Cranberries and blueberries are closely related fruits, each with unique attributes.
In this article, we will be discussing the differences between cranberry and blueberries across a range of different factors, including their nutritional composition and health.
Introduction to Cranberries and Blueberries
Cranberries and blueberries belong to the genus Vaccinium in the Ericaceae family, also known as the heath family (1).
Cranberries are common in North America. The United States contributes to more than half of the global cranberry production, with 359,110 MT production in 2019 (2).
Canada and Chile are also among the largest cranberry producers. Collectively, the United States, Canada, and Chile account for 97% of the global cranberry production.
The predominant cranberry species in North and South America is Vaccinium macrocarpon. Whereas in Europe, Vaccinium oxycoccos is the main cranberry species farmed (3).
Blueberries, both wild (lowbush) and cultivated (highbush), are native to North America. The United States is the biggest producer of blueberries, accounting for more than one-third of global production. Canada, Chile, and Peru are also among the largest producers of blueberries (4).
Cranberries and blueberries are highly perishable fruits available in fresh or processed forms. Their processed forms include dried fruits, juices, jams, and yogurts (5).
Nutritional Composition Comparison
|Composition||Cranberry, Raw, Per 100g||Blueberries, Raw, Per 100g|
|Vitamin A (µg)||3||3|
|Vitamin D (µg)||0||0|
|Vitamin E (mg)||1.32||0.57|
|Vitamin K (µg)||5||19|
|Vitamin B1, Thiamin (mg)||0.01||0.04|
|Vitamin B2, Riboflavin (mg)||0.02||0.04|
|Vitamin B3, Niacin (mg)||0.1||0.4|
|Vitamin B5, Pantothenic Acid (mg)||0.3||0.12|
|Vitamin B6, Pyridoxine (mg)||0.06||0.05|
|Vitamin B9, Folate (µg)||1||6|
|Vitamin B12, Cobalamin (µg)||0||0|
|Vitamin C (mg)||14||10|
Cranberries vs Blueberries Health Comparison
Cranberries and blueberries are low in calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium. They contain beneficial vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals that promote health.
The nutritional composition of cranberry and blueberries is not too different. But, just like their shared similarities, they also possess unique properties that make them stand out.
We will look at these similarities and differences between cranberry and blueberries in detail based on available scientific findings.
Cranberry Prevents Urinary Tract Infections
Traditionally, humans used cranberries to prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Evidence associating the consumption of cranberry with reduced risk of urinary tract infection accumulated over the past two decades. Several clinical studies indicate that bioactive components in cranberry play a pivotal role in maintaining urinary tract health (6).
A meta-analysis of seven separate clinical trials indicated that cranberry consumption reduces the risk of urinary tract infection in women by up to 26% (7).
Polyphenols in cranberries protect against urinary tract infections in multiple ways. Proanthocyanidins in cranberry can prevent adherence of infecting bacteria, Escherichia coli, in the urinary tract (8).
Without adherence, it will be difficult for the pathogenic bacteria to colonize the urinary tract and cause infections.
Cranberry polyphenols can also serve as antioxidants and suppress inflammation in the urinary tract, decreasing infection symptoms (9)
Cranberry Helps Prevent Stomach Ulcers
Helicobacter pylori is a pathogen classified as a group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). (10)
H. pylori infection can cause different gastrointestinal diseases like peptic, gastric, and duodenal ulcers and gastric cancer.
pylori infection affects more than half the world’s population, and eradication has been a global challenge due to increasing drug resistance. (11).
Several studies associate the bioactive compounds in cranberry with gastrointestinal health improvement. Cranberry consumption may prevent stomach ulcers and cancer by inhibiting the adhesion of H. pylori to the human gastric system (12).
Pylori infections are generally treated with a triple therapy consisting of omeprazole, amoxicillin, and clarithromycin. The addition of cranberry juice to triple therapy could improve the eradication of H. pylori by up to 19% (13).
It could then be beneficial to incorporate cranberries as part of a regular diet for prevention against gastric ulcers and cancer.
Both are Good for Cardiovascular Health
Studies have shown that the consumption of fruits reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. This ability of fruits to provide a cardiovascular protective role is attributed to bioactive compounds like polyphenols.
Cranberry and blueberries are among fruits with higher antioxidant content and activity (14). Cranberries are particularly rich in polyphenols like procyanidins, quercetin, myricitrin, and anthocyanins.
Cranberry juice consumption can lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and fasting glucose levels, risk factors for developing cardiovascular diseases (15).
Cranberries can also help remove excess plasma cholesterol from circulation. The antioxidants in cranberry prevent the oxidation of the harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL, bad cholesterol).
LDL oxidation can lead to atherosclerosis, cholesterol buildup on artery walls (16).
