You’ve heard: “Treat a urinary tract infection by drinking lots of cranberry juice.”
The Truth: Drinking cranberry juice can help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs), according to several studies. Cranberries contain compounds called proanthocyanidins that appear to keep harmful bacteria from sticking to the bladder. If you get more than three UTIs per year, says Ruth Jepson, Ph.D., R.N., senior research fellow in the Department of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Stirling, Scotland, you might consider the proactive approach of drinking cranberry juice regularly. She recommends two (8-ounce) glasses a day. Dried cranberries may come in handy, too: one small study found that eating about 1⁄3 cup of sweetened dried cranberries daily may also help prevent UTIs. Don’t forget to account for the additional calories: each cup of unsweetened cranberry juice contains about 70 calories (140 for sugar-sweetened); 1⁄3 cup of sweetened dried berries has about 120 calories. Once a UTI develops, juice probably won’t help. “There is no clinical evidence that cranberry juice is effective in shortening the duration of a UTI or in alleviating the painful symptoms,” notes Jepson. Why do so many women swear it works? “The jury’s still out on that,” says Jepson, who speculates that consuming extra fluids may help flush out the harmful bacteria. So drinking plenty of plain old water may work just as well.