At the center of the table in traditional Thanksgiving feasts is often the bright red glob of cranberry sauce. As well as adding color to the table, the cranberries involved also contain a powerhouse of antioxidants. This can be found in any form, including raw berries and juices. (Just make sure the juice isn’t loaded with sugar – go for the raw and unfiltered kind). A full cup of cranberries contains only 45 calories and is a powerful provider of salicylic acid, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium and zinc. It’s vitamin rich with thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, E and vitamin K. It is one of the best foods to balance protein, fiber and carbohydrates.
Here are some of the most notable benefits of cranberries:
· Helps prevent urinary tract Infections (UTI’s) – High levels of the antioxidant proanthocyanidins (PACs) are found in cranberries and help stop certain bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract walls. These bacteria can cause infections that develop in the bladder and cause cystitis in the kidney and prostate that lead to renal parenchyma or bacterial prostatitis. A regular glass of unsweetened cranberry juice can help prevent recurring UTIs in middle-aged and pregnant women.
· Helps Avoid Cardiovascular Disease – The polyphenols in cranberries prevents platelet build-up and reduces blood pressure through anti-inflammatory mechanisms. The flavonoids present in cranberries decrease the threat of atherosclerosis and stop the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
· Improves Dental Health – The proanthocyanidins in cranberries prevent bacteria from binding to teeth and gums
· Prevents Respiratory Infections – Cranberries help to inhibit certain strains of influenza, which is a common cause of ear and respiratory infections in children by keeping the bacteria’s hair-like structures from adhering to the surface of the skin.
· Treats Peptic Ulcers – Peptic ulcers are often caused by a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori. Foods rich in flavonoids, like cranberries, help reduce the risk of stomach disorders, including stomach ulcers.
· Anti-aging Benefits – The phytonutrients and antioxidants in cranberries can help protect against memory loss and fight off free radicals that contribute to aging.
If you are using the blood-thinning drug, Warfarin, or Coumadin, you should avoid cranberries because certain products may lead to a higher excretion of oxalate in urine and promote the formation of kidney stones.
Here is one of my favorite recipes that includes cranberries.
Healthy Cranberry Sauce with Orange & Cinnamon
Yield: 2 cups
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
• 12 oz. bag of cranberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, allow to thaw first)
• 1⁄2 cup raw honey or maple syrup
• 1 medium cinnamon stick
• Juice and zest of 1 med-large orange
• 1 cup of water OR enough water to make 1 cup of liquid (see step 3 below)
1. Rinse the cranberries well and discard any mushy ones.
2. Wash the orange and use a grater to zest the orange.
3. Juice the orange and add enough water to equal 1 cup of liquid OR for even more vitamin C and fiber, grind up the orange in a blender or food processor and add enough water to equal 1 cup of liquid.
4. Place all ingredients in a saucepan on the stove and heat at med-high heat until the mixture comes to a full boil.
5. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer uncovered for approximately 10 minutes until the cranberries pop and the mixture thickens. Stir occasionally so the mixture doesn’t stick. Cook longer if you want your cranberry sauce thicker. Add more water if you like it thinner.
6. Remove from heat and allow to cool at room temperature before placing in the fridge in a covered container. Cranberry sauce can be made several days ahead of time and keeps well for at least a week in the fridge.
Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.