Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cranberries: Eat them or decorate with them

By David Burton
University Extension

Cranberries have been making the news lately – seems like they are good for more than just sauce and juice according to Dr. Pam Duitsman, a nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“Cranberries contain about 50 calories per cup, offer a very low carbohydrate snack, lots of nutrition, fiber, and flavor. That brilliant scarlet color also makes them great for decorating for the holidays,” said Duitsman.

That color is caused by the phytochemicals contained in cranberries. Cranberries are very rich in polyphenols, as well as many other phytochemicals, and have been studied in their relation to prevention of cancer, and many studies have shown a variety of health benefits.

“A recent study in the journal of Food Science and Biotechnology backs up some of those claims that cranberries may provide protection against urinary tract infections,” said Duitsman.

Phytochemicals like polyphenols are present in whole plant foods, and have been shown to protect and promote health in a variety of ways. Research shows that when these compounds are isolated from foods (and put into a supplement jar) they don’t offer the same protection found in the whole food.

“If you’re drinking juice, make sure it’s 100% pure cranberry juice,” said Duitsman.

Fresh cranberries are usually available September to December. While they are available fresh at the market, Duitsman recommends purchasing them (avoid bags that have soft or brown berries) and freezing them.

“You can wash them in cool water, sort and pack tightly to freeze. Or, just throw the whole bag into the freezer – remembering to wash them well when you use them. If you want to use them relatively soon after purchasing, store them in a cool place. They last for weeks in the refrigerator,” said Duitsman.

Cranberries are very versatile, and are good for much more than sauce and juice. Dry them and enjoy them in salads or trail mixes. Or, add them fresh before cooking a variety of dishes – from breads to salsas to soups, entrees and desserts.

“They’re a great addition when slow cooking either chicken or pork dishes. However you use them, cranberries will add color, flavor, and a punch of nutrition,” said Duitsman

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