Cranberries are iconic of the holidays, but there are more times of the year you can benefit from their delicious goodness. They are quite tart and need sugar to be palatable for most people. Their juice is often sweetened or combined with other juices to cut the tart flavor.
Being a bog plant, the cranberry bush produces highly concentrated fruits packed with nutrition. Since so few seeds can take root, nature made sure each berry was packed with as many nutrients as possible.
Why Is Cranberry Juice Good for You?
Cranberry juice is a diuretic. It helps clean out our systems and kidneys. In fact, it is one of the most popular home remedies for urinary tract infections (UTIs). They are packed with more antioxidants than nearly any other fruit, including oligomeric proanthocyanidins, anthocyanidins (they give them red color), cyanidin, peonidin, and quercetin.
Just so you know, cranberry juice is acidic. Despite the whole alkaline/acidic myth, we recommend using cranberry juice as part of a healthy diet. That’s because our urine is supposed to be acidic. That means our kidneys are working correctly and filtering out toxins.
The acidic nature also helps to reduce bacteria in the urethra. A healthy, acidic urine has nearly no chance of becoming infected. It’s only when our bodies are bombarded by processed foods, fake alkaline waters, and bad supplements that our urine becomes unable to keep the bacteria away.
Types of Cranberry Juice
Unfortunately, the majority of cranberry juice goes into making mixes and cocktails. The juice you buy in the grocery stores is not pure, loaded with sugars and chemicals, and often so diluted it has no health benefits left. Additionally, the pasteurization process destroys the healthy antioxidants. The juice on the store shelves is little more than cranberry flavored sugar water.
Pure Cranberry Juice
You can make your own cranberry juice from scratch or you can purchase pure cranberry juice from smaller health food stores and online *. Many times, you purchase concentrations * and make up the juice at home. It is tart, but refreshing. Homemade cranberry juice can be a tad bitter when you get berries off-season.
Most people are not able to purchase fresh berries for most of the year. They simply are not available for sale outside of November and December. For the few retailers that do carry the fresh berries all year, you want to be very strict in researching origin. Many berries come from out of the country and are exposed to many chemicals to keep them from rotting. This is not healthy.
Some online retailers will sell frozen berries year round, but at that point, we aren’t sure if it is better to purchase the berries or just get the juice/concentrate. Just because it is organic, does not mean they are safe.
When you purchase cranberry juice, you want to make sure of several things:
We would also recommend seeing if you can get a harvest date and location. This way, you will know if your juice will be a bit more bitter or not.
We have a fabulous recipe just a little bit farther down, so keep reading!
Cranberry Juice Cocktails
The term cocktail means mix. So, your cranberry juice cocktail * is a mix of cranberry juice and other things.
Cranberry juice is ideal for mixing with other types of juices. Apple and grape juice are frequently added to cranberry juice in order to sweeten the tart juice. Most of the time, they are not flavorful enough to overcome the cranberry taste.
The combinations are limitless. We’ve added cranberry juice to other fruit juices and vegetable juices. The flavor and health benefits really cut through.
Try these examples:
Cranberry – Orange Juice
2 parts orange juice to 1 part cranberry juice gives a delicious result.
To make 1 glass of orange-cranberry juice use:
- 3 Medium Oranges
- 1/3 glass of Cranberry Juice
Cranberry – Beet – Kale – Apple Juice
3 parts apple juice to 1 part cranberry juice to 1 part beet juice to 1 part kale juice
Yes, this one is hyper-packed with nutrients but very tart.
Mix with a pinch of salt and sugar to taste.
To make 1 one glass of this nutritious juice mix use:
- 2 Medium Apples
- 1/2 Medium Beet
- 1/2 Bunch of Kale
- 1.5 oz of Cranberry Juice
If you look at most commercial bottles of juice, you’ll actually find that apple or grape juice listed as the first ingredient. Those juices are cheap to add, where pure cranberry juice * is more expensive.
