Cranberry Pills: The Benefits of the Little Red Berry Without the Bitterness

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    Cranberry pills offer many of the benefits of the red berry that graces most Thanksgiving tables without its natural bitter taste. Find out more right here.

    What are cranberries?

    Cranberries are small, round, hard, fruit with a tart, bitter taste. They are native to North America and southern Canada and are grown on vines in freshwater bogs. They are typically harvested in the fall by flooding the bogs with water and loosening the berries from the vines with the help of water reel machines called “eggbeaters.” Once the berries float to the top of the water, they are gathered using wooden or plastic booms, after which they are taken to the receiving station for cleaning.

    Cranberries are a relative of blueberries, though they aren’t consumed in the same way. Often associated with Thanksgiving, they are at the core of the great debate of canned versus homemade cranberry sauce. They are typically used in sauces, jellies, and baked goods, and are also sold in sweetened dried form, and largely as cranberry juice.

    They were originally used by Native Americans for food, fabric dye, and medicine. Later on, sailors ate the tart fruit while at sea in order to prevent scurvy. The little red fruit is rich with antioxidants, and a good source of both dietary fiber and vitamin C.

    What are cranberry pills?

    Cranberry pills are a dietary supplement made from dried, powdered cranberries. They are often used to get both the antioxidants and the potential health benefits of the cranberry without the bitter taste you get from actually eating it.

    Difference between cranberries, cranberry pills, and cranberry juice?

    Cranberries are the actual fruit that has been harvested from the plant in a cranberry bog. They can be eaten raw or cooked, and are often found in muffins, scones, jellies, jams, and, of course, the Thanksgiving side known as cranberry sauce. They are rich in antioxidants and are widely considered to be a superfood.

    Cranberry juice is a juice beverage made by pressing cranberries and diluting the mixture with water and, in some cases, adding sweetener. It is a popular beverage that is often consumed for its antioxidant properties and other purported health benefits, though it’s also popular as a mixer for a number of cocktails.

    Cranberry pills are a dietary supplement that is made from dried, powdered cranberries. They are often used for their antioxidant properties and may contain other additional nutrients such as vitamin C.

    How do cranberry pills work?

    Cranberry pills contain proanthocyanidins, which is the beneficial compound. The powerful antioxidant is purported to promote urinary tract health.

    Health benefits of cranberry pills

    Urinary tract health

    Proponents contend that the proanthocyanidins in cranberry pills attach themselves to the walls of the bladder and urinary tract, which may help to promote urinary tract health. This study of the inhibitory activity of cranberry extract on the bacterial adhesiveness in the urine of women found that cranberry extract in suitable amounts can help to prevent bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract lining.

    High in antioxidants

    Cranberries are naturally high in antioxidants and flavonoids such as quercetin, myricetin, peonidin, and A-type proanthocyanidins. They are all known to have numerous health benefits. Cranberry pills, however, may not have the identical makeup of the cranberries from which they are made, as some nutritional value may be altered or lost during the manufacturing process. It is also possible that the supplement may contain filler. When you are looking for a supplement, always look for a high-quality, premium product such as Care/of’s Cranberry The Sauce.

    Helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels

    Cranberries contain a number of flavonoids, or plant phytochemicals, that exhibit antioxidant properties which are beneficial to all systems of the body. The makeup of these properties in cranberry pills, or juices, may be different from their makeup in actual fruit because of the manufacturing process. This study of the favorable impact of low-calorie cranberry juice consumption on HDL-cholesterol concentrations in men found that the consumption of flavonoid-rich foods may help men boost HDL cholesterol levels that are already within normal limits.

    Helps maintain a healthy weight

    Although cranberry pills are not specifically known to help maintain a healthy body weight, eating a low-calorie, high-fiber fruit like cranberries may help, as they are a healthy source of filling fiber and rich with antioxidants. It is always important to remember that the best way to maintain a healthy body weight is by eating a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet, along with moderate exercise, proper hydration, adequate sleep, and managing stress.

    Oral Care

    Cranberries contain polyphenols that inhibit acid production, attachment, and biofilm formation, and could potentially serve as bioactive molecules to support oral health. And while there may be some evidence that polyphenols can promote oral health, there is not any significant evidence to date to demonstrate that cranberry pills are an effective way to fight cavities. Oral health impacts heart health and many other critical components of a healthy lifestyle. Regular dental visits, professional teeth cleanings, regular brushing (twice per day at a minimum), flossing, tongue scraping, and the use of mouthwash all contribute to excellent oral health. A healthy diet that includes fresh fruit and vegetables, limited sugar, and minimal acidic foods is also important for both oral and overall health.

    Supports vitamin B12 absorption

    Cranberries are an excellent source of vitamin C and may help with the absorption of iron from plant-based foods and collagen formation, though more research is needed before we can determine the exact link between all three (cranberries, iron, and collagen) There is no evidence of cranberry pills supporting vitamin B12 absorption.

    Increase Vitamin C

    It is important to read the label on any cranberry pill supplement you may be taking as the amount of vitamin C it contains can be brand specific. You will likely not get the exact vitamin C content of a whole cranberry in any supplement as the process from fresh fruit to powdered or liquid extraction will alter the overall makeup of the product. If you are looking to increase your vitamin C intake, there are many foods and supplements that would be a better choice than cranberry pills.

    Potential side effects and risks of taking cranberry pills

    Can you take too many cranberry pills?

    While cranberry pills are generally considered to be safe, as with any supplement it is possible to take too many. Possible side effects include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, painful urination, or any signs of kidney stones. If you are experiencing any of these, seek medical attention.

    Recommended dosages

    Each brand will have the recommended dosage on its ingredients label. Do not exceed this recommendation unless you are directed to do so by your physician. The dosage for Care/of’s cranberry supplement is 1 capsule of cranberry per day, which is the equivalent 25,000mg of fresh cranberry, or one glass of cranberry juice (Beneficial activity of 10 oz. cranberry juice cocktail).

    Final takeaways

    The cranberry harvest probably isn’t a big season to you unless you live in a place like Cape Cod, MA, home to some of the biggest cranberry bogs in existence. Few of us give much thought to how the little red berry ends up on our Thanksgiving table, or its juice in your favorite cocktail. Most people, in fact, may not even be aware that it’s a superfood, packed with antioxidants and rife with potential health benefits.

    The cranberry is not the kind of fruit you would eat from a bowl, like you would its cousin the blueberry. It’s tart, hard, and even in juice form more than a little bit bitter. But if you want the benefits without the taste, it is available in supplement form. If you want it in capsule form, consult with your physician before you begin. It’s generally safe, but if you are taking any medications, you want to be certain it doesn’t interfere with them. And if you choose cranberry juice, read the label before you buy. Many juice blends contain significant added sugar. Hint: if it tastes sweet, it’s likely loaded with sugar.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Our Editorial Staff
    Freelance Contributor
    The Care/of Editorial Team is made up of writers, experts, and health enthusiasts, all dedicated to giving you the information you need today. Our team is here to answer your biggest wellness questions, read the studies for you, and introduce you to your new favorite product, staying up to date on the latest research, trends, and science. Each article is written by one of our experts, reviewed both for editorial standards by an editor and medical standards by one of our naturopathic doctors, and updated regularly as new information becomes available.