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Crazy for Cranberries!

4 delicious reasons to eat this festive fruit all year long
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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)
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