May 23, 2024

Known for its deep red color and sweet-tart taste, cranberry juice is a classic drink that’s stood the test of time. It’s perfect for quenching your thirst, whether you’re looking for an alternative to water or other types of fruit juices. But is cranberry juice actually healthy for you, and if so, how much is a good amount to drink? We tapped registered dietitians to learn more about the health benefits of cranberry juice, plus how to find the healthiest one in stores.

What Is Cranberry Juice?

Cranberry juice is the liquid from cranberries, a small dark red fruit that’s native to North America. The berries are crushed into a pulp, which is then pressed to remove the juice. This juice is filtered and pasteurized before being packaged into bottles. Depending on the manufacturer, the liquid might be blended with other fruit juices.

Cranberry Juice Nutrition Facts

While cranberry juice can be part of a healthy diet, it doesn’t offer a ton of nutritional bang for your buck. “Juice is primarily carbohydrates, with very little protein and no fat,” explains registered dietitian Maddie Pasquariello, MS, RDN. These two nutrients are important for promoting satiety and slowing digestion, which would otherwise pump the brakes on blood sugar spikes, she adds. 

Plus, many cranberry juices on the market contain added sugars or feature a blend of different ingredients, so it can be difficult to know how much cranberry juice you’re actually getting, says Pasquariello.

What Is a Healthy Serving of Cranberry Juice?

In general, it’s safe to drink eight ounces (one glass) of cranberry juice per day as part of a balanced diet, says Kristen Carli, MS, RD, registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Camelback Nutrition Wellness.

However, as with all foods and drinks, there’s no one-size-fits-all serving size for cranberry juice. The ideal amount depends on several factors, including your age and health status, notes Carli. It’s also essential to consider other foods and drinks you’re consuming, especially if you’re trying to limit your intake of added sugars, which is found in many cranberry juices.

If you’re unsure how much cranberry juice is safe for you to drink, chat with your doc or a registered dietitian, recommends Carli. They can assess your medical history and lifestyle, and determine the healthiest serving for you.

Top Health Benefits of Cranberry Juice

It Reduces Oxidative Stress

For a tasty way to lower oxidative stress, sip on cranberry juice. “Cranberries contain a class of antioxidants called polyphenols, which include subgroups like phenolic acids, anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, and flavonoids,” says Pasquariello. Antioxidants in general protect cells from oxidative stress—a process that, over time, can destroy healthy cells and increase the risk of chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes, lung disease, and heart disease, notes Pasquariello.

It’s worth noting that the antioxidant content of cranberry juice isn’t comparable to whole cranberries. The juicing process removes the antioxidant-packed skin and seeds, reducing the antioxidant content by about 30 to 40%. Cranberry juice blended with other juices might even have less, depending on the antioxidant profile of the latter. Still, this doesn’t mean cranberry juice isn’t a noteworthy source of antioxidants; it’s just not as rich as whole, fresh cranberries.

It increases hydration.

When it comes to staying hydrated, you’re not limited to plain water. Fruit juice—including cranberry juice—is fair game, thanks to its high water content. This can help boost your hydration, which is vital for basic bodily processes like regulating body temperature, supporting digestion, and absorbing nutrients, says Carli.

It promotes immune function.

“Cranberry juice contains compounds like proanthocyanidins and vitamin C, which are known to support immune function,” explains Carli. Vitamin C is especially important for top-notch immunity, as it’s essential for the production and function of white blood cells, she notes. These cells help your immune system respond to infections, as they’re responsible for fighting and destroying germs that might make you sick. The antioxidants in cranberries (and therefore, cranberry juice) also have anti-inflammatory properties, which also contribute to healthy immune function, says Pasquariello.

 It might support urinary tract health.

If cranberry juice had a claim to fame, it would be its link to urinary tract health. Specifically, it’s associated with a lower risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs), which is marked by symptoms like a persistent urge to pee, pelvic pain, or cloudy urine. This cranberry juice benefit is thought to be related to its proanthocyanidins, which may prevent harmful bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract, potentially reducing the risk of UTIs, says Carli. With that in mind, regularly drinking cranberry juice could theoretically provide some protection—but there isn’t currently enough evidence to prove a definitive benefit. Recent research also suggests its effects may be limited, so more studies are needed.

Otherwise, drinking more liquids in general can help prevent or manage UTIs, notes Pasquariello. This can include cranberry juice, if you happen to enjoy the drink and are looking for tasty alternatives to water. But take note: If you’ve already been diagnosed with a UTI, it’s still important to complete the recommended course of antibiotics in addition to drinking liquids, says Pasquariello.

It may support heart health.

As the antioxidants in cranberry juice combat oxidative stress, they could also reduce the risk of heart disease. That’s because oxidative stress can damage cells in the heart, negatively affecting heart function over time. Cranberries and cranberry juice also contain flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that may prevent atherosclerosis, notes Pasquariello. Atherosclerosis happens when plaque builds up in your arteries, potentially reducing blood flow and increasing the risk of heart disease. However, the potential heart-related benefits of cranberry juice come from in vitro studies—which are done in a petri dish or test tube vs. in a living organism—so more research is needed before confirming the cardioprotective effects of cranberries and cranberry juice, says Pasquariello.

Risks and Side Effects of Cranberry Juice

“While cranberry juice is generally safe for most people, consuming large amounts may lead to upset stomach or diarrhea,” says Carli. This is due to its acidic nature and high sugar content.

If you’re prone to kidney stones, be mindful when drinking cranberry juice, recommends Carli. Cranberries contain oxalates, which can contribute to the formation of kidney stones. Likewise, if you’re taking blood-thinning medications, cranberry juice might interact with these drugs, so talk to your doctor before sipping on the drink, says Carli.

How to Choose the Healthiest Cranberry Juice

If you want to find the healthiest cranberry juice in stores, there are several things to consider when shopping. First, look for one that’s made of pure cranberries, suggests Pasquariello. It will likely be labeled “100% pure cranberry juice.” Also, choose a product with no added sugars.

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