News flash: There’s a superfood hiding amidst the turkey, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole on that Thanksgiving table! Whether it’s still in the shape of the can it came in or a healthier homemade alternative, cranberries have some major health benefits and disease-fighting powers .
The Berry Best — Why They’re Super
Not only are cranberries one of only three berries native to the U.S. (in addition to blueberries and Concord grapes) , this super-fruit is also chock full of antioxidants, which help prevent and repair cell damage done by free radicals (think anti-wrinkle power!) and are rich in vitamin C and fiber . Not surprisingly, frozen, dried, or freshly juiced cranberries have much higher amounts of antioxidants than sugary cranberry juice cocktail or jellied sauce, so to get the most bang for those berries, try the fresher versions .
But the health benefits don’t end there for this ninja fruit! While cranberries are well known for preventing urinary tract infections , the jury is still out on whether they can actually treat UTIs, as the old wives’ tale suggests . But these bacteria-busting berries also fight against inflammation, reduce the risk of heart disease, aid oral health, help prevent ulcers and yeast infections, and may even inhibit the growth of some human cancer cells   .
Before totally cramming in the cran, there are a few side effects to consider. Drinking too much cranberry juice can cause mild side effects including upset stomach and diarrhea. And drinking way too much of it (we’re talking more than one liter per day for an extended period of time) might actually increase the risk for kidney stones. To get all the good benefits, one 10-ounce glass per day should do the trick.
Pucker Up — Your Action Plan
Luckily, it’s the perfect time of year to think outside the cranberry sauce can. Fresh cranberries are in season from September to December and can last in the fridge for up to two months. Even with health benefits aplenty, one study still found cranberries are one of the most under-consumed fruits . Looking for ways to sneak them in? Use cranberries for sauces and relishes in savory main dishes, in salads, breakfast cereals, or baked goods like breads and muffins, or just drink ‘em down like they’re juice… because, well, sometimes they are.
Superfood Recipe: Basil Cranberry Sauce
By Tulika Balagopal
Serves 2 What You'll Need:
1 12 oz bag of cranberries (fresh or frozen)
6 oz frozen apple juice concentrate
2 teaspoons roughly chopped fresh basil
What to Do:
- Combine the apple juice concentrate and cranberries in a pot and turn the stove on medium-high heat.
- When the mixture begins to boil, turn the heat down slightly and add the basil
- Stir frequently as the cranberries begin to pop and the mixture reduces. After about 5 minutes, turn the heat to low and simmer until a thick, sauce-like consistency has formed.