Last updated: November 29. 2013 8:11PM - 804 Views

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Cranberry is a popular holiday flavor. Those little red berries are used in sauces, relishes, drinks, added to casseroles, stuffings and desserts.

No one is really sure how cranberries became synonymous with turkey and the holiday feast. Historians guess that it had something to do with the Native Americans. They used them for food and medicine; they also dyed clothes and blankets with the juice.

Besides adding color to the menu cranberries are at the top of the list as a healthy “superfood”. They are high in nutrients and antioxidants. A small half cup serving without added sugar provides only 25 calories. The risk of urinary tract infections and certain cancers is lower. Improved immunities and lower blood pressure are only a few of the additional benefits.

Cranberries are a good source of vitamin C and fiber. Sailors once ate them aboard ship to avoid scurvy. High fiber intake has been associated with significantly lower risks for developing coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, certain cancers, diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases and obesity. They also contain a substantial amount of Vitamins E and K, antioxidants important in immune function and reducing cancer risk.

There is a substance in cranberries that reduces the bacteria growth in the urinary tract. New research reveals that the same action that prevents urinary infections helps to prevent gum disease and tooth decay.

There are many different ways to add cranberries to your meals. Dried, juiced or sauced cranberries work the same way in the body. It doesn’t take much, a small handful, ½ cup of juice or sauce work the same. One woman did not like the taste of cranberry juice every day so she ate a few heaping tablespoons of cranberry sauce with her morning oatmeal for the same effect.

By nature cranberries are very tart. Be very careful of all the added sugars. Look for products that list cranberries as the first ingredient.

Don’t limit cranberries to turkey meals only. Dried berries can be added to a trail mix or cereal. Replace raisins in an oatmeal cookie with cranberries for a nice surprise. Salads and rice dishes get an extra boost of flavor and color with dried cranberries. Apple desserts will burst with texture and zest with red dots of this berry.

Medical studies have recently warned cranberry lovers that take coumadin, otherwise known as warfarin. Excess cranberries can increase the blood thinning effect of this medication. Also people with a history of kidney stones may need to talk to their doctor about including cranberries on a daily basis.

Look cranberries on my plate this holiday season. For a new and easy way to wow your guests and add color to you table fill celery with cream cheese and top with dried cranberries. Yum.

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