KEEP Healthy

August 12, 2014, 10:06am EDT

The Cranberry Kidney Connection

cranberriesYou may know cranberries as a tasty and tart small red fruit with a history of consumption dating back to Native Americans and the earliest European settlers, but did you know that they are also good for your urinary tract and your kidneys? If you aren't already eating cranberries, consider adding them to your grocery list. A fall favorite, cranberries have long been a holiday staple but as a result of their versatility they can be consumed dried, fresh, cooked and even as juice - it's easy to find a "reason for every season" to incorporate cranberries into your diet throughout the year.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are responsible for nearly 10 million doctor visits each year. A urinary tract infection is what happens when bacteria (germs) get into the urinary tract (including the bladder) and multiply. The result is redness, swelling and pain in the urinary tract. Most UTIs stay in the bladder, but if not treated quickly they can travel up the ureter and into the kidneys, causing a more serious and painful kidney infection called pyelonephritis.

About 80 to 90 percent of UTIs are caused by a single type of bacteria, E. coli. These bacteria normally live in your intestines, but sometimes they get into the urinary tract and the kidneys. This is where incorporating cranberries into your diet becomes important. Cranberries contain compounds that can stop the bacteria from "sticking" to the urinary tract wall and studies in young women with frequent UTIs show that drinking a glass of cranberry juice each day may help reduce recurrent or repeat UTIs. Research also suggests a similar effect from the consumption of other cranberry products, including dried cranberries and dietary supplements. For those with diabetes or at-risk for diabetes, low-sugar cranberry products are available. Ask your treating clinician if increasing cranberry consumption in your diet is right for you.

A serving of fresh cranberries is a good source of vitamin C and fiber, provides antioxidant polyphenols, and contains only 1 mg of sodium. Here are 6 tips from the National Kidney Foundation for incorporating cranberries into your diet.

  1. Add some crunch. Dried cranberries are a great snack choice (just watch out for added sugar). Enjoy them plain or consider adding them to homemade trail mix.
  2. Spruce up your salad. Fresh and dried cranberries can be easily tossed into salads for colorful and tasty burst of flavor.
  3. Keep it classic. Cranberry juice is a classic beverage and is an easy way to get your fill of cranberries. Just grab a glass!
  4. Some like it hot. Cranberry tea is a delicious way to drink cranberries during the cooler months.
  5. Bake a brunch spread. Fresh and dried cranberries make a great addition to oatmeal, muffins and other baked goods, adding texture and nutrients.
  6. Color your couscous. Add a pop of color, flavor and sweetness to your favorite couscous or pasta salad recipe. This makes for an easy and delicious dish to take to a pot-luck party!

For more information about UTIs, please visit the A-Z Guide and for some kidney-friendly cranberry recipes, visit the Kidney Kitchen.

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