Dried Cranberries (or craisins) are found in everything these days: fast food oatmeal, vegetable salads, food bars, and drinks. But, are they good for you?
Cranberries top the list of healthy foods for their high nutrient and antioxidant content and are often referred to as a “superfood.” Not to mention, half a cup of cranberries contains only 25 calories. But dried cranberries are a bit of a different story. While still good for you, they are often sweetened, and drying them makes a concentrated source of calories. There are 130 calories in a quarter cup. Check the ingredient label and make sure that the product contains cranberries only. If you choose to drink cranberry juice, it is often mixed with other fruits and added sweeteners. Look for juice with cranberries as the first ingredient.
Vitamins: Cranberries are a good source of Vitamin C and E, which help protect the body’s immune system against damage caused by free radicals. Cranberries also contain Vitamin K, manganese and a large array of phytonutrients – naturally occurring plant chemicals that help to protect the body from harmful free radicals, and offer anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventing properties.
Fiber: According to the Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences Program of the University of Kentucky, high fiber intakes are associated with significantly lower risks for developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension and certain gastrointenstinal diseases. Cranberries provide about two grams of fiber per half-cup.
Cranberries are farmed on approximately 40,000 acres across the northern United States and Canada. They grow on low-lying vines in beds layered with sand, peat, gravel and clay. The beds look like bogs or marshes, in beautiful sunken fields of red. Fresh cranberries are harvested in September and October, so fall is the best time to get them in season. Dried cranberries, of course, are available all year long.
Try making homemade trail mix with unsalted nuts, cereal, seeds and dried cranberries. Add them to your oatmeal or dried cereal, cookie or muffin recipes. Adding them to any salad adds flavor, color and a little sweetness.
Cranberry Quinoa Salad (yields 6 servings)
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed, any color
- ¼ cup red bell pepper, chopped
- ¼ cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
- ¼ cup yellow tomatoes
- ½ cup of chopped green onions
- 1 ½ teaspoon curry powder
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 lime, squeezed
- ¼ cup sliced toasted almonds
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Poor the water into a saucepan and cover with a lid. Bring to a boil over high heat, then pour in the quinoa, recover , and continue to simmer over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes until the water has been absorbed. Scrape into a mixing bowl and chill in the refrigerator until cold.
- Once cold, stir in the peppers, tomatoes, onion, curry powder, cilantro, lime juice, sliced almonds and cranberries. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill before serving.