The antioxidant activity of 100 grams of cranberries against LDL oxidation is equivalent to the antioxidant activity of 1000 mg vitamin C or 3700 mg of vitamin E (17).
Blueberries are also rich in bioactive compounds like anthocyanins with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
The bile acid-binding capacity of blueberries is significantly higher than cranberries. A higher bile acid-binding capacity is associated with better cholesterol-lowering properties (18).
Blueberries play beneficial roles in cardiometabolic health. A study involving blueberry supplementation to obese men and women led to a reduction in blood pressure and LDL oxidation (19).
Both can Help Reduce the Risk of Diabetes
The global prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus is increasing dramatically.
Over 422 million people live with diabetes worldwide, and over 1.5 million people die every year from diabetes (20).
Both cranberries and blueberries are high in phenolic compounds. Incorporating high polyphenol-containing foods into the diet is reported to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
A study has shown that a one-cup daily consumption of cranberry juice can effectively reduce blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes (21).
Polyphenols in cranberry also improved insulin sensitivity by up to 14% in obese insulin-resistant people (22). Insulin resistance is when your cells fail to respond to insulin leading to increased blood sugar.
Consumption of blueberries can also improve insulin sensitivity in obese insulin-resistant people (23).
Daily consumption of cranberry and blueberries can also improve glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes (24).
A large-scale meta-analysis reported that consuming three servings of blueberries per week can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 34% (25).
Cranberry is Good for Dental Health
Cranberry polyphenols can reduce oral diseases like dental caries and periodontitis. The therapeutic potential of cranberries relates to their anti-microbial and anti-adhesive properties.
Carcinogenic bacteria produce organic acids as a carbohydrate metabolism by-product. These acids can lower pH leading to tooth decay and lesions (26).
Polyphenols in cranberry can inhibit the production of acids and biofilm formation by these bacteria on the surface of teeth (27).
As a result, cranberries can play a vital role in preventing tooth decay and overall oral health.
Both have Anticancer Properties
Several epidemiological studies indicate the inverse relationship between cancer risks and the consumption of fruits. This beneficial property arises from the presence of different phytochemicals in fruits.
Cranberry and blueberry polyphenols like quercetin and kaempferol protect against different cancers (28).
A study on colon cancer cells indicated that cranberry juice and extracts inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells (29). Blueberry phytochemicals can suppress the proliferation of human breast cancer cells (30).
Studies on cancer cells have shown that cranberry and blueberry derived constituents inhibit the growth of cancer cells and reduce cancer cell size in different cancer types including,
- Ovarian cancer (31)
- Liver cancer (32)
- Lung cancer (33)
- Oral cancer (34)
- Prostate cancer (35)
- Stomach cancer (36)
Although available information is promising, further research is required to identify the anticancer bioactive components in cranberry and blueberries, their mode of action, and effective ways of utilization.
Cranberry vs Blueberries Appearance
The cranberry plant is an evergreen shrub. Cranberry fruits are spherical and have a size like currants. The fruits are initially green and turn to bright crimson red when ripe.
Cranberry grows in bogs or wetlands. Cranberries are harvested easily via controlled flooding as they float in water due to the air pocket in the berries.
The blueberry plant is a perennial shrub. They grow in highly acidic moist soils under cool climates.
Blueberries initially have a green color, and as they ripen, the berries turn blue to deep purple.
Blueberries are among the richest sources of anthocyanins, a pigment that gives berries their characteristic red, blue, and purple colors.
Cranberry vs Blueberries Taste
The raw cranberry fruit has a tart taste owing to its low sugar and high acid content.
Raw consumption of cranberries is limited to 3 – 5% of total production while the rest is processed. The widely consumed dietary forms of cranberry include juices, jams, and sauces.
Before consumption, cranberries usually undergo sweetening. But the addition of sugar during their processing can negate many of the potential health benefits they confer.
Ripe blueberries have a slightly sweet but acidic taste. The sugar content of blueberries is more than twice that of cranberries. Wild blueberries tend to be sweet compared to cultivated blueberries.
More than 50% of all commercial blueberries undergo processing into different food products. The dietary intake of blueberries is associated with sweet foods like flavored yogurt, pancakes, and smoothies.
Which is Better?
Both cranberry and blueberries make a great addition to a healthy diet. They contain low calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
Cranberries and blueberries are praised for their potential health benefits, mainly attributed to polyphenols.
The overall nutritional composition of cranberry and blueberries is not too far apart. However, cranberries contain lower sugars, more vitamin C, and a higher concentration of polyphenols. Cranberries also offer protection against stomach ulcers, urinary tract infections, and oral diseases.
Nutritionally speaking, cranberries offer more advantages over blueberries. But the choice between the two can be influenced by the difference in their taste.