The holiday season may be arriving too quickly for many of us, but this information on cranberries should get us excited for the holidays ahead. As a fruit that is harvested in October, cranberries remind many Americans of winter and most importantly, Thanksgiving! The wild cranberry, native to northeastern North America, was gathered by Native Americans and used in cooking, as dye for textiles and as medicine since the mid-1500s. Cranberries were eaten fresh, dried, or mashed with cornmeal and baked to make bread. Native Americans also made pemmican, an energy bar of sorts, with mixed dried berries, dried wild game and fat tallow. Cranberries and other tart berries were added as a preservative due to their high acid content which helped resist bacteria. High in protein and fat, pemmican was a reliable energy source on long journeys.
Cranberries have many health benefits. They are most widely known to help maintain urinary tract health; however, the exact mechanism of action continues to be researched. Cranberries may also help regulate blood sugars in individuals with Type-2 diabetes and may reduce inflammation which may help lower blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk.
One cup of whole cranberries is only 50 calories, 5 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar and 22 percent of your daily value of vitamin C. Although fresh, raw cranberries are very tart and they can be incorporated into various foods. Try adding sliced cranberries to yogurt, mix with other fresh fruits and drizzle with honey or toss into a salad. If raw cranberries are not your favorite, try dried cranberries, cranberry juice or cranberry sauce. Unless you are making these items in your home, remember to check the labels and serving sizes as many of these packaged items contain large amounts of added sugar!
- Sailors brought cranberries onboard to prevent scurvy, a disease due to vitamin C deficiency.
- The cranberry is one of only a handful of major fruits native to North America. Others include the blueberry and Concord grape.
- Americans consume nearly 400 million pounds of cranberries a year; 20 percent are consumed during the holiday season.