Cranberries have a reputation for being a holiday side dish like the below cranberry orange sauce, but many Wisconsinites are well aware of their health benefits year-round.
An official, and nutritious, fruit
The cranberry was named Wisconsin’s official state fruit in 2004. That’s because more than half of the world’s supply of cranberries is grown on Wisconsin family farms, according to the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association.
Millions of barrels of the fruit are harvested in Wisconsin each year, and each berry is chocked full of nutrients.
“Cranberries are sometimes dubbed a ‘superfood’ because of their antioxidants and vitamin and mineral content,” said Nicole Kraft, Marshfield Clinic Health System clinical dietitian. “Those antioxidant properties, specifically, can help with inflammation and aging.”
The not-so-sweet truth
Research suggests that one of the most nutritious ways to consume cranberries is in their dried form. However, that has a downside.
Sugar is usually added to make cranberries more palatable, since they naturally have a very tart taste. One serving of dried cranberries (1/4 cup) contains about 25 grams of added sugar, which is the maximum recommended amount per day for women, according to the American Heart Association.
“Most people are not consuming cranberries in their raw form and are therefore getting a lot of added sugar,” said Kraft. “Ideally, we’d want you to try to monitor portion sizes. That may be a half cup of 100% cranberry juice, a quarter cup of dried cranberries, or finding products that are unsweetened or have less sugar.”
Small portions can also be added to other foods like trail mix, yogurt, oatmeal and smoothies.
What about UTI prevention?
No doubt you’ve heard rumors about drinking cranberry juice to treat urinary tract infections. Kraft says there is some truth to that.
“Studies suggest cranberries contain a chemical that prevents the binding of E. coli in the bladder, which is usually the first step in getting a UTI,” said Kraft. “So cranberry juice may be helpful for UTI prevention, but doesn’t necessarily help resolve it once you have an infection.”
As with many things, moderation is always key. Some people may want to even check with their doctor or pharmacist before consuming cranberries regularly. Kraft points out that people on blood thinners may need to limit servings of cranberries due to their amount of vitamin K, which can interfere with medications.
Cranberry Orange Sauce
Prep time: 8 minutes
- 1 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch
- 1 cup SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
- ½ cup water
- 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 medium orange, peeled, seeded and diced
Combine the arrowroot or cornstarch, SPLENDA® Granulated Sweetener and water in a medium saucepan, stirring until ingredients dissolve.
Stir in cranberries and diced orange. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring often, over medium-high heat; reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, 5 minutes or until cranberry skins begin to pop and mixture begins to thicken. Set aside to cool. Cover and chill at least 3 hours.
Serve cold or warm over your favorite roasted meats.
Each ½-cup serving contains 40 calories; 0 calories fat; 0g total fat; 0g saturated fat; 0mg cholesterol; 0mg sodium; 11g total carbs; 3g dietary fiber; 3g sugars; 1g protein.