Many of the commercial juices also contain colorings, artificial flavors, preservatives, and other unnecessary junk. The chemicals and preservatives destroy the natural antioxidants. In fact, antioxidants are made to destroy the chemicals, so the companies have to put enough in to destroy the antioxidants, plus some.
Most cranberry juice cocktail is less than 20% cranberry. It’s such a powerful flavor, companies don’t need to add much to get the right balance. They just add in apple and grape juice to fill the bottle and part you from your money.
White Cranberry Juice
There aren’t many differences between regular red cranberry juice and white cranberry juice. White cranberry juice has fewer nutrients. Most of the helpful antioxidants make the red color.
White cranberry juice * is sweeter than the red. They white are harvested while still sweet, not tart. Again, losing the tartness means that juice has fewer antioxidants and is not as healthy.
Also, nearly every study was conducted on red cranberries. There is a little study done to see if white cranberries are as healthy. We believe the studies would show white cranberries are not as healthy. We still feel it is a good juice and would be a nice change of pace occasionally.
Side Effects of Cranberry Juice
There are a few people who are allergic to cranberry juice and the Vaccinium family. Usually, you will know at a young age and rarely is this allergy severe.
For many other people, drinking too much cranberry juice can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, and cramping. These are alleviated by drinking plain water and avoiding cranberry juice for a time. Then, you should limit your consumption.
There is quite a bit of oxalic acid in the berries. If you are susceptible to kidney stones, then most doctors will tell you to avoid cranberry juice.
Additionally, if you take any blood thinning or coagulating medications or have any problems with clotting factors in your blood, do not drink cranberry juice without a doctor’s okay. Several of the antioxidants in cranberries can enhance your natural clotting factors and/or can enhance your medication to an unhealthy level.
If you are pregnant, use cranberry juice with caution. Yes, it can help prevent UTIs, especially in the 6 to 23 week, when most women experience them. The pressure of the growing womb places stress on the kidneys and bladder, making UTIs more likely. The hormones also alkalizes the urine, which is unhealthy and nearly always causes UTIs.
However, pregnant women are also more likely to develop kidney stones, and the oxalic acid in the cranberries can cause this happen quicker.
Babies and young children should not drink cranberry juice. The stress on the kidneys and the digestive system is too much for them and could cause long-term problems. Infant death has been linked to cranberry juice.
Cranberry Juice Cleanse
Cranberry juice is not necessary for a detox. In fact, it could have a bad effect if overdone. During a detox, you are cleaning out your body of chemicals. It places a higher stress on your liver and kidneys than normal. If you force your liver and kidneys to work hard with cranberry juice, you could hurt yourself.
Fresh cranberries, on the other hand, could be a benefit in juices and during a cleanse. Just a ¼ of fresh berries per day can keep your kidneys working properly, without over stimulating them.
Here’s one more question answered: No, cranberry juice will not help you on your drug test. It does not clear out drugs from your system.
How Much Cranberry Juice Is Too Much?
Most people are already drinking too much. Most doctors and medical teams recommend between 1 and 10 oz of pure cranberry juice per day as a treatment for UTIs. We found the most stick to about 6 oz, or less than 1 glass of juice, split between 3 doses during the day. No doctor recommend juice cocktails.
More than that, researchers at the Tahoma Clinic have found increases your likelihood of return UTIs. You actually hurt yourself if you drink more than that.
For everyday use, we recommend no more than 4 oz of juice.
If you are diabetic, an 8 oz glass can take up most of your carb intake for a whole day. That 1 glass has between 30 and 35g of sugars. We do not recommend diabetics use cranberry juice except under the supervision of a doctor.
Homemade Cranberry Juice Recipe
Making Cranberry Juice with a Juicer
You can make cranberry juice by using your juicer, just like you would with many other fruits and vegetables. However, that might be less effective and more tedious as you would anticipate. Cranberries don't yield much juice this way and are likely to clog up your machine. 1 pack of cranberries (12 ounces) will yield about 8oz of pure cranberry juice. You will need a really powerful juicer for this.
