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Please pass the cranberries

fresh cranberriesArticle adapted with contributions from Janet Hackert & Tammy Roberts, Nutrition and Health Education Specialists, University of Missouri Extension


Cranberries are often part of holiday feasts, but they have so much to offer in terms of taste, nutrition and versatility that they should be enjoyed any time of the year.


Like many fruits, cranberries are high in fiber and vitamin C and low in calories and fat. A fresh cup of these tangy berries has just 47 calories, 4 grams of fiber and 24 percent of the vitamin C the average person needs in a day. They also contain potassium.


Cranberries are packed with antioxidants that may help maintain heart health and reduce cholesterol. Antioxidants, found in many fruits and vegetables, also help protect our bodies from damage done by pollutants in the air, cigarette smoke, unhealthy foods and other environmental toxins. USDA’s Agriculture Research Service lists cranberries as having more antioxidant capacity than any other commonly eaten fruit.


Cranberries can also play a role in helping to maintain a healthy urinary tract. One phytochemical that cranberries contain helps to inhibit the bacteria that is responsible for 80 to 90 percent of urinary tract infections. This same phytochemical may protect against the bacteria that is associated with gum disease and ulcers.


Use fresh, frozen or unsweetened dried berries for the best nutritive value. When purchasing fresh cranberries, choose those that are firm, bright and plump. Be sure to store cranberries in the refrigerator because they will deteriorate quickly at room temperature. Wash fresh cranberries just before you are ready to use them.


Most people agree that you can’t pick cranberries from the bush and eat as is. Cranberries are tart and even bitter at times. They need to be sweetened or incorporated into baked goods such as muffins, quick breads and cakes. They can be made into jams, jellies, chutney and relish, all of which go great with the Thanksgiving turkey. You can also buy dried cranberries which can be added to baked goods or just enjoyed on their own as a healthy snack.


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Last update: Monday, November 18, 2013