Cranberries

Why is it that we only ever think “cranberries” at Thanksgiving and Christmas? From cranberry sauce to cranberry cocktails, this US superfruit has many health benefits that you can gain year-round.

Cranberries have a long history in the United States, used as food, in ceremonies, and medicinally by native cultures. Cranberries were first planted in Dennis, Massachusetts, in 1816. Now cranberries are farmed on nearly 60,000 acres across the United States, Canada and Chile.

Most cranberries are harvested between September and October, making them perfectly fresh for the holiday season. Though cranberries can be eaten fresh, most find the berry to be too tart to eat raw. The berries are most often enjoyed dried but, are also seen as either 100 percent juice or juice cocktail, as well as in favorite holiday side dish, like cranberry sauce.

Cranberries are thought to provide health benefits due to the content of antioxidant compounds, making them a “superfruit.” Research has shown that cranberries provide urinary tract, gastrointestinal and oral health benefits by preventing infection, and cardiovascular benefits by helping to reduce cholesterol and improving vascular function.

Nutritionally, cranberries, dried or fresh, are an excellent source of fiber, meeting 10% of the Daily Value with 2.3 grams of fiber per 40 gram serving of dried berries. Cranberries are naturally low in sugar but, are often sweetened to be more palatable. Even with sweetening, the amount of sugar in dried cranberries is equal to that of other dried fruits like raisins and dried cherries. MyPlate even suggests substituting dried cranberries for sweet candy to satisfy a sweet craving and saving the extra sugar and calories. One-half cup of dried cranberries is one serving of fruit, according to MyPlate.

Cranberries can be added to whole grain bread, cookies, muffins, or cakes before baking, as well as to oatmeal or other whole grains like curried couscous, or quinoa. Add extra flavor and an upscale feel to everyday dishes like chicken salad, rice, and pork roast by adding cranberries paired with walnuts.

Finally, celebrate the holidays with the traditional cranberry sauce-jellied or whole-berry.

Dried cranberries can be stored at room temperature, and fresh cranberries can be frozen and thawed later for use. Both dried and fresh cranberries can be found at any of our local grocery stores.

For more information and some delicious cranberry recipes, check out the Richland County Nutrition Coalition Facebook page at facebook.com/1rcnc1, and the Pinterest page at pinterest.com/1rcnc1.

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