Cranberries 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Autumn and winter sangria

Welcome to our weekly dose of The Naturopathic Kitchen, where we explore food as medicine. Through this series, we hope you will empower yourself to eat healthier. It can be intimidating to try new foods, especially when you don’t know exactly what to look for, how foods are best prepared, or how each choice might hurt or harm your health. Let’s learn together! Today, our focus is on cranberries.

Cranberry 101

Does the idea of cranberry make you think about Thanksgiving? If so, you are not alone! Cranberries are most often considered a popular Thanksgiving side dish, either from a can or freshly prepared. Because they are harvested in early fall, they are also associated with the holidays in general. Cranberries can be enjoyed in various forms—dried, frozen, fresh, or juiced. Fresh cranberries are good for about 20 days, but freezing them increases their shelf life to 2 years, making them accessible year-round. Eaten fresh, this berry can be quite tart, as the sugar content is not as high as some others, but the health benefits are too great to not include them when they are in season!

Where do cranberries come from? Where can I find them?

Cranberries are indigenous to North America and were a staple for Native Americans who harvested wild cranberries to create a variety of remedies, foods, and drinks. They were first grown commercially in 1816 and today are grown on more than 40,000 acres of farmland. Cranberries can be found in almost every culture, but outside of North America, they are commonly used in the dried form. Their popularity makes them an easy find in nearly every grocery store, ranging from produce to the frozen fruit section and in the dried bulk goods area. When looking for dried cranberries, grab the unsweetened variety and read the label, as hydrogenated oils may be added to prevent sticking. You can also head to the juice section for 100% unsweetened cranberry juice; just be prepared—it is very tart. Also, be sure to get organic cranberries when possible, as conventional cranberries can contain pesticide residues. 1

How do cranberries help my health?

Most of the health benefits of cranberries come from their impressive antioxidant content. This makes them excellent for prevention of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and even some cancers. 2 3 4 Cranberries have also received recognition for helping with urinary tract infections (UTIs) in most people, particularly children, in those susceptible to UTIs after a medical intervention such as radiation treatment for bladder or prostate cancer, and in women with a history of recurrent UTIs. 5

When should cranberries be avoided?

Cranberries are generally very well tolerated. However, they do contain high amounts of oxalate, which is a primary component of kidney stones. There aren’t any documented cases of someone developing kidney stones from cranberries, but if you have a history of stones, it might be best not to consume large amounts.

Let’s try them out with delicious and nutritious cranberry recipes!

Cranberry and Pistachio Chocolate Bark

Makes 30 pieces

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups dark chocolate (>70% cacao) pieces
  • ¼ cup white chocolate pieces
  • ½ cup cranberries
  • ½ cup pistachios, chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler on the stove.
  3. Spread the melted dark chocolate on the baking sheet in a thin layer.
  4. Sprinkle the cranberries and pistachios evenly around the dark chocolate. Press down on some to sink into the chocolate.
  5. Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or double boiler.
  6. Using a fork, drizzle the white chocolate onto the dark chocolate.
  7. Transfer to the refrigerator for an hour or the freezer for 15 minutes or until the chocolate is fully set and cold.
  8. When set, peel off the parchment paper and break into pieces.

Recipe Tips:

Dark chocolate (>70% cacao) contains beneficial antioxidants to reduce inflammation and support cardiovascular health. Choose chocolate with (>70% cacao) content to avoid unnecessary sugars.

Thank you to NUNM for this recipe!

Cranberry Ginger Cider

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups cranberry juice
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1-quarter-inch fresh ginger
  • ½ tsp orange zest
  • orange slices (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Place juice, cider, ginger, and zest in a medium pan.
  • Bring heat up and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Remove pieces of ginger.
  • Garnish each cup with an orange slice, if desired.
  • Serve warm.

Thank you to Bastyr University for this recipe!

Cranberry Ginger Cider

 

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