Making Cranberry Juice without a Juicer
The pure juice is not the easiest to make. Below is one of the better recipes, although you can get others on the web. Just remember, cranberries are tart and do produce a tart juice!
- 1lb fresh red cranberries
- 1qt water
- Wash and drain cranberries.
- Combine cranberries and water in a large pan and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until berries burst.
- Strain juice through a sieve to remove skins and seeds.
- Sugar or honey can be added to juice to your taste.
- Allow to cool before refrigerating. Use with in 3 days to prevent contamination.
So, what is the difference between the method I just showed you and a juicer? Well, it all comes down to the sugars and fibers.
Cranberries are tough little berries and they resist giving up their juices. We need to convert the sugars and fibers into something a little looser, or we won’t get much juice at all.
That’s why it is preferable to boil your cranberries like they do with commercial juices. It liberates the juice and breaks down some of the most bitter components. It also allows us to get rid of the skin. Although the skin is packed with nutrients, it is bitter and doesn’t liberate the nutrients easily. Boiling leaches out some nutrients, so you get that added punch.
Boiling also allows you to avoid the very bitter, and slightly toxic, seed. Some juicers will break the seeds and over time, the toxins within the seeds can cause health problems. This doesn’t occur with boiling.
Of course, it is your choice. Juicers will give you raw juice. But, you won’t get as many nutrients out of the berries as you would boiling. Depending on your juicer, you’ll need to remove the seeds first, a very tedious process. The volume of skin to juice may clog up your juicer as well.
Boiling destroys most of the vitamin C in the berries but doesn’t reduce other nutrients significantly. It makes up for that by releasing nutrients from the skin into the juice, which doesn’t happen with a juicer.
Finally, boiling helps reduce the pH of the whole liquid, making cranberry juice highly acidic. This is a very good thing because that’s exactly what we want in our cranberry juice. A juicer won’t deliver the lower pH. So, if you want cranberry juice from scratch for urinary problems, stick with boiling.
What about Diluting with Sugar and Water?
Commercial juices are highly diluted with water and sugar. People who use commercial juices have been conditioned to accept the weaker juices for some time now, and cranberry juice is very strong.
If you are new to juicing and want to try cranberry, we recommend you cut your juice in half with water. Just do this until you are more used to the stronger flavor. Once you have come to enjoy the strong flavors of cranberry, you won’t ever go back to the watered down stuff.
Sugar, on the other hand, is optional. Many people need it to cut the tartness. We recommend you add sugar sparingly and only after trying the juice. Sugar are unnecessary and will undo many of the health benefits you gain by drinking the juice.
Cranberry sauce * is iconic during the holidays. Yet, the stuff in the cans is bland and lacks any kind of palatable texture. Plus, it is so easy to make your own with variations for everyone’s palette.
2/3 cup sugar
1 orange or ½ cup orange juice (no sugar added)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or 1 stick
Combine ingredients in a medium pot.
Bring up to a simmer over medium heat for 1 hour until cranberries burst.
Serve immediately warm or allow to cool for jam.
Cranberry juice makes a fabulous cranberry wine *. It can rival the sweetest red for many people’s favorite.
You will want to use this juice quickly. Fresh cranberry juice can go bad quickly. It is a rich environment for many bacteria and yeasts.
2 lbs cranberries, fresh or frozen – fresh make a tarter wine – or 1 quart fresh juice
1 lb raisins
3 lbs granulated sugar (about 6 3/4 cups)
1/4 tsp pectin enzyme
1 1/4 tsp acid blend
1 pack wine yeast
1 tsp yeast nutrient / energizer
1 campden tablet
1 gal water – boiled for 15 minutes to kill bacteria and drive off chlorine
Wash and rough chop cranberries and raisons. If you can remove seeds, it will produce a better wine. Place in strainer bag.
