What’s in Season: Cranberries by Emily Weeks, RDN, LD

It wouldn’t be the winter season without the classic bowl of cranberry sauce accompanying turkey dinner. Cranberries are known for their tart flavor, vibrant red color, and how they add delicious flavor to many dishes. They’re often consumed as juice, jellied sauces, and dried.

What’s in Season: Cranberries Most cranberry products contain added sugar because unsweetened cranberries are quite sour and hard to eat without a little bit of sweetener. As a person with diabetes, it’s extra important to read labels to choose cranberry products with the least amount of added sugar.

Nutritional Benefits of Cranberries

There’s a ton of nutrition packed into these tiny berries. One cup of fresh cranberries has just 46 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 4 grams of fiber. They also contain a quarter of the daily requirement of vitamin C plus many antioxidants, such as quercetin and anthocyanins. Research indicates (or studies have shown) Quercetin may be helpful in improving blood glucose (blood sugar) blood pressure and exercise performance. Anthocyanins give cranberries their dark red color and protect against cancer.
 
Studies have shown that cranberry juice can help reduce the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs). Cranberries are high in vitamin K, which helps to thin blood. Those that take blood thinners like warfarin should avoid or only drink small amounts of cranberry juice. If cranberry juice is a regular part of your eating plan, discuss this with your health care provider, registered dietitian, or diabetes educator.

How to Pick the Best Cranberries

Cranberries are small, round berries with a bright red color and sour flavor and are related to blueberries. They grow in northern United States and Canada in bogs which are flooded with water to harvest the floating berries. Fresh cranberries can be found seasonally, usually around the holidays starting in late October and early November through January.
 
When shopping for fresh cranberries, look for berries that are shiny and plump with no bruises. The darker the berries, the more antioxidants they contain. Wrapped in a plastic bag, they’ll last for about a month in the fridge. Canned cranberry sauce, cranberry juice, frozen cranberries (which are great for dishes that require softened berries), and dried cranberries can be found year-round.

Cooking with Cranberries

When choosing cranberry products, be sure to read the label to check for added sugars. Cranberry juice can be found unsweetened or sweetened. Unsweetened cranberry juice is the most effective for preventing UTIs but can be pretty sour. Try mixing half unsweetened with half sweetened cranberry juice for less sugar. Make sure to buy 100 percent cranberry juice rather than juice cocktails, which have more sugar and are mixed with other juices such as apple or pear.
 
Try mixing dried unsweetened cranberries into cornbread batter, cookies, as a topping for oatmeal, or in trail mix with nuts and seeds. Frozen cranberries taste great tossed in a smoothie along with other berries such as raspberries and blueberries. And fresh cranberries will sweeten and caramelize when roasted alongside carrots or potatoes.

Try This Cranberry Recipe

Roasted Chicken with Vegetables and Cranberries

 

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