The lip-smacking cranberry is naturally tart, high in antioxidants and phytonutrients, and low in calories, carbohydrates, and sugar. Cranberries pack more punch than many superfoods, and though they are bountiful in grocery stores during the holidays, it can be a challenge to find consistent sources year-round. In this nutrition blog, you'll learn more about this amazing superfruit and how you can benefit from the mighty cranberry all year long.
The most common species of cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon, is grown in North America where it is flood-harvested. Since cranberries contain small bubbles, they float to the surface of the water where they can be easily harvested. Floating cranberries are also exposed to more direct sunlight which may help them develop an increased amount of phytonutrients and antioxidants, making them even better for you!
Unfortunately, cranberries are often treated with a number of pesticides, so when you DO find organic cranberries, you might want to stock up! They freeze easily and make a perfect addition to festive beverages, smoothies, baked treats, and salads. If you cannot find organic cranberries in your local store, surface pesticides may be removed by soaking them in a solution of nine (9) parts water and one (1) part salt.
Vitamin C is the best-known antioxidant in cranberries. Beyond its effect as a natural immune system booster, vitamin C also supports your body's structural systems and organs, including your bones, muscles (heart), eyes, and even your skin.
Cranberries are rich in vitamin E, which is a fat-soluble antioxidant that supports healthy skin and eyes. Vitamin E helps neutralize oxidation, which may explain why researchers think it may play a role in protecting the parts of the eye that are impacted by oxidation. It also promotes a healthy immune system.
An essential mineral, manganese plays a vital role in many processes in the body. It supports your body's use of antioxidants while also supporting metabolism and the processing of carbohydrates, proteins, and cholesterol. You might think of it as the “enabler” mineral, helping your body be more efficient.
Also known as phylloquinone, vitamin K1 is found in certain fruits and vegetables. Vitamin K1's best-known benefit is its role in supporting normal blood clotting. However, vitamin K also supports optimal bone and cardiovascular health by ensuring that calcium is absorbed effectively in bone tissues where it is most vital, and not in soft tissues where it can become problematic. You can think of vitamin K as a traffic cop who helps direct calcium to the places in the body where it is needed most.
Copper is a vital health-supporting trace element. It supports healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels already within normal ranges, while also supporting healthy glucose metabolism. When paired with iron, copper enables the body to form red blood cells.
Phytonutrients are plant-based nutrients that help your body function properly and support a healthy immune system. They support a healthy urinary tract, gastrointestinal system, and may also play a role in dental health by limiting the number of bacteria that sticks to your gums!
So... Are cranberries best whole, juiced, dried, or in supplement form?
Recent studies indicate that consuming the whole fruit is best, as there is a synergistic effect in the nutrients in cranberries when the skin and flesh of the berry are eaten together. Whole cranberries may be challenging to find outside of fall and winter months, so try checking the freezer section for frozen, unsweetened berries year-round. They make an excellent addition to frozen smoothies and will provide a refreshing tart hint to many recipes.
Though cranberry juice has long been touted as a healthy drink, it is often blended in a “cocktail” with added sugar or sugary juices like apple or grape. Pure, unsweetened cranberry juice is a healthier, low-sugar alternative that better supports your body. You can find it at your local health food store and finer grocery stores nationwide. Mix unsweetened cranberry juice with water, lemon, or any of your favorite no-sugar-added beverages for a health-supporting tonic with a lower glycemic index.
The convenience of dried cranberries may seem appealing (and tasty), but they tend to be loaded with added sugar or sugary juices. For a better alternative, you may decide that dry-roasting your own is best! You can add these delectable treats to cereal, salads, or power bowls.
Though we all have the very best intentions, getting the right balance of nutrients year-round can be challenging. At NutriGold, our Cranberry Gold is made from whole cranberries, including the seed, skin, fruit, and naturally occurring oils. With Cranberry Gold, you can receive all the mighty benefits of cranberries year-round without worry.
So, go get some fresh cranberries while you can and treat your body to a powerful punch of antioxidants and phytonutrients! Add them to smoothies, make salsa, chop them up and add them to oatmeal, and while you're at it, try one or more of the recipes we've shared below.
POWER BOWL WITH ROASTED CRANBERRIES
INGREDIENTS (in order of use)
- 2-3 T extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 scrubbed or peeled large sweet potatoes
- 1 T ground cinnamon
- 1 T paprika (smoked or hot – your choice)
- Sea salt
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 2 cups filtered water
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1/3 C fresh chives, chopped
- 2 T aged balsamic vinegar
- 2 T tamari (substitute soy sauce)
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries, washed and dried
- 2-4 T pure maple syrup
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground cardamom
- 1 C fresh baby spinach
- ¼ C crumbled feta cheese
- Lime wedges
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 425° F.
- Cover a baking sheet with heavy-duty foil and drizzle with 2 T olive oil.
- Cut the sweet potatoes into wedges or cubes and place them on the baking sheet, add the remaining 1 T of olive oil and toss them to coat.
- Sprinkle with the cinnamon, paprika, and sea salt and toss to combine.
- Roast for 20-30 minutes until golden and tender but still firm.
- Cover another baking sheet with heavy-duty foil for the cranberries.
- Place the cranberries on the baking sheet and drizzle with the desired amount of maple syrup.
- Combine maple syrup, cinnamon and cardamom and drizzle over the cranberries.
- Roast for 10-15 minutes until tender and place in a bowl with any juice.
- While the potatoes and cranberries are roasting, add the quinoa, water, and salt to a medium saucepan.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 12-15 minutes until moisture is gone.
- Fluff the quinoa using chopsticks and transfer to a bowl.
- Add chopped chives, tamari or soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. Toss gently.
Prepare the bowls by grouping or layering the sweet potatoes, quinoa, arugula, and cranberries and sprinkle with feta cheese.
LEMON CRANBERRY MUFFINS (VEGAN)
Makes 12 Adapted from Food52.com
- ½ C all purpose flour
- 1 C whole wheat flour
- ¾ C cornmeal
- 2/3 C organic sugar
- 1 T baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 ½ C fresh cranberries
- ¼ C raw walnut pieces (optional)
- 2 tsp grated lemon zest
- 1 C non-dairy milk (unsweetened)
- ¼ C lemon juice
- ¼ C canola (or other neutral oil)
- 2 tsp extra sugar for dusting
- Preheat an oven to 400° F.
- Line a muffin tin with paper inserts.
- Cut the cranberries in half, rough chop them and set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients: flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and 1/3 C sugar.
- Combine 1/3 C of sugar and 2 T of the dry flour mix and toss gently with the cranberries until coated.
- Combine wet ingredients: non-dairy milk, oil, vinegar, lemon juice, zest, and vanilla and add to the flour mix. Stir until well combined.
- Fold in walnuts.
- Fold in cranberries.
- Fill muffin liners to 2/3 full. Sprinkle each with a pinch of sugar.
- Bake 12-15 minutes. Muffins should be a light golden color and a toothpick should come out clean when inserted.
ORANGE CRANBERRY CHUTNEY
- 1 package (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup orange juice
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup chopped peeled Golden Delicious apple
Cook ingredients for 10-15 minutes on medium heat, until berries have popped and liquid is thick. Serve warm or cold.