The cranberry is a shrub fruit found in the Eastern US and in Asia. Cranberry plants grow to a height of one foot, and have been cultivated widely in the U.S. since the 1800s. The fruit is commonly consumed as food and used for cooking. It is the main component of cranberry sauce, which is served during holiday dinners. Cranberry juice is also widely consumed. Cranberry contains several substances including tannins, vitamin C, and flavenoids. These substances are responsible for cranberry's antioxidant activity. Currently, cranberries are used to prevent bladder infections due to their ability to prevent bacteria from adhering to the wall of the urinary bladder.
New research has shown that phenols found in cranberries may aid in preventing heart disease. Phenols have been shown to reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) oxidized in the body, reduce the stickiness of blood platelets, and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Most of the research has been performed in animals; however, research in humans is underway. The optimal amount of cranberry needed to reduce the risk of heart disease in humans has not been determined.