Undiluted Cranberry Juice: My Surprisingly Economical Summer Hero

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I had heard about the magical benefits of undiluted, unsweetened cranberry juice, and I always wanted to start drinking it, but got sticker shock every time I saw it on the shelf. I would reach for the bottle, nestled so innocently among other fruit juices, only to sigh at the price tag, usually around $7, but as high as $12 in some markets. But now I know better, and cranberry juice is a staple in my fridge.

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Summer brings heat and, at least for me, heat brings bloating. (The extra cocktails and salty boiled peanuts probably don't help, either.) One day, I must have been feeling really bloated or really flush (see what I did there?), because I decided to splurge. At home with my coveted juice, I soon realized two things.

1. I only need about two tablespoons of cranberry juice per pint of water to make a whole drink.

2. Undiluted cranberry juice sends me running to the ladies' room within minutes, in a good way.

That stuff hydrates and gets your kidneys going like nobody's business. Given how little I need to transform any beverage into a cranberry flavored delight, the juice ends up costing less than its sugary counterpart.

Full of nutrients and antioxidants, cranberries are beneficial in more ways than one. They may even help prevent heart disease, certain cancers, gum disease and high cholesterol. Why did I wait to long to start guzzling the stuff?

I've been drinking the juice with sparkling water throughout the day, adding it to cocktails in the evening and even adding a splash to my guilty pleasure, Diet Coke. Hey, if the French can make cola flavored wine, why not? I haven't tried adding it to coffee yet, but...well, maybe some beverages are better left alone. With all that consumption, I still only go through a bottle every two weeks. Actually, my husband has discovered my secret, so now we're up to a bottle a week.

I already have wide, Fred Flinstone-style feet, and cranberry juice keeps them from expanding even more, so I can wear ankle strap sandals all summer long. Staying hydrated and bloat-free makes a day at the beach even better!

What are some of your favorite foods that also happen to have mad health benefits?

(Images: Anne Postic)

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