Fresh cranberries are available from October through early January. So, fall is a great time to stock up.
Health Benefits of Cranberries
As we plan for the holidays, it seems most families include some form of cranberries with their Thanksgiving feast. What a shame we only use this healthy fruit once a year. Cranberries are a “super food,” with high levels of antioxidants that protect us from disease.
Historically, Americans prefer sweetened cranberry products like jellied with our holiday turkey, juiced and mixed with apple juice for a cranberry cocktail, or dried to sprinkle in salads or muffins. Others use them in decorating. But cranberries are a highly nutritious fruit that has powerful health benefits that we can consume year-round.
Cranberries are rich in phytonutrients. (“Phyto” means plant.) Phytonutrients are plant-based compounds that have a beneficial biological effect on human tissues. Some of the cranberry phytonutrients include vitamins C and K, and polyphenolic (poly-FEE-nol-ik) antioxidants like phenolic acids, flavonoids and ellagic acid, tannins and terpines. You don’t have to know what these compounds are to reap their health benefits. These compounds have been shown to lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar and protect against urinary tract infections.
Since cranberries are low in sugar, they are also low in calories, and contain natural dietary fiber. This also means these berries can be very tart. Supplement manufacturers extract some of the healthful ingredients to create powders, capsules and tablets. However, supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so content of beneficial ingredients may be erratic and not as dependable as consuming the whole fruit.
Cranberries can add zing and color to many of your year-round, everyday dishes. It’s easy to chop them into salads, slaws, salsas, muffins, pancakes or stuffing. Try adding to smoothies, cream cheese or oatmeal. Make cranberry syrup, jam, jelly or mulled cider or toss them into your rice, pasta, or quinoa water while cooking. However you use cranberries, make an effort to work this “super food” into your daily diet and reap the health benefits year round.
Planning to make cranberries a healthy addition to your meal? Here are a few shopping and money-saving cranberry tips:
Look for cranberries that range in color from light to dark red and are plump, glossy, and firm. White berries mixed in with the red do not need to be discarded. (They are mature and have a milder flavor.)
Frozen cranberries are available all year. Or buy fresh cranberries when they are in season and freeze your own. Dried cranberries are often available in bulk food sections. They might be less expensive and you can buy small amounts.
Glazed Carrots and Cranberries Recipe
1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally into 1⁄4 inch thick slices
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons sugar, divided
1⁄2 cup chicken broth
1 Tablespoon butter
1⁄2 cup dried cranberries
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add carrots, salt, 1 Tablespoon sugar, and broth. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until carrots are almost tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.
2. Uncover; increase heat to high. Stir occasionally until liquid is reduced to about 2 Tablespoons, about 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Add butter and remaining sugar to skillet; stir carrots to coat. Add dried cranberries and cook, stirring frequently, until carrots are completely tender and glaze is light gold, about 3 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Serve warm.
5. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.
Makes 2 1⁄2 cups
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 12 minutes
PDF recipe download includes Couscous Salad, Glazed Carrots and Cranberries and Cranberry Apple Sauce.
“Health Benefits of Cranberries” article by Stephanie Polizzi, MPH, RDN. Recipe and fact sheet provided by Oregon State University Extension Service with Healthy Bytes Community Networking Initiative.
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