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Cranberries: So much more than a Thanksgiving side dish

Media contact:

Tammy Roberts
Nutrition and Health Education Specialist
University of Missouri Extension
Phone: 660-679-4167
Email: robertstt@missouri.edu

Published: Friday, Nov. 11, 2016

BUTLER, Mo. – For some people, Thanksgiving without cranberries is unthinkable.

“We associate cranberries with Thanksgiving because they are actually harvested in the fall, so they became part of the holiday meal,” said Tammy Roberts, nutrition specialist for University of Missouri Extension.

These little nutritional powerhouses shouldn’t be relegated to just one meal, Roberts said. They’re low in calories, with only 47 in a full cup, high in fiber and have good amounts of potassium and vitamin C.

They’re also versatile and can be used in a variety of foods.

“You can put them in muffins and quick breads and in chutneys and jellies,” Roberts said. “You can even buy dried cranberries to throw in your muffins. That’s a nice treat.”

Not only are they nutritionally dense, the level of disease-fighting antioxidant in cranberries is right up there with blueberries. In addition to fighting disease, Roberts said, antioxidants help protect your body from damage done by air pollution, cigarette smoke, unhealthy food and other environmental toxins.

Cranberries also have an impressive list of phytochemicals that can keep some harmful bacteria at bay.

“One of the phytochemicals in cranberries helps inhibit the bacteria that are responsible for 80 to 90 percent of urinary tract infections,” Roberts said. “The interesting thing is that same phytochemicals may also help protect against bacteria that’s associated with gum disease and ulcers.”

Perhaps best of all, they’re easy to prepare.

“You just put them in a small amount of water, and right as the water comes to a boil they start popping. That’s when they’re ready,” Roberts said.

SIDEBAR

Cranberry trivia

  • Cranberries are one of only three common fruits native to the U.S. The other two are blueberries and Concord grapes.
  • Cranberries grow on long vines in sandy bogs and marshes, mostly in the Northeast but also in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Early German and Dutch settlers called them “crane berry” because the flower looked like the head and bill of a crane.
  • Some cranberry bogs are more than 100 years old and still produce today.
  • By mixing mashed cranberries, dried venison and fat, Native Americans made a survival food called “pemmican.”
  • Early American and Canadian sailors used dried cranberries on long voyages to protect them from scurvy.
  • Americans consume some 400 million pounds of cranberries a year.
  • Each cranberry has small pockets of air inside, which is why they bounce and float in water.