What are cranberries?

Cranberries are small, round, deep red berries related to blueberries. They have a sharp, sour taste, so are rarely eaten raw, and most commonly enjoyed dried or juiced.


Cranberries grow on vine-like plants similar to strawberries, and typically come from North America or eastern Europe, although you can grow them in the UK under the right conditions. They are usually harvested between September and November, and are available fresh in UK shops from October to December.

The health benefits of cranberries include:

  • Rich in antioxidant compounds
  • May prevent urinary tract infections
  • May have anti-aging properties
  • May promote skin health
  • May support heart health
  • May help reduce the risk of stomach ulcers
  • Antibacterial properties
  • May protect against certain cancers
  • May support eye health and vision
  • May promote a healthy immune system

Discover our full range of health benefit guides or check out some of our best cranberry recipes, from our porridge with beetroot, apple & cranberry compote & toasted hazelnuts to pumpkin, cranberry & red onion tagine.

Cranberries and cranberry juice

Nutritional profile of cranberries

An 80g serving of fresh cranberries provides:

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  • 12kcal / 52kj
  • 0.3g protein
  • 0.1g fat
  • 2.7g carbohydrate
  • 2.7g sugars
  • 3.2g fibre
  • 76mg potassium
  • 10mg vitamin C

Either an 80g serving of fresh or frozen cranberries, 30g of the dried berries or a single serving of 150ml unsweetened cranberry juice counts as one of your five-a-day. However, as with all juices, only one glass counts and consuming more will not provide further contributions to your five-a-day intake.

Are dried cranberries good for you?

Dried cranberries contribute the same level of fibre, vitamins and minerals, but slightly lower levels of protective antioxidants, than fresh. Although dried berries retain their natural sugars, many manufacturers add sugar to make them more palatable.

Is cranberry juice good for you?

Cranberries are most commonly consumed as a juice, which is the form of the berry that contributes the least amounts of protective antioxidants and fibre. It may also contain added sugar or artificial sweeteners and, being a juice, is a source of ‘free sugar’ – the type we are advised to cut back on. Fresh or frozen berries are, therefore, likely to offer more than juice in terms of health benefits.

Are cranberries good for you?

1. Rich in antioxidant compounds

Cranberries contain plant compounds that have a protective, antioxidant effect. Most of these are found in the skin of the berry and may be lost during the juicing process.

2. May help prevent urinary tract infections

Cranberry juice is probably best known for helping to manage urinary tract infections (UTI). Cranberries contain pro-anthocyanidin compounds, that have natural antibacterial benefits and may help prevent Escherichia coli from attaching to the surface of the bladder and urinary tract, causing an infection.

There are many studies supporting cranberry juice as a means to help prevent UTI and its reoccurrence, but it appears to be less effective once the infection has taken hold. Some studies also suggest it may not work for everyone.

If you choose to drink cranberry juice for its potential UTI benefits, opt for an unsweetened 100% juice.

3. May have anti-aging properties

Cranberries are one of only a few fruits that are high in plant defence chemicals called pro-anthocyanidins. Most of the studies regarding cranberries have focused on the benefit of these compounds on urinary health, however, other research suggests their benefits may stretch to protecting against collagen degradation in the skin and cognitive decline. Much of the data to date has been obtained from animal studies, using pro-anthocyanidins from other plant sources, so more trials are needed in this promising area.

4. May help promote skin health

Cranberries contain carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A for healthy skin, eyes and a strong immune system. They also provide lycopene, which may help protect the skin from UV damage.

5. May support heart health

A number of human studies state regular consumption of cranberry juice or extract may reduce some of the key risk factors for heart disease. These include improving cholesterol balance, lowering blood pressure and reducing a compound called homocysteine, which is known to damage the lining of the blood vessels.

It's worth noting, however, that conflicting findings have been reported in other studies.

Cranberries growing on tree

6. May help reduce the risk of stomach ulcers

Cranberries contain a plant compound that may reduce the risk of gastric ulcers and stomach cancer caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. Consuming cranberry products that are naturally rich in this compound (known as A-type pro-anthocyanidins) appears to suppress the growth of the bacteria and as a result may reduce the risk of developing stomach cancer.

7. Has anti-bacterial properties

As well as inhibiting the growth of Helicobacter pylori and Escherichia coli, cranberries may also be effective against the food poisoning bug, Listeria monocytogenes.

8. May protect against certain cancers

Cranberries are one of the best food sources of ursolic acid, a plant compound with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and potential anti-cancer effects. It may be useful for the prevention of certain cancers however clinical trials are needed before any such recommendations may be made.

9. May support eye health and vision

As well as containing carotenoids, which the body converts to vitamin A for healthy eyes, plant compounds in cranberries, such as pro-anthocyanidins, appear to protect eyes from age-related conditions.

10. May promote a healthy immune system

Plant compounds in cranberries may modulate our immunity and as a result make us less prone to colds and flu. Cranberries are also a useful source of immune-supportive nutrients, including vitamins C and E, carotenoids as well as iron.

Are cranberries safe for everyone?

Cranberries are generally considered safe for most people when consumed in moderation. Excessive consumption may, however, cause stomach upsets and loose stools.

Cranberries and concentrated cranberry products may also contain high amounts of oxalates, these may increase the risk of kidney stones in some predisposed people. If this is relevant to you, you should check with your GP before consuming consistently, high amounts.

It’s possible to be allergic to cranberries, although this appears to be rare. The berries contain significant amounts of a compound called salicylic acid, which may trigger reactions in sensitive individuals. Those with an aspirin allergy should avoid consuming large amounts of cranberry juice.

Signs of a mild reaction include an itchy mouth or tongue, sneezing or a runny nose. If you experience these symptoms, speak to your GP. If a more serious allergic reaction occurs, call for an ambulance immediately.

Read more from the NHS about allergic reactions.

Cranberries and any products that contain them or their juice may interact with certain prescribed medications, including blood thinning medication such as warfarin and aspirin. If in doubt or you have concerns, refer to your GP for guidance.

If you are pregnant or breast feeding or are on prescribed medication consult your GP to ensure cranberries are appropriate for you.

Overall, are cranberries good for you?

Enjoyed fresh, dried and as a juice, cranberries are a useful source of iron, potassium and vitamin C. They are especially rich in protective plant compounds that may help prevent UTIs and support a healthy immune system. Including cranberries at normal levels as part of a varied, balance diet makes a useful nutritional contribution.

Healthy cranberry recipes

Braised beef with cranberries & spices
Cranberry chicken salad
Cranberry & chestnut falafel
Fruitburst muffins
Grilled lamb with wintry rice salad

Read more

Top 5 health benefits of parsnips
Top 5 health benefits of brussels sprouts
Top 5 health benefits of turkey
The health benefits of apples
The health benefits of oranges
The health benefits of cherries

This article was reviewed on 9 October 2023 by Kerry Torrens, Registered Nutritionist

Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.


All health content on goodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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