The tart, tangy cranberry often accompanies a holiday meal, but did you know that the berry can offer year-round benefits? Here are five factoids you may not know about this unassuming superfruit:

1. Research has shown that consuming cranberry products helps to protect against urinary tract infections (UTI) in men and women (Howell 2002; Howell et al. 2005; Gupta et al. 2007; Vidlar et al. 2010). UTIs cause pain and inconvenience for approximately 11 million women per year and cost over $1.6 billion annually to treat (Foxman et al. 2000).

2. Cranberries contain polyphenols, called proanthocyanidins (PACs). The unusual A-type structure of the cranberry PACs appears to be responsible for the protective properties not found in other PAC-containing fruits and vegetables (Howell et al. 2005). PACs in cranberries help prevent the adhesion of certain Escherichia coli (E. coli) strains to the urinary tract walls, thereby helping to protect against urinary tract infections. (Gupta et al. 2007).

3. Cranberry PACs can battle bacteria for a full day after consumption. Howell et al. (2010) found that 72 milligrams of PACs from cranberry powder stunted bacterial adhesion in a dose-dependent manner for 24 hours after ingestion.

4. Most people find cranberries too tart to eat out of hand, so they typically need to be sweetened for palatability.

5. Research shows that 8 ounces (oz) of 25% cranberry juice cocktail provides the amount of antioxidants equivalent to 11/2 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries, 1 oz of sweetened dried fruit or half a cup of cranberry sauce (Vinson et al. 2001; Vinson et al. 2008; Halvorsen et al. 2006).

—Jenna A. Bell, PhD, RD, CSSD