Cranberries benefits

Cranberries with antioxidants, vitamin C

Cranberries are small red fruits native to North America, and are harvested from October to January.

Commercially-grown cranberries in the northern United States and southern Canada are larger than the wild varieties grown in the southern regions of the U.S. and throughout Europe. American Indians enjoyed cranberries the same we do today: dried and sweetened (with honey or maple syrup).

They offer many nutritional benefits and are a must-have for the holidays. They are an essential part of the traditional Thanksgiving meal. Americans consume about 400 million pounds of the fruit a year and a fifth of that is consumed during Thanksgiving alone.

Health Benefits

Cranberries are often referred to as a “super food” , due to their high nutrient and antioxidant content. Half a cup contains only 25 calories.

Historically, Native Americans and  early settlers have used them to treat bladder issues, poor appetite, scurvy, stomach cramps and much more.

They are rich in:

  • Proanthocyanidins (PACs), specific antioxidants  that may prevent bacteria from adhering to different tissues such as stomach and bladder.
  • Vitamin C, which helps protect against various infections
  • Vitamin A, E and K
  • Fibers

They may also help maintain a healthy cholesterol level.

Caution

Because of the vitamin K content, individuals who use blood thinners should ask their doctor before consuming extra quantities. Likewise, people with a history of kidney stones should talk to their healthcare provider before increasing their intake of cranberries.

Purchase and conservation

Choose them plump, firm, bright red and without blemishes.
You can store them in an airtight plastic bag in the refrigerator for several weeks and up to 2 months. For longer-term preservation, spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, put them in the freezer, and once frozen, bag them and put them back in the freezer. You can then integrate them directly into your recipes, still frozen.

For convenience, you may also buy them already frozen.

Cooking tips

Choose derived products with no sugar or the least amount possible. Favor sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup over white sugar. If pure cranberry juice is too tart for you, dilute it with water instead of adding sugar.
Because of their acid taste, cranberries are rarely eaten naturally. Instead, they are added to recipes to create interesting combinations of flavors. Besides the famous Thanksgiving sauce (see healthful recipe below), there are many other ways to enjoy them. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make a homemade trail mix with dried cranberries, unsalted nuts, and seeds
  • Add them to fruit and vegetable salads;
  • Toss a small handful of frozen cranberries in a smoothie
  • Sprinkle dried cranberries on your oatmeal
  • Include dried or fresh cranberries into cookie or muffin recipes
  • Make your apple pie more interesting with a few fresh cranberries
  • Turn them into sauces, relishes and jams to serve with poultry dishes.

It also comes as a powder now so you can add a scoop to your smoothies of beverages more easily.

Did you know?

Before turning red, the cranberry is white. Its colorless juice would have almost the same nutritional value and antioxidant power as the red juice.

Healthy Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Ingredients

    • 1 bag of fresh cranberries (12 oz ), rinsed
    • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (one medium size orange)
    • 3/4 cup apple cider or unsweetened apple juice
    • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup or honey
    • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of sea salt

Instructions

    1. In a medium sauce-pan, whisk together orange juice, apple cider, and maple syrup over medium-high heat.
    1. Once it comes to a boil, add cinnamon and salt.
    1. Add the cranberries and reduce heat to a simmer.
    1. Let simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until cranberries begin to pop.
    1. Using a potato masher, mash the cranberries to the texture you want. The more you mash, the less chunky.
    1. Simmer for another 5 minutes and then turn off the heat. Let cool down and thicken for 30 minutes
  1. Serve or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Happy Thanksgiving!