The Sweet and Tangy Taste of Cranberries

cranberries-tgiving-gettyCranberries are a Thanksgiving staple that can work towards your fruit and vegetable intake goals. Many people like these three varieties of cranberries; jellied, canned or fresh. Cranberries have a long history in our country. Starting in the 1550s, Native Americans were using them for food, dyes, and medical purposes. In 1863, the first settlers made the first cranberry juice. In 1868, the first 100 pound barrel of cranberries was sold for $0.58 in Philadelphia, PA. In the 1930s, the company Ocean Spray was formed as a grower-owned marketing cooperative company. In the 1980s, an international market was developed for cranberries and cranberry products did become ingredients in other products. In 2002, two independent studies found that cranberries are high in antioxidants, which provide more significant protection against Alzheimer’s disease.
The American cranberry was first grown in the wild from the mountains of Georgia to the Canadian Maritimes and as far west as Minnesota. Where was the first cranberry grown in modern America? It has been cultivated in the Cape Cod area since the early 1800s and was an active industry during much of the 19th Century. Cranberry production is a vital new industry in the state of Maine. It is a “new” industry in the sense that represents the rebirth of an industry that left Maine in the first half of this century and, until 1988, there were no commercial producers in the state.
In terms of healthy foods, cranberries are at the top of the list due to their high nutrient and antioxidant content and are often referred to as a “superfood”. Cranberries are also low in calories; half a cup contains just 25 calories. The possible health benefits of consuming cranberries help reduce the adhesion of certain bacteria to the urinary tract walls that helps fight off certain infections. The high level of flavonoid antioxidants in cranberries may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by preventing platelet build-up and reducing the risk of cardiovascular inflammatory mechanisms. Research has shown positive effects against prostate, liver, ovarian, and colon cancer. Cranberries may also be beneficial in preventing gum disease. Cranberries are a good source of vitamin C, fiber and vitamin E. Vitamin C is a powerful, natural antioxidant capable of blocking some of the damage caused by free radicals, as well as boosting the body’s resistance to infectious agents. According to the Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences Program of the University of Kentucky, high fiber intakes associated with lower risks of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and certain gastrointestinal diseases. Increased fiber intake has also been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and enhance weight loss for obese individuals. Vitamin E is a fat soluble antioxidant involved in immune function that may help prevent or delay the chronic diseases associated with free radicals. What are some good options for cranberry use? One option includes candied cranberries, which are great on cakes. Another good option is to use cranberries to flavor a bowl of oatmeal. Roasted cranberries with thyme are great with roasted pork, turkey or chicken. For a tasty dessert, pear and cranberry tarts are a tasty choice. Cranberry butter is a good option on toasted bread, bagels, and muffins. Stuffing cranberries into cooked squash or turkey stuffing are also unique tastes. You can get cranberries on your plate this Thanksgiving and Christmas as a tasty and healthy addition to any recipe. They are not only good for the holidays, but anytime through the holiday season for entertaining and for everyday use.

Written by: Tracy Williams
Dominican University Nutrition Majorcranberries-tgiving-getty