Healthy Bites for a Healthy Life
By: Kristen Boucher
I’ve been a fan of cranberries since I can remember, but only in the last few years, have I really been crushing on them. Even raw, unsweetened cranberries. There is something about that tart pop in your mouth that just screams fall. I am probably part of the 1% that feels that way, but whatever.
A couple of months back, my favorite little girl and I took a visit out to see some friends on the Cape one beautiful fall afternoon. We were treated to a trip at picturesque Coonamesset Farm in East Falmouth.
If you have not been, you must go. This place is a locavore’s dream. Oh. Em. Gee. Not only is it incredibly beautiful, but you can literally pick your own everything. From chicken and duck eggs to flowers, herbs, kale, cherry tomatoes, and everything (seasonal) in between.
They also have an adorable little store that sells their goods and other yummy treats. That’s when I spotted them. Organic cranberries. For $2.99/lb. Wha-wha?!? I bought a few (pounds) to savor, freeze, and get me through the long winter.
Before I divulge my plans for these beauties, it’s only fair that I put on my nurse/health coach hat and talk for a bit about why cranberries should be a staple in our diets.
Cranberries are high in vitamin C, a good source of fiber (my personal sweet spot), coming in at 5 grams/cup, and have only 45 calories per 1 cup serving. They’re probably known best for their insane disease-fighting antioxidant content, outranking nearly every fruit and vegetable out there, including strawberries, spinach, broccoli, red grapes, apples, raspberries, and cherries. Impressed yet? It gets better. Check it:
- Cranberries are rich in the flavonoid quercetin, which has been linked to reducing the development of breast and colon cancer.
- The previously-mentioned super antioxidant content may protect against heart disease, high-cholesterol, among other chronic diseases.
- Cranberries have been found to decrease the production of cavity and plaque-producing bacteria in your mouth.
- Properties in cranberries have been found to reduce the bacteria associated with painful peptic stomach ulcers.
- The natural compounds in cranberries act as antibacterial agents and preventing E. Coli, which is largely responsible for urinary tract infections.
- Cranberries contain quinic acid, which prevents kidney stones from developing.
- Cranberries are linked to eye health, demonstrating significant improvement in the symptoms of cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.
Awesome, right? Here’s the caveat (there’s always a caveat). The health benefits of cranberries are almost totally depleted when too much sugar is added. What’s in most commercial cranberry juice? Sugar. So what’s an aspiring health nut to do?
Make liberal use of cranberries in your cooking and baking, whilst limiting sugar as much as possible. Or do what I do, and just snack on the raw berries when you need a little kick (I realize this is not for everyone). Need some culinary inspiration? Here are a few of my faves:
- Apple Cranberry Pecan Salad with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette – Fresh cranberries on a salad? You bet. This has detox written all over it. If you can’t stomach the fresh ones, opt for unsweetened dried cranberries (or at the very minimum fruit-juice sweetened).
- Cranberry Flax Muffins – Wait, don’t muffins have sugar in them? Indeed, most do, but these are made with much less and instead of the refined stuff, uses maple syrup. And flax. Let’s not forget fiber and omega-3 rich flax.
- Omega-3 Cranberry Apple Crisp – Sugar, again? Yes, but this dessert is for when an indulgence is called for but you want to pull the wool over your guests eyes and serve something that is much healthier than the sugar-laden alternative. This is it. Trust me. I made this in place of apple pie last Christmas and my guests were overjoyed.
- Cranberry Apple Chutney – The perfect partner for your holiday feasts. Ditch the canned stuff and make this refined sugar-free chutney that is OH so good!
- Apple Cranberry Chicken/Turkey Salad Spinach Wrap – Use up your leftover chicken or turkey with this twist on chicken salad.
- Pumpkin Cranberry Pecan Pancakes – Minus the maple syrup you use to top these beauties (in moderation, right?), only a smidge of sweetener (maple syrup) is used to make these pancakes.
- Pumpkin Cranberry Pecan Cider Bread – One word. Delish. This is one of the outcomes of my Coonamesset Farm cranberry score.
If you’re not into baking, fear not. You can still reap the benefits of the almighty cranberry by sipping on real, 100%, unsweetened cranberry juice, which is sold in most grocery stores. If you can’t take the tartness, add a drop of (real) stevia extract to take the bite away.
What are you favorite ways to enjoy this seasonal fruit? I’d love to hear! Please leave a comment below.