When you think of cranberries, what comes to mind? For most people, it’s a sugary juice, or a can of jiggly-gelled sauce only seen at the Thanksgiving table. The cranberry is so much more than a mere sidekick to the turkey once a year; this mighty berry is a healthy super hero in its own right. Not only are cranberries a fantastically tart addition that will add a puckered layer of flavor to any dish, they are a health-supporting superfruit.
Health Benefits of Cranberries
Cranberries are a cousin to blueberries, and share almost equally high levels of antioxidants. The phytonutrients (specific compounds from plants with beneficial properties) in cranberries are able to find their way into your cells, where they fight free radical damage that can lead to inflammation and signs of aging.
One of these particular phytonutrients are antioxidants called proanthocyanidins, or PACs. PACs are unique in that they are able to interfere with bad bacteria like E. coli and staph from sticking to our cells. This action is most likely responsible for cranberries’ history as a traditional remedy for UTIs, since PACs may prevent bacteria from sticking to the lining of the urinary tract. The age-old advice to drink cranberry juice to make an UTI go away probably isn’t very accurate, however. The action of PACs tends to be more preventative than it is a cure. That being said, eating plenty of whole cranberries may definitely help you ward off any future “bad” bacterial bugs.
Cranberries are also a good source of vitamin C, which supports joint, skin, and immune health, and has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
What’s the healthiest way to enjoy the benefits of cranberries? In its whole food form, of course! Cranberry juice is mostly sugar and water, and more often that not, pasteurized. Pasteurization uses heat to prevent spoiling and destroy any potential pathogens, like E. coli, and is done to most juices available in your local supermarket. While this process is good for making a product safer and ensuring it will last longer on the shelves, it can also destroy beneficial nutrients and antioxidants. By choosing whole food cranberries or berries that have been dried at low temperatures, you can enjoy all of the health promoting benefits that the cranberry has to offer.
Cranberries have a naturally tart and tangy flavor that pairs well with naturally sweet, like apples, honey, or pears, or with spicy heat. They can be added to muffins, turned into a sweet dessert, or compliment a savory entree. Here are five creative ways to get more cranberries into your diet, all year long.
Easy Cranberry Recipes
1. Apple Cranberry Walnut Salad
This Apple Cranberry Walnut Salad uses dried cranberries, fresh apples slices, and Omega-3 rich walnuts. Feta cheese adds a creamy texture that will complement the crunch from the apples and nuts and the chewiness of the dried cranberries. Arugula and spinach leaves bring a peppery bite and beneficial B-vitamins to this fall-inspired salad.
2. Cranberry Poached Pears
You can say no to sugary sweets and flour-y treats, and still enjoy a heavenly dessert. Pears are poached in a tea-based liquid with a cinnamon stick, citrus peels, honey and fresh cranberries in this recipe for Cranberry Poached Pears. A simple but elegant dessert, poached pears are beautiful and refined enough to impress guests at a dinner party, and easy enough to enjoy on a weeknight if you feel like treating yourself to something special.
3. Cranberry Avocado Salsa
The perfect complement to tangy cranberries are spicy jalapenos and sweet honey, which are brightened up with zesty lime and cilantro in this smooth and satisfying Cranberry Avocado Salsa recipe. Baking pita bread into crisps to serve alongside the salsa instead of fried tortilla chips adds whole grain fiber while reducing fat and calories. This recipe is sure to be a hit at barbeques or Taco Tuesdays.
4. Honey Cranberry Chicken with Orange Paprika Rice
For a new twist on an old favorite, dress up your chicken with a honey cranberry sauce and serve with an orange paprika rice. Honey Cranberry Chicken will hit all of your tastebuds; slightly sweet oranges and honey, tart cranberries, tangy mustard, spicy paprika, and earthy sage. It’s like having all of the flavors of Thanksgiving, but with only 350 calories per serving and ready in 40 minutes.
5. Cranberry Sauce with Apples and Ginger
Forget the stuff in a can! Real cranberry sauce is a mix of different textures, with real berries bursting and simmering into a warm and tantalizing sauce that is a perfect side dish. Apples lend a slight sweetness and more variety to the texture, while honey soothes and ginger warms. Cranberry Sauce with Apples and Ginger is a clean eating meal that is only 84 calories per serving. You will never eat cranberry sauce from a can again.
Try incorporating these creative and tasty cranberry recipes into your diet, and you will see that the cranberry is a healthy superfruit that adds a zingy punch of tart flavor to your favorite dishes!