Health Benefits of Cranberries and Beyond the Sauce

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Cranberries are a popular condiment during Thanksgiving feasts as a sauce, but with the health benefits of cranberries, people consume them all year round in drinks, snacks, and desserts.

Learn about the health benefits of cranberries and the nutritional facts.

A berry with benefits

And the best part, besides their flavor and versatility? Cranberries are considered one of the healthiest foods.

The berry is famous for its high Vitamin C content, and it also contains a specific polyphenol called proanthocyanidins, which prevents certain bacteria from growing. Earning the cranberry in its purest form a reputation for combating urinary tract infections and stomach ulcers.

Cranberries are also naturally low in sugar, with just 4 grams per cup. They are also shown to be heart-healthy, with bioactive flavonoids that relax blood vessels, boost good lipoproteins, and reduce inflammation.

A clear mason jar overfilled with cranberries.

How do cranberries grow?

Most of the country’s cranberries are grown and harvested in the northern United States. It’s one of just a few fruits native to North America. You’ve seen the pictures of the bogs flooded with water, and that’s precisely what it looks like.

It has proven too difficult to harvest the berries directly from the vine, so the bogs are flooded, and the harvesters pull them off with a water reel, allowing the berries to float to the top, where they’re then collected and packaged. This process is called “wet harvesting.”

Cranberry history and uses

Cranberries were enjoyed by Native Americans, who used them as both food and dye for clothing and other materials. The berries began to be commercially farmed sometime during the 1800s, and North American recipes dating back to the 18th century include them. Around 400 million pounds of cranberries are estimated to be consumed in the United States annually–20% of that happens during Thanksgiving.

Cranberries can be used in many ways, both fresh and canned, which often takes the form of cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving and dried, like as a snack, a baking ingredient, or in a trail mix. Besides in cranberry sauce, I like them in a fragrant rice pilaf or transformed into a syrup to be used in drinks or on top of oatmeal.

Historically, cranberry sauces have been used as meat accompaniments, giving the modern-day version of cranberry sauce a rightful spot next to roasted turkey and other Thanksgiving recipes. To that point, the best time for cranberries is, unsurprisingly, right now, and more specifically, from September to late November in the colder climates of the country.

A dinner plate with cranberry sauce placed over white meat chicken.

Don’t wait for the winter holidays to roll around. There are so many ways to add these nutrient-packed berries to your day. Try these recipes using fresh and dried cranberries for sweet and savory applications. I can’t wait to hear what you try in the comments below!

Cranberry recipes to try

Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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