Eat Local! Cranberries
November 30, 2015
Most people would agree that Thanksgiving dinner is not complete without the sweet and tangy contribution of cranberries. Thanks to wild bogs and local producers, we are lucky enough to have access to fresh cranberries from late October to early January here in the Inland Northwest. If you take advantage of this short season, you can enjoy fresh cranberries year-round by freezing them.
Whether eaten fresh, frozen or in a more processed form such as dried, powdered or in juice, cranberries retain most of their antioxidant and phytonutrient potential. Like red grapes and cocoa, cranberries contain proanthocyanidins. But, only cranberries contain the biochemically differentiated B-linked proanthocyanidins – known specifically for their anti-adhesion effects. The inability for bacteria to latch onto human cells is why cranberries are well-known for UTI or stomach ulcer prevention – caused by E.coli and H.pylori respectively. The nutrients in cranberries actually prevents undesirable bacteria from taking hold and creating infection; a great fruit to include in the diet of “Westernized guts” that lack a diverse and protective microbial environment.
When shopping for cranberries, keep your eyes peeled for “wild” or “organic”. Although organic cranberries account for a very little portion of the cranberry market, they are becoming more widely available as organic demand increases. However, you may only find organic cranberries processed (eg juice, dried); not fresh. Wild cranberries are becoming more available and can be found at farmer’s markets or grocery stores that source locally.
Beware of conventionally grown cranberries and their heavy use of pesticides, fungicides and water. Cranberries do not grow in water but are commonly “wet harvested” by flooding wetlands and bogs with water – although this water is recycled through several bogs before being dumped into waterways, it carries a high amount of agricultural chemical contamination. Fresh cranberries can only be “dry harvested” therefore use less water but still require heavy chemical intervention.*
Lastly, when purchasing cranberries, watch out for added sugars. Because of this fruit’s bitter bite, it is usually paired with sugar for palatability. Look for 100% cranberry juices and dilute with sparkling water for a healthy dose of antioxidants, vitamin C and B-linked proanthyocyanins. When shopping for dried cranberries, look for those sweetened with 100% juice versus cane sugar or syrup. If you are using cranberry capsules for UTI prevention, make sure they are from a reputable brand or switch to ½ to 1 oz organic 100% cranberry juice per day (the equivalent to the standard cranberry pill).
Fresh cranberries are great for chutneys, sauces, kraut or flavoring kombucha. They juice well and are also good in smoothies!
*Cranberries have not been tested by the USDA for pesticide residues since 2006 therefore have not made the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list since then.
Cherry-Apple Spiced Cranberry Sauce
This sauce is a healthy alternative to high-fructose corn syrup laden cranberry sauce from the can. Using tart cherries and fresh spices adds even more nutrient potential and deliciousness. Great paired with chicken, turkey, roasted root vegetables or topping soup. Makes 2 cups.
4 ounces dried cherries
¼ cup maple syrup
6 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash of allspice and ground clove
- In a medium saucepan, bring cider to a slow boil.
- Remove from heat and add cherries. Let stand, covered, for 15 minutes.
- Add all other ingredients and return to heat. Bring to a slow boil and turn heat down to medium-low, stirring frequently.
- Simmer until most cranberries have burst (about 5-10 minutes). Use a potato masher to crush remaining berries. Remove from heat.
- Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving, sauce will thicken upon cooling.
Cranberry Pecan Energy Balls
These simple, no-bake energy balls are easy to make and provide a perfect little sphere of nourishment. Naturally sweetened by dates and dried cranberries, balanced out by healthy fats from the pecans and coconut flakes. Makes 18 balls.
1 cup dried dates, pitted, roughly chopped
¾ cup dried cranberries
½ teaspoon spice(s) of your choice: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg
¾ cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
- Place pecans, dates, cranberries and spices in a food processor bowl fitted with an “s” blade.
- Process for at least 1 minute, stopping and pulsing as needed to break down mixture.
- Once mixture has become thick and sticky (will have the consistency of sticky rice), begin rolling into 1-inch balls.
- Roll balls through shredded coconut and store at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Article and recipes by Darci Barman, MSN, RDN, LD, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist practicing “foods-first”, functional nutrition at Pilgrim’s Wellness Clinic in Coeur d Alene, ID. For more healthy recipes or info on how to become a patient, see www.darcibarman.com