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Cart Smarts: Make your Thanksgiving menu more super

November 14, 2018

I guess I can say I grew up in cranberry country. Wisconsin is our nation’s largest producer of cranberries.

There is a bounty of festivals, tours and even a highway named after this power fruit. You can even take a 50-mile self-guided drive along the Cranberry Highway in central Wisconsin and view the seas of red cranberries in century-old marshes along with viewing spectacular fall colors from late September to late October.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, what better accompaniment is there for your holiday table than cranberries? There’s no doubt that cranberries have exceptional health benefits. Here’s a breakdown of the latest findings on cranberries, along with tips for including more cranberries in your diet.

If you’ve heard cranberries referred to as a superfood, it’s because they have a higher antioxidant content than strawberries, spinach, broccoli, grapes, apples, raspberries, and cherries. Coupled with high amounts of anti-inflammatory nutrients, these powerful berries are beneficial for prevention of certain cancers, including breast, colon, brain, oral, ovarian, prostate, and esophageal cancer.

Like other red fruits and vegetables, the phytochemicals that give cranberries a ruby color can help reduce blood pressure and lessen the risk of heart disease.

One of the lesser characteristics of cranberries is the nutrient composition that makes them good for your bones. In addition to antioxidants, cranberries contain vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin K — all of which support bone health.

Cranberries have long been associated with preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs) because of their high levels of proanthocyanidins (PACs). PACs help keep bacteria off the walls of the urinary tract, thus preventing infection. However, research on the effectiveness of cranberry juice or capsules on the prevention or treatment of these infections is conflicting.

We should celebrate fresh cranberries not just because they are a low–calorie, high fiber fruit packed with antioxidants, but because they also add an incredible tang to sauces, baked desserts and salads.

Fresh cranberries are available in the grocery store from October through December. Look for firm berries with a smooth, shiny, dark red color. When fresh cranberries go on sale, fill your cart. Generally, they last about four weeks in the refrigerator, but you can freeze unopened bags of cranberries for about a year. That means you can make fresh cranberry bread and muffins year-round.

Fresh cranberries can be easily made into jam or can be added to your holiday stuffing. You can also ice them by putting two to three cranberries into each ice cube mold on an ice cube tray, fill with water and freeze until solid. The berry-filled ice cubes make for stunning drinks.

Here are two tasty cranberry recipes for your holiday table.

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