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Superfood of the Season – Cranberries

Cranberries

Who needs expensive, over-hyped, goji and acai berries when you can get serious healing power from the season’s best kept superfood secret—and all for a fraction of the price, just fifty cents a cup! The North American Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) is the most commonly used cranberry in the US. Cranberries rank among the highest antioxidant contents of any fruit, which means they top the anti-inflammatory food chart and are safe and effective medicine for helping reduce cancer and heart disease risk. What’s more, they are packed with a plant chemical called proanthocyanidins, a type of flavonoid polyphenol known to carry an extraordinary saluatory effects, especially for the heart. Cranberries also house a nice amount of the palliative vitamin antioxidant, vitamin C. Both antioxidant compounds work in tandem to prevent urinary tract and other pesky infections. (Cranberries have been shown to prevent the adhesion of harmful bacteria along the inner lining of the urinary tract.)

When most of us think cranberries, we conjure up images of the super sweet corrugated jelly-like substance plopped from a can at the holiday feast. What you may not know is that the canned variety renders this bona fide superfruit into an over sweetened junk food. One half cup of a certain famous canned jellied cranberry sauce weighs in at whopping 220 calories. With the calories doesn’t come with much nutrition, you will ingest less than a gram of dietary fiber, and no significant amounts of vitamins A or C. What it also supplies you with is a hefty dose of sugar (42 grams), most of it derived from the “added sugar,” high fructose corn syrup, which is the second leading ingredient. Added sugar—the kind added by food processors to processed foods—is the new trans fat. The American Heart Association has specific guidelines for limiting added sugar for better heart health — no more than 100 calories a day (25 grams, 5tsp) for women and no more than 150 calories a day (37 grams 7.4tsp) for men.

Holiday quick tip: whipping up your own brand of cranberry sauce from fresh berries is almost as quick and simple as opening the canned stuff and smoothing out the ridges. Homemade cranberry sauce, if made with orange juice, fresh cranberries, and a small amount of sugar is delicious and packs in the healthy nutrients. So, next time you pay a visit to the produce isle, be sure to pick up a bag of cranberries and cook up this superfood delight which will provide you with fiber, powerful antioxidants, 30 percent of your daily vitamin C requirement and all this for a mere 60 calories a pop!

Quick and Healthy Homemade Cranberry Relish:

Yield: 6 servings

  • 12 ounce bag of fresh cranberries
  • ¾ cup of orange juice
  • ¼ cup of Sugar Blend
  • Dash of cinnamon

Wash and pick over cranberries. Add all ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Note: To add more flavor and nutrition, you can add small pieces of fresh oranges and apples into the saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until cranberries burst. Remove from heat and cool at room temperature. Chill in refrigerator, (cranberry sauce will thicken.)

Nutritional Information per Serving (~ 1/2 cup):

Calories: 60, Fat: 8 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 0 mg,

Carbohydrate: 15 g, Dietary Fiber: 2 g, Sugars: 9 g, Protein: 0 g

Benefits of Cranberries

Cranberry: An Ingredient of Mediterranean Recipes

Cranberry: Heart Healthy Food

Cranberry is a low, creeping shrub that grows up to 2 meters in length and 5 to 20 centimeters in height. A prominent crop in Canadian provinces and American states, this shrub bears berries characterized by a deep red color when fully ripe. The fruit is edible with a typical acidic taste that can often overwhelm its sweetness.

A number of nutritionists and health care professionals recommend cranberries as a heart healthy food, particularly for the plethora of antioxidants present in it.

The Cranberry Institute quotes Joe Vinson, Ph.D., research chemist at the University of Scranton as saying, “Cranberries contained the most antioxidant phenols compared to 19 commonly eaten fruits. Cranberries are loaded with antioxidants and should be eaten more often.”

It offers a lot of other health benefits including:

Heart Healthy Food

Cranberries help maintain a healthy heart in many different ways.  They help to keep “bad” cholesterol levels in check and help prevent arterial clogging. It also decreases the risk of atherosclerosis, (clogging of the arteries) by preventing the formation of plaque on the arterial walls.

