The Nutritional Benefits of Cranberries (+ a Better Cranberry Sauce Recipe)

Cranberry Sauce packs a powerful punch of flavor and nutrition. Here's why you should start adding cranberries to your diet. Plus, we've found a great cranberry sauce recipe that will be a classic in your house.
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Cranberry Sauce packs a powerful punch of flavor and nutrition. Here's why you should start adding cranberries to your diet. Plus, we've found a great cranberry sauce recipe that will be a classic in your house.
healthy cranberry sauce

Cranberry Sauce packs a powerful punch of flavor and nutrition. Here's why you should start adding cranberries to your diet. Plus, we've found a great cranberry sauce recipe that will be a classic in your house.

The bright red berries grow on vining shrubs in sandy bogs across the northern United States and Canada, with the highest concentrations in the cool, moist climes of Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Washington, and Oregon. Organic cranberry bogs provide a pesticide-free wetland habitat for other plants and aquatic animals, and both conventional and organic bogs recycle the copious amounts of water used to harvest the berries and protect them from frost.

Native Americans prized the cranberry for its nutritional and medicinal properties, and today's scientists concur. Researchers at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts found that cranberries, which are among the richest sources of disease-fighting antioxidants, help prevent E. coli bacteria from adhering to the body's cells and causing infection. This finding explains cranberries' reputation for preventing urinary tract infections and has implications for alleviating gum disease and gastrointestinal disorders. Other recent studies suggest that cranberries may lower the levels of LDL (or "bad" cholesterol), inhibit the growth of certain cancers, and have heart-healthy effects similar to those of red wine.

Cranberries are often processed with sugar in canned sauces and juice cocktails. But there are plenty of ways to enjoy the fresh berries more naturally, says nutrition counselor and yoga teacher Darshana Weill, who founded Fruition, a Northern California nutrition and holistic health care program for women.

"Even homemade cranberry sauces are usually filled with sugar," Weill says. "Cranberries are very tart, so a good way to eat them is to combine them with higher-quality sweeteners or other naturally sweet foods." Weill makes a lightly sweet cranberry sauce that combines cranberries, pears, apples, and maple syrup.

Harvested in the fall, cranberries are at their peak through December. Refrigerate them for up to a month, or seal them in a plastic bag and freeze them for up to nine months. That way, you can enjoy their tart flavor and health-giving properties all year long.

You can serve this sauce either warm or at room temperature, and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Leaving the peels on the apples and pears gives the sauce extra fiber.

See also3 Sweet Alternatives to Lower Your Sugar Intake

Healthy Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Makes 2 1/2 cups.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (1 12-ounce bag) cranberries
  • 1 sweet apple, such as Fuji, cored and cut into1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 ripe pear, such as Bartlett or Anjou, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup maple or agave syrup
  • 1/4 cup currants or raisins
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

1. Combine cranberries, apple, pear, 1/2 cup orange juice, syrup, currants, orange zest, and salt in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat.

2. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples and pears pierce easily with a fork, 18 to 25 minutes. If the sauce becomes dry, stir in more orange juice as necessary to prevent scorching.

See also Gluten-Free Cranberry Upside-Down Cake