Crazy for Cranberries!

4 delicious reasons to eat this festive fruit all year long

6 min read

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.

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.

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

This is an easy brunch or dessert dish you can throw together with some frozen cranberries and a few Granny Smith apples. The oats and fruit make this a higher-fiber treat.

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
6 tablespoons unbleached white flour
1/4 cup dark-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons no-trans-fat margarine with 8 grams of fat (such as Take Control)
1 tablespoon reduced-calorie pancake syrup

Fruit filling:
3 large Granny Smith apples, cored and thinly sliced
1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
2 tablespoons reduced-calorie pancake syrup
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 teaspoon unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons finely chopped orange zest

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9-inch-deep round or square baking dish with canola cooking spray.
  • Add topping ingredients to small food processor bowl. Pulse briefly just until blended and moist clumps form. Cover and keep in the refrigerator until needed.
  • Add fruit filling ingredients to a large bowl and toss well to blend. Spread evenly into prepared baking dish.
  • Bake the fruit filling for 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and crumble the topping evenly over the top. Bake about 25 minutes more or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender. Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: 6 servings

Per serving: 209 calories, 2.2 g protein, 40 g carbohydrate, 4.9 g fat, 0.6 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 112 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 21%.

Holiday Angel Cake

Journal as: 1 portion of sweet dessert

What a beautiful cake to behold! And so tasty with so few calories.

1 cup cake flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Splenda
12 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-cup fresh cranberries or 1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon finely chopped orange zest (or substitute lemon zest)

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Double check that your tube pan is clean and dry. (Any trace amounts of oil could cause your whipped egg whites to deflate).
  • Stir flour, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and Splenda together in medium bowl and set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whip the egg whites with the vanilla, cream of tartar, and salt together with mixer until medium-stiff peaks form. Gradually add the remaining sugar (3/4 cup) while continuing to whip to stiff peaks. When you think the egg whites have reached maximum volume, gradually fold in the flour mixture, one third at a time.
  • Stir in 1 cup fresh cranberries or 1/2 cup dried cranberries and orange zest. Be careful not to overmix.
  • Pour the batter in the prepared tube pan and bake 40-45 minutes or until cake springs back when touched. Balance the tube pan upside down on the top of a bottle to prevent decompression while cooling. When completely cool, run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert onto a serving plate.

Yield: 8 large servings

Per serving: 171 calories, 7.5 g protein, 36 g carbohydrate, 0.1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0.8 g fiber, 216 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 1%