3 Ways Cranberries Are Good for Your Health
Cranberry sauce is a perennial Thanksgiving favorite.
Credit: Cranberry sauce photo via Shutterstock

Can you name one food that you eat only once a year? For most of us, there are a few. Corned beef is usually relegated to St. Patty's day. Gingerbread men (and women) are rarely enjoyed outside of Christmas week.

Cranberry sauce is another one of those once-a-year foods for most of us, enjoyed only on Thanksgiving Day. But it may be one you should consider consuming more often — just think of how the combination of sweet and tart could complement more of your evening meals.

Here's a look at the health benefits of eating cranberries:

1. Warding off urinary tract infections (UTIs)

You may have heard that cranberries could prevent UTIs, and perhaps thought it was an "old wives' tale." But there's some science to back up this particular tale.

Compounds in cranberries called proanthocyanidins prevent E. coli bacteria, which are a common cause of UTIs, from adhering to the urinary tract, according to a 2001 in the journal Urology, as well as a 2000 study in the journal Nutrition.

UTIs are the second most common types of bodily infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Tiny & Nasty: Images of Things That Make Us Sick]

2. Promoting oral and gastrointestinal health

The same anti-adhesion ability that works against E. coli to help prevent urinary tract infections may also be effective against H. pylori, a type of bacteria implicated in peptic ulcers, both in the stomach and the small intestine, according to a 2000 study in the journal Medical Microbiology and Immunology.

These types of ulcers can cause dull, burning pain that lasts for minutes to hours, and can come and go for days or weeks at a time.

3. Reducing oxidative stress 

Cranberries contain compounds called flavanoids and phenolic acids, which have antioxidant properties. In fact, researchers who compared many common fruits found that the cranberry contained the highest quantity of disease-fighting phenols, according to a 2001 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Reducingoxidative stress is important because it plays a role in aging (and who wants to get older?). It may also play a role in the development of certain chronic diseases, research shows.

Healthy Bites appears weekly on LiveScience. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!