Add all ingredients, except wine yeast to primary fermentation vessel. Seal top with fermenting airlock.
Add wine yeast after 12 hours.
Stir each day for 5-7 days.
Rack to sterile demijohn at day 7. Add fermentation airlock.
Rack once per month until fermentation slows to 1 bubble per minute.
Add a second campdon tablet to stop fermentation or leave out for a slightly sparkling wine.
Transfer to sterile bottles and seal with cork. If you want sparkling wine, you must use Champaign or sparkling wine bottles.
Allow to mature 12-18 months.
Now, we want you to know that cranberry wine only has a fraction of the health benefits that fresh juice has. Those nutrients went into feeding the yeasts to create the wine.
Also, many of the health benefits gained from drinking cranberry juice are actually reversed by the alcohol. So, we don’t recommend drinking the wine until you are healthy again. We think you should do the juice before doing the wine!
Cranberry Juice for UTI
Cranberry juice is good for UTIs because of the large amount of antioxidants in the juice. Also, it helps to lower the pH of the urine, which makes the bladder and urethra an inhospitable place for bacteria and yeasts.
The juice can also help clear out the kidneys and help prevent the bacteria from traveling though the bladder to the kidneys.
It’s recommended you drink 1 to 10 oz cranberry juice to help clear UTIs.
This is divided between 3 times per day.
Cranberry Juice for Bladder Infection/Cystitis
For the same reasons as why cranberry juice is good for UTIs, it is good for bladder infections and cystitis. A bladder infection is considered a UTI.
However, doctors do not recommend you wait to see if the cranberry juice will work. Once the bacteria move into your bladder, it becomes very dangerous. It is easy for the bacteria to now move into your kidneys and then even easier for the bacteria to move to your blood.
Kidney and blood infections are serious and life threatening events. We recommend you visit your doctor if you have a bladder infection.
Cranberry Juice for Detox
Under some circumstances, cranberry juice can help a detox. It can help your kidneys flush out toxins.
However, we recommend caution. During a detox, your body is flushing out many toxins. This places a high strain on your kidneys. If you place an extra burden on your kidneys with cranberry juice, you could end up with kidney problems later in life.
There have been cases seen during a detox where the kidneys shut down because of too many toxins and too many detox supplements. The body was not able to handle the extreme amount of toxins suddenly flushed back into the blood. The people literally poisoned themselves with toxins from their own body.
We do not recommend you detox without a nutritionist or doctor. Never detox with a certificate health coach or someone without a degree in nutrition or health. This places your life in danger.
Cranberry Juice for Gout
This is a conflicted area. There are blogs on the internet that will tell you conclusively that cranberry juice will cure gout, prevent gout, cause gout, and do absolutely nothing. Here’s the truth.
Several medical agencies recommend using less than 8 oz of juice per day to help prevent gout and reverse its effects. They cite the increased function of the kidneys as the ability to help filter out uric acid from the body.
Of course, these same reports also include the disclaimer that it is part of a healthy diet. Any diet that eliminates processed foods and focuses on healthy fruits and vegetables will help prevent and reverse gout.
On the other hand, a 2003 German study showed in healthy people, the level of uric acid in the body increases when you take more than 10 oz of cranberry juice per day; the study used 11 oz per day. The levels in the study rose an average of 50% above normal within the 20 day test period. The study was terminated at this point to avoid damage to the participant's health.
A conflicting report in the August 2005 Journal of Urology showed the opposite. It showed the level of urine and serum uric acid decreased. Blogs state this was a significant decrease, but the actual study showed it to be a minor decrease in one specific type of uric acid that was not sustained over the full duration of the study. Other types of uric acids were shown to increase, similar to the study from Germany.
