The cranberry conundrum

Posted on December 6, 2017 by Brynna Gabrielson

A bowl of cranberries

Though there's nothing stopping you from enjoying cranberries year round, during the holiday season cranberries do tend to make more of a splash. After all who doesn't like a good sized dollop of cranberry sauce with their Christmas dinner turkey?  But did you know that on top of being a tasty addition to your holiday supper, cranberries have some good nutritional benefits?  To start they are low in calories and high in nutrients - 50g has just 23 calories and 22% of daily recommended vitamin C.  They also may be beneficial in supporting our everyday health.

For example, one study has linked cranberries and better oral health. It's thought that a property within cranberries is able to stop bacteria from adhering to teeth (this similar to the thought that cranberry prevents bacteria from adhering to bladder walls and thus could have a small effect in preventing UTIs). Of course it's a bit of a double edged sword as cranberries products - especially juices - are typically packed full of sugar. In their raw form, cranberries are incredibly bitter. Have you ever tried to drink 100% cranberry juice? It's not easy! To be palatable most cranberry products have added sugar. This brings out a lovely flavour, but doesn't exactly make them healthier.

So is there a healthier way to eat cranberries? Well it probably depends on your palette. Most recipes out there - especially those for cranberry sauces - do add extra sugar! Even dried cranberries are usually cooked in sugar first. But if you are a cran-fan and want to find more ways to incorporate them into your diet we've got some ideas.

Cranberry sauceMake your own

Remember that dollop of cranberry sauce on your turkey? Well why not try making your own sauce at home? Homemade cranberry sauce is quite easy to whip up and making it yourself puts you in control of the ingredients. If the recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, try halving it. Or you could try using honey or fruit juice to sweeten it.

If you're baking with cranberries, you can also reduce the amount of added sugar, or swap for sweeteners like agave or stevia.

Try putting them in smoothies

If you're making a fruit smoothie, why not try adding some fresh or frozen cranberry to the mix! The sweetness from the other fruits should balance out the bitter cranberry taste leaving you with a lovely flavour and some extra nutrients!

Use restraint

A lot of cranberry based recipes actually use dried cranberries instead of fresh. Like any dried fruit - cranberries will be high in sugar (especially as there is almost always added sugar in dried cranberries). So if you're adding dried cranberries to your salad or baked goods, use them more sparingly. Think of them as a supporting act, not the main star of the dish! 

Add them to bread

If you're a fan of leftover turkey sandwiches, then try this great looking recipe which simply calls for the addition of chopped whole cranberries in a standard loaf recipe! You'll end up with tasty homemade bread that is perfect for a turkey sandwich, or just some toast with a bit of butter! 

Cranberry juice ciderDrink it warm

Mulled wine is rife this time of year, but if you want a tasty, non-alcoholic alternative a lovely mulled cranberry cider using 100% cranberry juice makes an excellent alternative.

In a large pot, or slow cooker, combine 2 cups of 100% unsweetened cranberry juice with 4 cups of unsweetened apple juice. Add two handfuls of whole cranberries, the peel of one orange (in strips), 1 tsp of all spice and 2-4 cinnamon sticks.  If you're using a pot on the stove, bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. If you're using a crock pot, cook on low for 4 hours.  Strain and serve. If you find the mixture too bitter sweeten with a small amount of honey.

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