Cranberries are the second highest fruit (blueberries are number 1) in antioxidant capacity, according to a 2004 USDA study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Antioxidants are important for protecting cells against damage from free radicals and some major antioxidants include vitamins A, C and E. Free radicals have been shown to play a role in certain diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and they may help slow down the aging process. Eating the recommended 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables provides naturally-occurring antioxidants which can be preferred over antioxidant supplementation. Cranberries and other fruits also have other phyto-chemicals that have advantageous health properties.
Besides being high in antioxidants, cranberries also have gotten the reputation for helping with urinary tract infections. Although most studies have shown only modest effects, compounds in cranberries may actually hinder bacteria from attaching to the lining of the bladder. Cranberries also have other anti-inflammatory effects that are important for disease prevention.
Cranberry juice or juice mixes are a popular choice for a beverage but take note: avoid cranberry flavored juices that do not have 100% juice, as these products have unnecessary added sugars. Dried cranberries are also a sweeter way to enjoy this fruit, but again added sugar can make them higher in calories. Eat dried cranberries in moderation. One third cup has approximately 130 calories with 26 gm of sugar.
Cranberry sauce is a usual accompaniment with the turkey on Thanksgiving, but how else can we enjoy these little red berries?
- Raw cranberries can be added to a tossed salad or added in a blended fruit smoothie.
- Combining cranberries with other fruits for a fruit salad or in blended fruit for a good idea to drown out some of the bitterness from fresh cranberries.
- Cranberry sauce or chutneys can be made to go with various meat dishes.
- Add dried or fresh cranberries to baked goods such as breads, cookies, muffins, pancakes and pies. For example, cranberries can go well in baked apple pie.
- Top yogurt or oatmeal with dried or fresh cranberries.
- Make trail mix with nuts and dried fruits including cranberries. The protein and fat in nuts will balance the sugars in dried cranberries.
When picking cranberries, choose firm berries and store in the refrigerator up to twenty days. Wash before using and enjoy the numerous ways to eat these and enjoy their health benefits.
Holly Klamer is a Registered Dietitian and personal trainer in Colorado. She received her undergraduate degree with a double major in Dietetics and Health Fitness from Central Michigan University. She then went to Colorado State University for her Master's degree in Human Nutrition emphasizing in Exercise Science. There she completed her dietetic internship to be a Registered Dietitian and was a teaching assistant in the nutrition department. Holly loves to travel, be outside, run, road bike and hike. She ran cross country and track in college and still enjoys competing in long distance running. Her passions are in sports nutrition, disordered eating, teaching others how to eat healthy on a limited budget, worksite wellness, weight loss and food allergies. She enjoys public speaking for various nutrition topics especially to young athletes, writing nutrition education material, and individual counseling. Holly has a passion to help people reach their goals of health and improve athletic performance. She currently works as a personal trainer, sports dietitian and free lance writer for various health websites. To contact Holly, email her at email@example.com.