We recommend you use cranberry juice with caution if you have a tendency towards gout. Yes, it is recommended by many blogs. However, the research and medical professions show that it is only when the rest of your diet is healthy, does cranberry juice actually help. Otherwise, you increase your risk of gout.
Cranberry Juice for Yeast Infections
One thing you must realize, yeast live on your entire body and they are part of our immune and defense systems. It’s only when this yeast goes out of control is it a problem.
The most common causes of yeast infections and overgrowth are a diet rich in processed foods, overusing antibiotics, and home ‘cures’.
The best cure for yeast is to follow a low-carb diet and keep your body dry. Sugars and body secretions are the best way to produce yeast. Hormonal changes in women also cause the yeast to grow, but a healthy diet will stop the yeast.
Currently, there are no studies showing cranberry juice is effecting for treating yeast infections. Several blogs will tell you it is effective, but cite no medical authority to back up these statements. In fact, most of them use the idea that since cranberry juice is effective for UTIs, it will also help flush out yeast. Unfortunately, the yeast is already part of the defenses in the urethra that block bacteria and making the urethra more acidic actually helps the yeast.
Since reducing your sugar and processed food intake is the best way to reduce yeast overgrowth, cranberry juice is not a good fit. It is high in sugars and most bottled juice are highly processed.
Cranberry Juice for Constipation
Cranberry juice is a mild laxative. It won’t force you to go, but it will help your natural processes. However, if you ever had a large glass, you most likely found yourself running to the bathroom.
Constipation is caused by processed foods and a lack of water. Cranberry juice is often processed and a diuretic. It is the opposite of what you need.
If you are constipated, you don’t need to avoid cranberry juice. It won’t help you, but a small amount won’t hurt you.
But, it’s not going to help you go. And if it does, you risk further dehydration and potentially damage to your body. It is not safe to drink more than 8-10 oz per day.
Cranberry Juice for Diarrhea
The body has a wonderful way of flushing out things that will harm it. Diarrhea is one.
Cranberry juice is not healthy or safe to drink during a diarrhea event. Especially for children, we recommend avoiding cranberry juice when you have diarrhea.
Since the juice flushes your system and reduces your water storage, cranberry juice will not hydrate you. The laxative effect could also delay your return to health.
Cranberry Juice for Kidney Stones
Due to the high amounts of oxalic acid, cranberry juice is contraindicated for people who experience kidney stones. Oxalic stones are one of the most common types of stones. All research has shown that the oxalic acid in cranberries is easily converted into stones for people susceptible to stones.
Cranberry Juice for Weight Loss
Cranberries have been touted as wonderful for weight loss. The many antioxidants are wonderful for helping your body.
However, cranberries or their juice will not help you lose weight unless you combine exercise and a proper diet. There is no miracle in cranberries.
In fact, the juice is so high in sugars, one of the highest of all the juices, that you could gain weight because you are taking in more than you are using.
The supplements * that have been out in the past decade are fraught with deception and lies. Most of them have been removed from the market for not actually containing any cranberry extract. Others contain so little to be worthless. Because of the delicate nature of the antioxidants, true supplements with therapeutic levels of extract would be prohibitively expensive for most people.
Cranberry Juice for Your Pets
Cranberry juice is not recommended for pets, even ones with UTIs. First, cranberry juice is too high in sugars for pets to be able to digest properly. This is especially dangerous in cats, as they lack the fully functional insulin response that humans and dogs possess.
Dogs may be able to handle a small amount, but it must be done under the supervision of a veterinarian.
Getting Rid of Cranberry Juice Stains
If you made your own juice or wine, you’ll know cranberry juice stains. But, it’s not that hard to remove.
- 1 tbsn white vinegar
- ½ tsp dish detergent
- 1 qt warm water
- Mix all ingredients together.
- Blot stain with paper towels to remove as much of the juice as possible.
- Rub gently on the stain. Soak for 15 minutes.
- Wash and repeat as necessary.
If the stain dries in the cloth, it is most likely permanent.
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