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cranberriesCranberries may not be your favorite berry, but they can stand alone with high nutrition marks, and deserve so much more than being a Thanksgiving relish.  In fact the tangy and tart cranberry ranks among the highest fruits in nutrition–rich in antioxidants and other health promoting properties.

The results are always delicious in the traditional Thanksgiving bounty, but can also be mouthwatering when used to flavor drinks, main dish meals, and desserts.

Low in calories, rich in vitamin C, and full of beneficial fiber, the nutritious cranberry has established its position as a strong leader in increasing the body’s ability to fight off infection and strengthen the immune system.

What is the Nutrient Value of Cranberries?

One cup of whole calories contains only 46 calories; 13 grams total carbohydrate, 5 grams of fiber, 2mg sodium, and are fat and cholesterol free.

Dried cranberries are much higher in calories, coming in at 393 calories a cup, with 78 grams of sugars, and about 9 grams of dietary fiber.  Use sparingly in trail mixes or baked goods.  They’re also great with oatmeal, in place of raisins.

Cranberry Health Benefits

  • Heart benefits—the heart -healthy benefits of cranberries are due to the phytochemicals, specifically the polyphenols that reduce inflammation.
  • Raises HDL, the good, cholesterol—Cranberry juice has been examined more than most fruits and vegetables.  From these studies, it appears that cranberry juice consumption can boost HDL by an average of 7 percent.
  • Anti-cancer–– Scientists have established the answer behind the fruit’s anti-cancer properties: the ability to trigger off programmed cell death in tumor cells. They have determined that certain compounds in the fruit can inhibit the formation of cancer cells.
  • Preventing urinary track infections-– Cranberries contain a substance that can prevent bacteria from sticking on the walls of the bladder Women are particularly susceptible to UTIs, and products containing cranberries have long been known as a natural remedy for preventing them.

How to select and store Cranberries?

Native to America and part of the blueberry family, fresh cranberries are at their peak and sold in markets October through December.

Choose deep red, plump berries without scaring or bruising.

Cranberries will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks and easy to store in the freezer.  Just throw the whole bag in–they can be thawed and turned into a delicious dish in minutes.

Cranberry fun facts and tips

  • Cranberries were initially used for food and fabric dye by the Indians, and were used to treat wounds.
  • Cranberries are nicknamed “bounceberries” because they bounce when ripe—try it!
  • Sailors on long voyages knew they could eat cranberries to protect themselves from scurvy.  We now know that it’s due to their high vitamin C content.
  • ·                    The $2.5 billion cranberry industry is turning to friends in Congress to avoid having juice tagged as an empty-calorie drink. Cranberries now have their own congressional caucus, like many other foods and beverages.  Led by Senator John Kerry, the caucus will provide a platform for the cranberry industry to educate members of Congress about their health benefits.

Cranberry oatmeal cookiesI couldn’t resist putting in this link from Food Networks Guy Fiera for a ridiculously simple  cranberry cream sauce to have with your left over turkey quesadilla.

And try this week’s recipe for spicy cranberry cookies using dried cranberries and oatmeal.

Have a great Thanksgiving, and I hope you are viewing this berry in a whole new way.

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