylori levels sink.
But something unusual happened after that…
By week eight, the folks who drank the cranberry juice – regardless of PAC levels – saw the biggest plunge in infection rates. Incredibly, 75 percent tested completely negative for the bacteria. But the unlucky participants who got the powder didn’t.
The results suggest it’s something else in the juice. The most likely candidate is the condensed tannins known to trap bacteria and stop them from sticking to the digestive tract walls.
The right way to get the berry benefits
Cranberry also has a few other benefits, especially for women. There’s evidence it can help prevent or, in some cases, defeat urinary tract infections.
Some more concentrated forms of cranberry have even been shown to work as well as antibiotics for preventing UTIs.
Earlier this year, I explained how to pick the right cranberry product for the job when you’re battling a UTI. If you missed that, click here to catch up.
The only downside of cranberries is they taste downright awful.
Not the cranberry sauce or juice we know and love, of course… but actual, honest-to-goodness cranberry. It’s so tart your cheeks will cave in.
The only way to make the fresh stuff palatable is to sweeten it. There are two ways it’s typically done:
- By mixing cranberry or the juice with buckets of unhealthy sugar.
- By combining it with another juice, like apple and grape, to mellow it out.
Now you probably know by now I’m not a fan of juice. Its sugar content is far too high, and all the helpful fiber has been removed.
But if you insist on drinking cranberry juice, check the ingredients carefully. If it’s been cut with added sugar – especially high-fructose corn syrup – give it a pass.
A better choice is a cranberry extract supplement in capsule form. You won’t enjoy the fresh autumn flavor of cranberry, but you will get all of the healthy compounds, minus the sugar.
Or, if you prefer the flavor of the fresh berries, try my trick. Mix up a batch of cranberry-orange relish in the food processer using fresh cranberries, unpeeled oranges, and diced apple.
You can add a dash of stevia or monk fruit sweetener if needed to take the edge off. Then serve a few tablespoons of the relish alongside meals all week long.