Crazy for Cranberries!

4 delicious reasons to eat this festive fruit all year long

By Elaine Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

When you think of the holiday season, lots of special foods come to mind, but one fruit stands out -- the colorful cranberry. Why do cranberries have a monopoly on the holidays? My guess is that it's because their peak harvest season is November (with December being the last part of the season). Of course, the cranberry's festive red color doesn't hurt!

Nutritionally, cranberries are know for being a good source of vitamin C. One-half cup of fresh cranberries contains 11% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C, along with 1.6 grams of fiber -- all for only 23 calories.

But the real nutritional story behind this berry has to do with its powerful phytochemicals. That's what ranks it in the nutritional hall of fame for fruits.

4 Reasons to Eat Cranberries Year-Round

1. Cranberries are an excellent source of two types of powerful phytochemicals:

  • flavonoids (anthocyanins, flavonols, proanthocyanidins)
  • phenolic acids

Recent lab study results suggest that the three flavonoid phytochemicals work together for maximum effect on suppressing the growth of various human cancer cells.

2. Research indicates that foods containing the phytochemical grouping -- flavonoids -- may decrease the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Guess what's loaded with three different flavonoids -- cranberries!

3. When researchers from Cornell University analyzed common fruits, they found that cranberries had the most antioxidant activity, the strongest effect on inhibiting human cancer cells, and the most powerful phytochemicals.

4. Cranberries contain two compounds that seem to help keep certain bacteria (like E. coli) from attaching to the urinary tract wall. Studies offer evidence that women who drink cranberry juice may suffer fewer symptomatic urinary tract infections.

10 Foods to Boost With Cranberries

The only way to eat cranberries year-round is to use frozen cranberries (found in markets like Trader Joes and Whole Foods) and dried cranberries. To do this, we obviously need to go beyond the traditional cranberry sauce and cranberry nut bread.

But that's not a difficult task. Here are 10 types of recipes to which you can easily add cranberries:

  • Pancakes and waffles (see recipe below)
  • Muffins and breads
  • Fruit desserts, pies, crisps (see recipes below)
  • Smoothies
  • Fruit juice blends
  • Meat entrees
  • Holiday stuffing
  • Fruit and green salads
  • Jell-O salads
  • Sauce (to garnish meat and sandwiches)

Here are three cranberry-laced treats to get you started.

Cranberry Coconut Pecan Pancakes

Journal as: 3 pieces of "pancake, French toast, waffle"

These pancakes just burst with the color and flavor of fresh cranberries. The pecans and coconut are the perfect complement. Substitute a cup of whole-wheat flour for a cup of the cake flour, if you like.

2 cups cake flour (or use unbleached white flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Splenda (if desired)
1 large egg
1/4 cup egg substitute
2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup reduced-calorie pancake syrup
1 cup fresh cranberries (smaller size work best) or 1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup shredded or flaked (sweetened) coconut
1/3 cup pecan pieces, toasted

  • Add cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and Splenda to a large mixing bowl. Beat on low to blend well.
  • Add egg, egg substitute, buttermilk, vanilla extract, canola oil, and pancake syrup all at once to flour mixture in mixing bowl. Beat on low just until combined, scraping down sides of bowl midway. Stir cranberries, coconut, and pecans into batter.
  • Let batter rest 20 minutes. Begin heating nonstick griddle pan over medium heat. Spray griddle lightly with canola cooking spray if needed to prevent pancakes from sticking to pan.
  • Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto griddle. After bubbles form in pancakes (30-60 seconds), turn them with spatula and cook another 30-60 seconds or until golden brown. Serve with your preferred toppings.

Yield: 6 servings (3-4 pancakes each)

Per 3 to 4 pancakes (without coconut): 293 calories, 8 g protein, 41 g carbohydrate, 10 g fat, 1.4 g saturated fat, 38 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 700 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 31%.

Per 3 to 4 pancakes (with coconut): 313 calories, 8 g protein, 44 g carbohydrate, 12 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 38 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 700 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 34%.

Apple Cranberry Crisp

Journal as: 1/2 cup sweetened cold cereal + 1 piece of fresh fruit + 1 teaspoon margarine