Cranberries feed the good bacteria in your gut

A Thanksgiving treat for your belly bugs

Well, the countdown has begun. And for the next 10 days, you can turn your full attention to preparing for the highlight of the entire month of November.

I’m talking about Thanksgiving dinner, of course!

But if you’re looking out for your health — not to mention your waistline — getting your menu ready may feel more like a process of ELIMINATION than one of ANTICIPATION.

Turkey and vegetables are healthy mainstays, of course.

But mashed potatoes? They could send your BP through the roof. Stuffing? Only if you can tolerate being stuffed full of gluten. Pumpkin pie? There goes your blood sugar.

Luckily, there’s one traditional Thanksgiving food you don’t have to pass up in the name of “eating right.”

And, according to a new study, it could even help you digest this whopper of a meal.

Cranberries contain special sugars called xyloglucans that YOU can’t actually digest — but the bacteria in your gut CAN.

In the study out of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, researchers fed xyloglucans from cranberries to various strains of Bifidobacterium longum, a common resident of the human gut known to be one of the “good guys” in the bacterial community down there.

It turned out that only certain strains of Bifidobacteria were able to feed on xyloglucans… but when they did, these beneficial bugs grew like gangbusters.

That means these special cranberry compounds are “prebiotics,” the fuel that probiotics (a.k.a. good bacteria) in your gut need to grow and thrive.

What’s more, the study found that Bifidobacteria strains that can digest xyloglucans ALSO converted these sugars into something that the other strains WERE able to chow down on (a.k.a. “cross-feeding”), boosting the population of these good bugs even more.

And that’s fantastic news — because Bifidobacteria have been shown in studies to help resolve diarrhea caused by antibiotics, treat gut diseases like ulcerative colitis and IBS, and protect you from the flu.

By improving your digestion, they’ll even help your big Thanksgiving meal go down easier!

Now, don’t go rushing for canned cranberry sauce, because that sugar will only feed the BAD bugs in your gut.

You’re better off getting fresh cranberries, which you can fortunately find in the produce aisle this time of year. You can make your own sauce by boiling the cranberries and adding orange peel, clove, and real maple syrup (another natural infection-fighter) for sweetness.

The rest of the year, you can drink tart (no sugar added) cranberry juice or rely on cranberry extract in easy-to-swallow capsules.

As an added bonus, cranberries can also help protect you from urinary tract infections and other types of infections, too — because studies have shown that they can wipe out pathogens that even the most powerful antibiotics can’t touch.