It’s the time of year for cranberries! They start appearing fresh on supermarket shelves to play their role of the scarlet jewel on our Thanksgiving tables, but these superfood berries are so rich in anti-oxidants, minerals, and vitamins they need to be part of our diet year-round.
The Native Americans introduced the cranberry to the Pilgrims when they first settled Plymouth Colony and historians believe this is how they found the way to our holiday feasts. In addition to food and fabric dye, the Native Americans knew the value of cranberries as medicine and used them to treat many ailments.
Cranberries provide us with a multitude of phytonutrients that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer health benefits.
- phenolic acids – hydroxycinnamic, caffeic, coumaric, and ferulic acid
- proanthocyanins – epicatechin
- anthocyanins – cyanidins, malvidins and peonidin
- flavonoids – quercetin, myricetin, and kaempferol
- triterpenoids – especially ursolic acid
They are also rich in:
- Vitamin C
- Dietary fiber
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- Pantothenic acid
Cranberries and Infection Prevention
We are all familiar with the recommendation of drinking Cranberry Juice as a remedy for kidney and urinary tract infections (UTIs) but recent studies have found this phytonutrient rich superfood to have a wealth of health benefits. Researchers once thought that the high level of acidity was preventing UTIs but now they also attribute the proanthocyanin (PAC) content found in cranberries.
PAC prevents bacteria from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract preventing infections. This same preventative structure works in preventing bacteria adhering on other organs of the body as well, preventing ulcers and infection in our stomach lining and colon.
Researchers at the Center for Oral Biology and Eastman Department of Dentistry at the University of Rochester Medical Center found PACs may prevent bacteria binding to teeth and oral tissue aiding in the prevention of gum disease.
Cranberry as an Anti-Inflammatory
All of the many phytonutrients (proanthocyanins (PACs), anthocyanins – the flavonoid pigments that give cranberries their amazing shades of red, flavonols such as quercetin, and phenolic acid like hydroxycinnamic acids) found in cranberry play a role in reducing inflammation in your cardiovascular system and digestive tract (which includes your mouth, stomach and colon tissues). Research shows cranberry consumption may reduce the risk of heart disease, colon cancer and periodontal disease.
Although the research is limited, scientists are also linking intake of cranberry extracts to improved auto-immune function.
How to get more Cranberry in Your Diet
With so many benefits from this beautiful little, red fruit packed with goodness you need to find ways to get more of it.
- Add a handful of frozen cranberries to your smoothie
- Put them in pancake, muffin, scone and quick bread batters (try banana cranberry bread – delicious!)
- Add dried cranberries (try to use one with added sugar or fruit juices) to trail mix and salads
- Try making a salsa with fresh cranberry instead of tomato, jalapenos, cilantro and onion – you’d be surprised
- Add cranberries to pies and cookies – cranberry walnut cookies, pear or apple & cranberry pie anyone?
- Add fresh or dried cranberries to your hot breakfast cereal or dried cranberries to your cold cereals
- Use those great cranberry sauce and chutney recipes year-round with all types of grilled meats and fish
Now they are fresh in our markets buy some and freeze them for use throughout the year.
My Favorite Cranberry Recipes
This chutney is a great alternative to the sweeter ones you may be accustomed to. The shallot and black pepper make a complex flavor. Great not only with turkey but grilled chicken, duck or fish. Great year round.
Cranberry Black Pepper Chutney
Gourmet Magazine 2002
Makes: about 1 cup
1/3 cup finely chopped shallot
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (if frozen do not thaw)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cook shallot in butter in a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until berries have burst and chutney is thickened, about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Chutney can be made 1 week ahead and chilled, covered.
This is another recipe that is not only great for the Thanksgiving Table but a treat for the rest of the year as well.
Cornbread with Fennel Seeds, Dried Cranberries & Golden Raisins
GOURMET NOVEMBER 2001
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal (not coarse)
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 cup golden raisins, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds, coarsely crushed with a mortar and pestle or pulsed in an electric coffee/spice grinder
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 2 (8- by 4- by 3-inch) loaf pans and dust with flour, knocking out excess.
- Stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt in a large bowl.
- Whisk together butter, eggs, and buttermilk in another bowl.
- Add to flour mixture, stirring until just combined.
- Stir in raisins, cranberries, and fennel seeds.
- Divide batter among pans, smoothing tops, and let stand 10 minutes.
- Bake in middle of oven until tops are pale golden and a tester comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 10 minutes, then invert onto racks and cool completely.
- Cornbread can be baked 3 days ahead and kept, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, at room temperature.