Cranberries can help support urinary health

Is Cranberry Juice Good for Your Kidneys?

Cranberries aren't just famous for cranberry juice cocktails and Thanksgiving dinner—they're also well known for promoting urinary health! These delicious, small red berries native to North America have been used for centuries by Native Americans to promote urinary tract health. This fruit was used by both Native Americans and American settlers for many food and health-promoting purposes.

In 2020, the Food and Drug Administration approved the following qualified health claim for certain cranberry products: "Consuming 500 mg each day of cranberry dietary supplement may help reduce the risk of recurrent urinary tract infection (UTI) in healthy women. FDA has concluded that there is limited scientific evidence supporting this claim."—adding to the benefits of this tart little fruit, known as Vaccinium macrocarpon in the scientific community.

But while there may be evidence that cranberries support your urinary tract…are they, as some believe, kidney-friendly? Let's dive in to learn more about what this fruit does—and does not do—for your health.

How do cranberries support urinary tract health?

Cranberries offer legendary support for urinary health. Proanthocyanidins, the active components in cranberries, have a remarkable anti-adhesion activity when they work their magic.

What do the kidneys have to do with urinary health?

You have two kidneys. They live near the middle of your back, one on each side of your spine, protected by your ribcage. These vital organs help maintain multiple essential aspects of your health, including fluid and electrolyte balance, control of toxins and more. They filter about 200 quarts of your blood daily, removing toxins and metabolic waste products. Getting rid of what your body doesn't need is ultimately what sends you to the restroom! You can thank your kidneys for creating the urine that you eventually eliminate.

Your kidneys produce urine through a process called glomerular filtration. Your bladder stores this urine until you urinate. Your bladder is a muscular sac whose unique anatomy allows for the very efficient storage of urine. Because of this essential function, your bladder health is super important. Again, drinking cranberry juice, eating cranberries, or (for a sugar- and calorie-free alternative) taking a cranberry supplement can help you support a healthy bladder and urinary tract.

Pro tip: You can take a quiz to get personalized suggestions to support your urinary tract.

More Than Urine Production: Other Key Roles of the Kidneys

During the whole process of filtration and urine production, your kidneys work hard to retain all the essential substances in your blood that your body needs to maintain homeostasis and stay healthy. Your kidneys also play a crucial role in modulating the amount of water in your blood, maintaining an optimal fluid balance. This process also helps your body maintain a healthy mineral, electrolyte, and acid-base balance.

Beyond that, these two bean-shaped organs perform additional essential functions:

  • Support already-healthy blood pressure by producing renin, an essential component of blood pressure support
  • Convert vitamin D to its active form, which is necessary for healthy bones
  • Support healthy functioning of the liver and other vital organs
  • Produce erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates the production of red blood cells, essential for the transportation of oxygen throughout your entire body
  • You also need well-functioning kidneys to maintain a healthy weight

Is cranberry juice good for kidney health?

This is a tricky question. It is a long-held belief that cranberry juice supports urinary system health, which includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. But while cranberries support your lower urinary tract—from the bladder down—there is no known or scientifically confirmed effect on kidney function.

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How much cranberry juice should you drink?

The lore is that you should aim for eight ounces of cranberry juice a day to enjoy substantial health benefits. However, it's likely that you will need to drink a lot more than that to see the effects on your urinary tract health. On the other hand, drinking it in moderation is important, as most contain a significant amount of added sugar.

Choose a 100% organic water-based cranberry juice with no added sugar to reap the most benefits from this delicious beverage. Look for juices that say "real fruit juice" instead of "juice cocktail." The amount of actual cranberry in fruit juice cocktails may be minimal. It is usually mixed with other juice types, such as apple or orange juice. In addition, because cranberries are so tart, there is usually an incredible amount of sugar added to cranberry juice.

However, the most convenient option is to go for a cranberry dietary supplement! This way, you can increase your cranberry intake without having to drink a ton of cranberry juice every day. The cranberry found in supplements has all the same benefits for urinary tract health as cranberry juice but without all the extra sugar (or calories). In fact, cranberry extract nutritional supplements will likely have more of the beneficial ingredients than what's in the juice. It's also a great option for people who don't love the taste of cranberries or cranberry juice (since supplements are often flavorless).

Ways to support kidney health

Hydration with good old-fashioned pure water is the most essential thing that you can do to maintain your kidney function and overall health. Water has many positive effects on the body (too many to name here!).

Drinking water is not only the best way to keep the fluid levels in your body correctly balanced, but it probably has the most significant effect on your kidneys. Proper hydration (with electrolytes like potassium, calcium and bicarbonate, to name a few) is critical for your kidneys to flush waste products out of your body. Your kidneys can't perform this task without enough water in your system. And when you add cranberry juice to your regimen, you are also helping your body flush out bacteria from your urinary system to promote urinary health!

Here are five other ways to help support kidney health:

  1. Maintaining a healthy blood pressure within the normal range
  2. Maintaining already-healthy blood sugar levels
  3. Maintaining a healthy weight
  4. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet
  5. Avoiding drinking alcohol or drinking in moderation

Remember: cranberry fruit, juice and dietary supplements are not substitutes for medical care. Speak with your doctor to see if cranberry supplements (or supplements of any kind) are a good choice for you.

About the Author: Krista Elkins has 20 years of experience in healthcare, both as a paramedic (NRP) and registered nurse (RN). She has worked on both ground and helicopter ambulances (CCP-C, CFRN), and in ER, ICU, primary care, psychiatric, and wilderness medicine. She practices and has a devoted life-long interest in preventative medicine. She is a conscientious, research-driven writer who cares about accuracy and ethics.


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