…the colour, the variety of uses, the nutrition and health benefits. I always have a couple of bags of cranberries in my freezer. I buy them fresh in season or frozen on sale. I also buy them as dried and canned (as cranberry sauce) to make sure I never run out.
Breakfast cranberries are usually the dried variety. A quick breakfast includes 1 Tbsp sprinkled on a high fibre cereal. If I plan ahead, a 1⁄2 cup portion is cooked into my oatmeal recipe (4 servings). As for baking with cranberries, my favourite is a banana bread recipe from a Dietitian’s of Canada cookbook where I toss 1⁄2 cup of frozen cranberries into the batter, give a final stir before panning and baking. Here is a link to the basic recipe…keep the cranberries frozen until the last moment and they will retain their shape while baking.
I also have two holiday recipes – cranberries & white chocolate cookies and cranberry/pistachio fudge. I was smart enough to take pictures last time I made them.
Now for the health attributes. I recently attended a webinar by Dr. Howell, Rutgers University. It summarized the latest research and findings. I have extracted a few points of interest.
There’s a long-standing connection between cranberry juice and urinary tract infections (UTI’s). The benefits appear to be valid but some vital details deserve comment. First, if you have symptoms of a UTI, cranberries will not make it go away… go to your doctor, get diagnosed and follow the doctor’s prescription meticulously. However, if you know you are prone to UTI’s, or have had recent treatment, cranberries may prevent a recurrence. (Prone individuals, most often women, can have 3 or 4 recurrences per year)
As often reported, it’s not the acidic pH of cranberries that wards off infection. Rather, it is the action of a bioactive compound which prevents E.coli bacteria from adhering and proliferating within the urinary tract. For anyone wanting to research further, the compound is an A-type proanthocyanidins (PAC), a specific class of flavonoid.
But what form to take and how much? Well-controlled studies have shown success using a daily dose of 8 – 10 oz (240mL-300mL) of pure cranberry juice (* see sugar note). Equivalents are:
- 1⁄2 cup dried cranberries
- 1⁄4 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
- 125 – 500 mg cranberry pills OR supplement containing 36 – 72 mg PAC’s (suggested use if travelling)
* Cranberries are naturally very tart, unless you cook with fresh or frozen, sugar will be added for acceptance, sometimes lots of sugar! ‘Light’ or ‘Diet’ versions are equally effective. Or make your own…here is a recipe; untried, so let me know if it’s good and what you sweetened it with.
PS: Other benefits of cranberries: prevents adhesion of H.pylori (the ulcer bacteria) in the stomach; antioxidant activities have heart benefits. The concentration of total polyphenols per serving size, greatest to least, was found to be: Fresh or frozen cranberries, 100% cranberry juice, dried cranberries, >27% juice products, whole berry cranberry sauce and lastly, jellied cranberry sauce.
Sources: 1. SCAN (Practice Group) sponsored Webinar, Cranberries: Rich in Tradition, Supported by Science, Amy B. Howel, Ph.D., Marucci Centre for Blueberry Cranberry Research, Rutgers University, Chatsworth, New Jersy, USA. Jan 13,2 013 2. Chef Kyle Shadix, MS, RD, Cranberries—Tangy, Tasty, and Nutritious, Today’s Dietitian, July 2009. Vol. 11 No. 7 P. 74