In the same manner, the consumption of this deep red berry diminishes the chances of stroke in healthy individuals while in those who have already suffered a stroke, cranberries can help the arteries to heal.

Weight Loss Food

The high content of antioxidants in cranberries can help regulate your metabolism and ensure the normal functioning of the digestive system which in turn helps you lose weight faster.

Strengthens the Immune System

The main role of antioxidants is to fight harmful toxins which suppress the immune system. Rich sources of antioxidants, cranberries promote immune system health thereby increasing the body’s resistance against sickness and disease.

Treats Urinary Tract Infections

The intake of cranberry juice has been shown to help prevent and treat urinary tract infections. Proanthocyanidins, a major constituent of cranberries, inhibit E. coli bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall, which helps one avoid kidney and bladder problems.

Relieves Skin Conditions

Cranberries are also considered an effective remedy to help relieve skin problems including psoriasis, acne, dermatitis and eczema.

Cranberries can be consumed either fresh or processed such as in juice, sauces, jams, or sweetened dried cranberries.

Makeover Tips For Healthier And Lighter Holiday Fare

Garnished roasted white meat skinless turkey

Enjoy the festivities with nutritional lean and fit holiday favorites

Gobble, gobble, the HOLIDAYS ARE ALMOST HERE! Don’t let them be a nutritional minefield.

A few simple makeovers of some holiday favorites will lighten up your holiday yet still allow you to enjoy the festivities. Here are some tasty tips for helping you get through these holidays lean and fit:

Good: Sweet potatoes, white meat skinless turkey, plain green beans and carrots, cranberries.

Lighten them up: Mashed potatoes, gravy, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, creamy soups, and eggnog

Gravy:

Use a gravy strainer to strain off the grease. Add corn starch to strained and defatted broth to thicken.

Mashed potatoes:

  • Replace whole milk or cream with fat-free milk or fat-free half & half. Replace butter with half the amount of light margarine (trans fat free).
  • Cut down on salt and use a dash of parmesan cheese instead (more flavor, less sodium).
  • Use black pepper, garlic powder and dried parsley to season.
  • Use Light Creamy Laughing Cow® cheeses in place of regular cheese.

Stuffing:

If you use a boxed or bagged stuffing mix, dilute it with 3 cups cooked brown rice, low sodium chicken broth, light margarine, and healthy fillers such as sautéed onions, mushrooms, celery, garlic, peppers, even try adding sliced apples, cranberries and walnuts!

Cranberry relish:

Mix cranberries with a small Valencia orange to add sweetness. Cut back on amount of added sugar and add a tablespoon of Grand Marnier. Add chopped walnuts.

Green bean casserole:

  • Omit cream soup and fried onion rings.
  • For each pound of fresh green beans, combine the following and bake in a covered casserole dish at 350 ºF until bubbly (about 30 minutes): ½ cup fat-free half and half, 1 cup sliced carrots, 2 Tbsp minced dried onions, 2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese.
  • Better yet, steam green beans and add sautéed mushrooms, shallots, balsamic vinegar, a touch of sugar and some sliced almonds and bacon bits for super tasty yet LIGHT.

Candied yams:

  • For each pound of yams, bake use ½ cup OJ plus cinnamon to taste and ¼ cup raisins. Add light margarine, reduced calorie maple syrup and a touch of mini marshmallows and you cut the calories in half.
  • Or…for the more traditional sweet potato casserole…use the “mini” marshmallows; replace butter with light tub margarine; and the brown sugar with Splenda® brown sugar blend.

Eggnog:

Purchase fat-free eggnog or make your own: 2 peeled ripe bananas, 1 cup fat-free milk or soy milk, ½ tsp ground nutmeg, 1 tsp rum extract. Puree all ingredients in blender until smooth.

Pecan pie:

  • Add oatmeal to the recipe, use a trans fat-free crust, substitute Splenda® brown sugar blend for brown sugar, substitute light margarine for butter, substitute Egg Beaters® for eggs.
  • Use thawed fat-free whipped topping in place of whipped cream.