By Rebecca Mason, RDN
Cranberries are harvested in the fall, and these beautiful red pearls generally grace our holiday tables in sauce or gel form. They’re tart, tangy and their health benefits far surpass those of a basic condiment. Here are 5 ways the cranberry achieves superfood status this holiday season:
- Cranberries are low in calories and are a good source of potassium and fiber.
One cup of fresh cranberries contains 44 calories, 81 milligrams of potassium and 4.4 grams of fiber. Dried cranberries and most cranberry sauces are higher in calories due to the added sugar, as cranberries are quite tart on their own. Try a new spin on the typical cranberry sauce, and make this Cranberry Orange Relish at your next holiday gathering.
- Cranberries are high in vitamin C.
Just one cup of whole cranberries contains 22 percent of the daily value of vitamin C. Vitamin C enhances iron absorption, and is necessary for collagen production, development of soft tissues and healthy bones and teeth.
- Cranberries are good for your heart.
Cranberries contain strong antioxidants known as proanthocyanins (or PAC’s), which lend several heart-health benefits. Research has suggested that PAC’s may play a role in reducing blood pressure and inflammation, and they can also prevent the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (the bad cholesterol) in the bloodstream. Oxidized LDL is associated with atherosclerosis and tissue damage. Interestingly, while other plants contain PAC’s, those in cranberries are structurally different, and cranberries are one of the most potent sources of PAC’s in our diets.
- Cranberries help balance your cholesterol.
While the PAC’s found in cranberries lower LDL, the harmful form of cholesterol, they increase the good cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Having higher levels of HDL is associated with reduced risk for heart disease.
- Cranberries will make your dentist happy.
The PAC’s also found in cranberries inhibit bacteria’s ability to stick to surfaces and create a substance called “biofilm.” This is particularly helpful in preventing dental plaque, oral infections and gingivitis. Your dentist (and hygienist) will thank you if you add more cranberries to your diet.
So if you’re being asked to bring a dish to pass this holiday season, consider one that’s seasonal in color and flavor—and a superfood as well. From adding these health-boosting berries to sauces and spreads, to coloring up your lighter desserts with their beautiful burgundy hue, here are some more options for healthier cranberry recipes.
And, be sure to have a crantastic holiday season.
About the Author: Rebecca Mason, RDN, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and product specialist in the Wellness Department at Priority Health. She is passionate about helping families and individuals improve their health through nutrition education and nutritious food access. Rebecca is certified in adult weight management, and has a background in both clinical nutrition and wellness programming.