AgEBB-MU CAFNR Extension

David Burton
Civic Communications Specialist
2400 S. Scenic Ave.
Springfield, MO 65807

November 7, 2017

Cranberries: a Holiday Tradition

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Cranberries are a holiday tradition whether we enjoy them in cranberry sauce, cranberry drinks, or add cranberries to salads, side dishes, desserts, or decorations.

Every year at Thanksgiving, Americans gobble down about 20 percent of the 400 million pounds of cranberries that eaten each year, including about 5,062,500 gallons of jellied cranberry sauce.

Cranberries are native to North America and highly valued by Native Americans who ate them as fresh and dried edible fruit, cooked them in cakes to store, and made tea out of the leaves.

"The fruit was boiled to use as a dye for clothing, blankets, and jewelry," said Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Cranberries were used for medicine by Native Americans to treat bladder and kidney diseases, and by early English, settlers to treat poor appetite, stomach complaints, blood disorders and scurvy.

"Today we know that cranberries provide a good source of nutrients, including vitamin C and dietary fiber, as well as a host of healthy phytonutrients and antioxidants," said Duitsman.


The fruit has a diverse phytochemical profile that includes three classes of flavonoids (flavonols, anthocyanins, and proanthocyanidins), catechins, hydroxycinnamic and other phenolic acids, and triterpenoids. These compounds all have health-promoting properties thought to be responsible for many of the reported health benefits of cranberries.

These health benefits include prevention of urinary tract infections and stomach ulcers, improved immune function, and improved dental health.

"The phytonutrients in cranberries have anti-inflammatory properties, and evidence suggests that they may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by preventing platelet build-up, and prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol," said Duitsman. "Cranberries are also linked to the reduction of blood pressure; slowing of tumor progression; and the prevention of several types of cancer."

A half cup of chopped cranberries contains only 25 calories and 6.6 grams of carbohydrate.

Cranberries are available commercially dried, canned, and as juice. Fresh cranberries will provide the highest levels of phytochemicals and antioxidants, and are in season from mid-September through December.


To choose the best cranberries, Duitsman recommends picking those that are full, plump and firm, with a deep glossy red color.

"Cranberries are usually only in stores for a short time, so stock up on fresh berries and freeze them to enjoy year-round," said Duitsman.

Cranberries freeze well and retain good flavor and texture for 8 to 12 months if the freezer is kept at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. An individual can freeze fresh cranberries easily in the original plastic packaging. If they were purchased in bulk, stem and sort the berries first. Be sure and rinse the berries before eating.

Duitsman suggests making your fresh cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving. It is easy and delicious.


Use two cups cranberries to one cup sugar (more sugar if needed) and one-half cup water. After the cranberries have been sorted and washed, put all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, frequently stirring to dissolve sugar crystals completely. Boil gently for about 10 minutes (no longer, or berries will become bitter), or until skins crack. Sauce may either be served hot or allowed to cool before serving.

Combine dried cranberries with nuts, trail mix, granola, oatmeal, or even chicken salad. Blend fresh cranberries into a fruit smoothie. Fresh or dried cranberries work well in quick bread such as muffins, sweet bread, and yeast bread. If you are using the berries for muffin or bread, keep the berries frozen as you mix your recipe. This prevents the berries from weeping, which will discolor the batter, causing pink bread or muffins.


For more information on nutrition contact any of these nutrition specialists in southwest Missouri: Dr. Pam Duitsman in Greene County at (417) 881-8909; Lindsey Gordon Stevenson in Barton County at (417) 682-3579; Stephanie Johnson in Howell County at (417) 256-2391 or Mary Sebade in Dallas County at (417) 345-7551. The regional office of the Family Nutrition Education Program is located in Springfield and can be reached at (417) 886-2059. Nutrition information is also available online

Source: Dr. Pam Duitsman, (417) 881-8909, (417) 874-2957

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